Story Arc: Dead Orbit.
Writer(s): James Stokoe.
Illustrator(s): James Stokoe.
Letterer(s): James Stokoe.
Publisher: Dark Horse Books.
Format: Hardcover – Oversized.
Release Date: May 7th, 2019 (first published April 3rd, 2018).
Genre(s): Comics, Science-Fiction.
My Overall Rating: ★★☆☆☆.
There’s something utterly suffocating in stories derived from screenplay writer Dan O’Bannon’s Alien (1979). From the claustrophobic setting to the stressful anticipation of events, horror takes on the form of a sinister and deadly extraterrestrial species that revels in the blood of its prey. Launched as part of Alien Day—an event held every year on the 26th of April since 2016 (in reference to the moon LV-426 in Alien (1979)—James Stokoe, writer and artist behind Orc Stain and Godzilla: The Half Century War, offers fans a story in line with the classic Aliens (1986) movie where man has to face one of the deadliest creatures in space.
What is Aliens: Dead Orbit about? Collecting the four-issue limited comic book series, the story is set on a Weyland-Yutani waystation in 2295 and follows a crew riding the Sphacteria who investigates a mysterious vessel. Looking to confirm if anyone is alive in the Hypersleep chambers identified on the old company freighter, Engineering Officer Wascylewski and the rest of the crew board the carrier and pray that they aren’t mindlessly stepping into a trap. It’s when a sudden horrific accident occurs that these adventurers find themselves securing a trip straight to hell. With limited resources, only the sudden arrival of a terrifying creature could make things much worse.
Generic, unoriginal, and superficial. It pains me to see a potential story arc set within the Alien franchise fall short in its story-telling triumph. It goes without saying that it is often rare for a graphic novel written, penciled, inked, coloured, and lettered by the same person to deliver on all fronts, lest the creator withholds the secret of the universe. Drawing upon a typical story of crew members discovering an abandoned ship only to invite a xenomorph into their base, this story doesn’t look to innovate in any form whatsoever and succeeds in being unimpressive from start to finish. With the dual-narrative, present and past timelines, it was, however, enrapturing to see where things will go next but the denouement went in the only direction possible.
What essentially saves it from being a disaster is the Masamune Shirow-inspired artwork (e.g. The Ghost in the Shell) that gives the story a sufficiently authentic tone, capturing the claustrophobic nature of the story. It is also impossible to not vouch for the incredible and meticulous artistic vision that elevates the atmospheric setting to new heights. Although the character designs are rough and at times off-putting, the background is detailed and awe-inspiring. Complemented by excellent colouring that captures the solitude and grimness of the reality the characters are facing—although they aren’t developed at all, leaving you incapable of caring for their survival—the story struggles to stand out from the crowd.
Aliens: Dead Orbit is a derivative story orbiting around an impressive yet unpolished artwork, conclusively dead and trivial for readers looking for novelty.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!