Dark Horse Comics has a new Aliens ongoing comic book series starting in April called Aliens: Defiance. The series will be written by Brian Wood and has promised a terrifying survival horror story. Major Spoilers got our hands on an advance review copy and was eager to take a peek. Does this Aliens series hold a candle to the ones back in their heyday? Check out your advance review to find out!
Previously in Aliens: Defiance: Colonial Marine Private First Class Zula Hendricks is a tough and stubborn soldier. She’s clearly been wounded badly, needing braces for her back and legs. Now she is accompanying a squad of Weyland-Yutani synthetic soldiers to a derelict space craft with non-functioning comms and minimal life support. Yeah, this scenario has never gone wrong…
ANOTHER BY THE NUMBERS ALIENS….OH WAIT!!
For the first half of Aliens: Defiance #1 I was convinced that it was going to be another typical by the numbers Aliens story. And honestly, the setup and first half is, albeit extremely well written. Colonial Marine Zula Hendricks goes with a squad of Weyland-Yutani synthetic/drone soldiers to find out what happened to a hauler spacecraft that has apparently been abandoned. Weyland-Yutani has interest in the spacecraft and the soldiers need the flight data. Once aboard it’s clear things are amiss as the atmosphere is venting and things are very dark. Anyone who has seen or read at least two Alien stories can figure out what happens from here.
What Brian Wood does well is give good reason for Zula to be there. Even though the Weyland-Yutani Corporation has claimed salvage rights on the ship, because of the military’s jurisdiction in lunar space she must go aboard to punch in a code to transfer the flight recorder data down to the base. It’s clear Wood has thought much of this out as there are other moments when an explanation is given for something that could have been a plot hole. While it sometimes comes off a bit direct, it’s good to see it present rather than ignored.
Wood knows his way around the Alien story that’s for sure, as the beginning has all the right beats and thrills of the original film mixed with Cameron’s sequel. While I was enjoying the comic, there wasn’t much I hadn’t seen before…until Zula cracks her helmet and passes out during the Alien attack. She wakes back up on a medical bed and learns from the head soldier Davis that the “Europa” (the abandoned ship) was infested. Zula has been asleep for twenty-seven days in which time Davis has cleared the Europa of the infestation. He explains to Zula what they are dealing with, that he has discovered Weyland-Yutani’s true intentions with the Xenomorph and that he has stolen files of leads/locations of Xenomorphs. This is the true nature of the series and I’m totally excited. Not only have we (to my knowledge) never seen a Weyland-Yutani synthetic go against the company (I wouldn’t really count Bishop for various reasons) but I love the idea of hunting the Aliens down. Wood turned the story on its head in the matter of the last eight or so pages and my head was spinning with thoughts of where this could be going. In fact, the first half of this book could be considered its biggest flaw in the sense that even though it’s incredibly well written, too much of the issue is given to a scenario seen a hundred times before. Kudos to Brian Wood for the sucker punch he delivered with the second half of the story here.
LIKE THE ALIEN COMICS OF MY YOUTH
Tristan Jones and Dan Jackson’s work remind me of the Alien comics I used to read from Dark Horse when I was younger. I can’t put my finger on it exactly but I’m going to attribute much of it to Jackson’s coloring. There is some terrific lighting effects, creepy settings and while things are dark during the beginning half it is never crushed. Jackson also uses red as a nice effect, coloring the Aliens in nothing but red and black at times while everything else is normal. It gives a layered appearance, makes the Aliens stand out and also works to remind the reader that the emergency lights are flashing during battle. Tristan Jones uses what I believe is the “photo-reference” technique. How you feel about that style will affect your feelings on his art but I found it way less noticeable than other artists who use photo-reference. In fact, the only pics I could noticeably spot were the ones of the Aliens! Luckily the book never turned into a game of “Oh, that character is that person in real life” which can get frustratingly distracting. Jones’s style fits the universe well in that it maintains that dirty and grimy feel. Nothing looks clean and I always felt like I was watching/reading something from Ridley Scott’s Alien. Proportions are off at times, Zula’s facial expressions can be almost hideous and the action scene has a couple of panels that are hard to decipher but none of it is a deal breaker. The art on this book still really shines and I can’t wait for issue two and am a bit disappointed that Jones won’t be around longer.
BOTTOM LINE: A NEW KIND OF ALIEN STORY
You know when the weekend comes and it starts as just the average enjoyable weekend but then you’re wife tells you that she’s decided to take the kids and visit her parents? You realize you have the whole house to yourself for two days, don’t have to wear pants and have no idea what you will do but you’re excited as hell about it? That’s what reading Aliens: Defiance #1 was like. Brian Wood pulled the rug out from under me; I started to think I was a getting a well written but run of the mill Alien story but it evolved into something else. The artwork has some problems but they are minor and it reminds me of the old Dark Horse Alien comics I used to read. This is a book that fits perfectly into the Alien universe and I’m incredibly interested to find out where it’s headed. I highly recommend it. If you are interested in letting your comic shop retailer know, get those orders in soon! Final Order Cutoff is April 4. Use Previews Order #FEB160010.