After the travesties that were Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection, and Prometheus, the Alien franchise has been both one of my greatest loves and greatest sorrows. Throughout the years, I’ve watched Dark Horse Comics trot out series after series featuring the murderous xenomorphs, and I avoid them, because my heart just can’t any more disappointment. But when they announced Dan Abnett — the Dan Abnett, of my beloved Warhammer 40k — was writing the new Aliens: Life and Death #1, well, I had to read it. For Dan Abnett can do no wrong. Surely, he will bring the franchise back to its glorious glory within 20-odd pages of a comic. Surely, he will undo the wrongs cast upon the series by creator Ridley Scott. Well, he doesn’t, and don’t call me Shirley.
The series starts out with a group of stranded Colonial Marines on LV-223, in a fight for their survival against a horde of xenomorphs. From years of WH40k writing, Dan Abnett is one of my favorite military writers. The dialog is sharp, pointed and never feels bloated in moments of combat. The combat itself feels appropriately desperate, and the characters, even in their brief introductions, all seem vivid and multidimensional. I love few things more than a good siege story, and a good survival-against-a-horde story. In some respects, the comic seems poised to pick up the torch of desperation and survival from Aliens, aka The Greatest Sci-Fi Action Movie Ever Made.
And then an Engineer shows up. I have given a name to my pain, and that name is the Engineers. I hated Prometheus. Hated, hated, hated. I hated it on every level you can hate a movie; it’s not just a case of Charlize Theron not knowing how to run away from a circular object, or Idris Elba being criminally underutilized. Oh, no. Those are just sprinkles on the cake of disappointment that was Prometheus. But, if I had to pick one thing about the movie that made me hate it the most, if I had to, say, create an avatar onto which I can focus my rancor, it would be the Engineers.
So, when Colonial Marines are suddenly both very aware of the Engineers and very afraid of them, because somehow they are bigger boogeymen than the goddamn xenomorphs. I’m so confused. Which is when it suddenly hits me: To understand anything going on in this, I probably needed to read any number of previous Aliens comics and that just isn’t going to happen.
What is most disappointing to me, is that, as you would expect, this first issue is written so. damn. well. The dialog, the characters, the action, everything leaps off the pages, into your face for a helluva ride. But then the most ill-conceived boogeyman of all time appears and it goes from “ohmygodyussssss” to “meh.” In the single flip of a page.
Title: Aliens: Life and Death #1
Author: Dan Abnett
Publisher: Dark Horse
Publish date: 09/21/2016
Acquired via: Publisher