BY MATT TUCK
Despite a slow start, Marvel’s Alien debut checks all the right hallmarks of the franchise and fits the mold of what fans expect from an Aliens movie.
Written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Art by Salvador Larroca
After a year of hype and promotional covers galore, the Marvel Comics era of Alien(s) has begun. This first issue feels at home more in James Cameron’s Aliens universe than Ridley Scott’s 1979 atmospheric masterpiece despite the Alien title. It unabashedly fills in as a sequel to Cameron’s classic just as Dark Horse did 33 years ago.
Considering how everything from Alien: Resurrection to those atrocious Aliens V. Predator movies nearly destroyed the franchise, picking up post-Aliens is not altogether a bad idea. Will it live up to the mythos established in the Dark Horse era? One can hope.
Speaking of hope, the story takes place in 2200, exactly 21 years following the destruction of Hadley’s Hope in the 1986 film. Our protagonist is Gabriel Cruz, and we are introduced to him as he retires from the Weyland-Yutani Corporation’s biowarfare laboratory.
What Johnson has created is something we have not seen in a true Alien film (basically everything pre-Resurrection): Earth. He gives the readers a view of a futuristic Earth complete with Weyland-Yutani technology at the ready. Gabriel’s therapist is even a Bishop android, drawn exactly like Lance Henriksen. The implication here is that there are more Bishops circulating the globe, serving in a variety of everyday capacities. In essence, it is a world owned and trademarked by Weyland-Yutani.
The heart of the story so far is Gabriel's strained relationship with his adult son, Danny, who happens to be part of a violent terrorist organization bent on exposing and destroying Weyland-Yutani. We are given glimpses of Gabriel’s emotionally-scarred backstory through snipits and nightmares as he appears to be the lone survivor of a xenomorph attack. Gabriel keeps this from his son, and the two hardly know each other after Gabriel’s years spent on a corporate space station.
We are treated to the real action at the end of the comic, establishing Danny’s manipulation at the hands of his fellow conspirators and their bloody means to an end. Predictably, they unearth the real threat to humanity and the heralds of the xenomorphs, the face huggers.
The brightest star of the issue was Salvador Larroca and his beautiful art. The pencils had a definite cinematic flare, which makes sense for a series based on a movie franchise. Turning the pages, it felt like watching the first episode of a television series, and that is a good thing. The colors popped, and Larroca captured the emotional tension between Gabriel and Danny. His artwork glimmered boldly in the two-page spread of the xenomorph hive that felt pulled straight from Aliens.
THE FINAL VERDICT
Admittedly, I am a huge Aliens fan. I recently had a chance to meet Aliens actors Michael Biehn and Carrie Henn, and I had them sign a first-print of the 1988 Aliens #1. Ever since the third installment of the franchise, I have been waiting for a worthy successor in the films, and I have been sorely disappointed for nearly 30 years now.
Based on all those misfires called movies, my expectations were not terribly high for this series. Generally speaking, I have yet to be overly pleased with a movie continuation in comic form.
So far in Alien #1, there is nothing necessarily new to add to the franchise mythology, but it is only the first issue. At this point, I am looking forward to the second installment, and hopefully we will even get to meet a xenomorph or two.
For the most part, I enjoyed this comic, though it would have received a C had it not been for Larroca’s outstanding artwork. As it is, Alien #1 has the aesthetic and tone of another Aliens movie, and I am okay with that, but I want the series to grow into something more. It needs to find its own voice among the numerous movies and even upcoming television series. Here’s hoping.
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is also a teacher, freelance writer, comic collector, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.