The Alien franchise spans all sorts of mediums – films, books, comics, games, etc. – and it has spawned two bonafide masterpieces. There’s no disputing the brilliance of the films Alien and Aliens. They are true works of art that every other part of the franchise has struggled to live up to. That is, of course, until James Stokoe unleashed Aliens: Dead Orbit. We’re only one issue in, but this already shaping up to be the best work in this universe since the original two films.
Aliens: Dead Orbit takes place on spaceship and the narrative jumps back and forth in time. The past is filled with a colorful cast of characters and the present features one guy wandering around an empty ship in silence. It’s not hard to guess what fate the crew suffered, but Stokoe teases everything out careful, measured grace. We don’t even really see a Xenomorph until the book’s very last page.
Stokoe does literally everything in this comic book. He serves as the series writer, artist, colorist, and letterer, which is mind-blowing. Full creative teams rarely produce an issue this great and the fact that it was all done by one guy is incredible. James Stokoe is some sort of comic book wizard who traveled to us from another plane of existence, bringing with him powers and gifts unknown to the common man. He’s good, folks. Really, really good.
Stokoe’s skills as a storyteller are on full display in this issue; it unfolds slowly and is drenched in suspense. The plot isn’t anything new, but it’s so expertly executed you can’t help but be sucked it. Stokoe use techniques that could easily fall flat in the wrong hands. The silent opening, the jump scares, the drawn out suspense; it’s all so carefully constructed and crafted. As writer, Stokoe is superb.
That said, the reason you need to read this comic, the reason it’s so freaking amazing, is James Stokoe’s artwork. Yes, he’s an awesome writer and letter, but it’s his art that steals the show. The level of detail in Aliens: Dead Orbit #1 is unreal. Stokoe combines the line work of Geof Darrow and storytelling techniques of Chris Samnee. He fills every single panel with an absurd amount of detail, but manages to never lose the narrative thread. He draws your eye with precision and care while at the same time overloading the page. When it comes to comic book art, Stokoe is peerless and Aliens: Dead Orbit is a showcase of that.
Whether you are longtime fan of the Aliens franchise or just a lover of damn fine comic books, you need to read Aliens: Dead Orbit #1. James Stokoe delivers all the horror, suspense, and dread that Aliens is known for and he does so in the best looking comic on the shelves. This comic book is a dream – or nightmare, rather – come true.
Image: Dark Horse Comics
Benjamin Bailey writes for the Nerdist and can be found on Twitter talking about Godzilla, comic books, and hardcore music.