For nearly 30 years, Dark Horse Comics has been putting out some of the best Aliens stories, which have sometimes put the later cinematic sequels to shame. The entire concept of Aliens vs. Predator originated within the comics, and neither of the two crossover movies managed to fully capture the magic of that original miniseries. Now that Prometheus has been firmly established as a part of the Aliens universe, Dark Horse has added the Engineers to the mix of its latest crossover event, Life and Death. The next part of the crossover, Aliens: Life and Death #1 hits next month, and this is our advance review.
If you haven’t been following the Life and Death storyline by writer Dan Abnett, then you may feel a bit lost in this issue. Abnett doesn’t waste any time properly introducing the cast for incoming readers before throwing his characters into jeopardy. There’s clearly an assumption that readers have been following the Predator: Life and Death and Prometheus: Life and Death miniseries. This may be a smoother transition in the eventual collected edition, but it’s a little disorienting in its current form. That said, we have an appreciation for any series that has the audacity to open a story with a two-page spread like this.
Moritat is a criminally underrated artist within the comic industry, and he’s definitely at the top of his game in this book. The image above is just a small taste of what he brings to this issue. His action sequences are exciting and he draws some pretty intimidating Xenomorphs. Moritat also does an exceptional job of conveying the emotions of the characters in the rare moments that they aren’t fighting for their lives. The way that Moritat renders the eyes of his human characters tells us what they’re thinking even without the benefit of thought bubbles or narrative captions.
Abnett has a reputation as one of the best sci-fi writers in comics, and he’s one of the co-creators of the modern Guardians of the Galaxy who gave that team the personality that led them to becoming box office superstars. The cast of Aliens: Life and Death doesn’t pop quite as memorably as the Guardians have, but Abnett does give even the hardest of the Colonial Marines a sense of humanity. They aren’t killing machines, and they are clearly outmatched and outnumbered by the Alien horde remaining on the planet.
The only area where Abnett falls short is that he fails to reestablish the romantic relationship between two of the leading characters before dealing them a very cruel hand. We can’t help but think it would have been a more powerful scene if their connection had been lain out beforehand. Again, the collected story will probably make that complaint invalid. But as a standalone issue, the script’s near refusal to properly introduce its lead characters to new readers was definitely a weakness.
That said, this was a very strong opening chapter to the next phase of the crossover. The Colonial Marines are far from out of the woods, and they’ve got more than just Xenomorphs to worry about. Aliens: Life and Death #1 will be released on Wednesday, September 21.
RATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
Are you looking forward to Aliens: Life and Death #1? Let’s discuss in the comment section below!
Images: Dark Horse Comics