So take a little bit of Shaun of the Dead, a large dose of James Cameron’s Aliens (and every single video game it inspired) a dash of Galaxy Quest and a sprinkling of The Hangover, and you’ve got Aliens Vs. Parker, BOOM! Studios’ mini-series, which hits store shelves in collected form this week. If you like any or all of the geek properties I just name-dropped, chances are you’ll enjoy this book quite a lot. For anyone who has grown up with those movies I mentioned, Aliens Vs. Parker should be a joy to read, a fun way to kill an hour or two. It’s not really much more than that, but then, it’s really not designed to be. Some things are just looking to be a good time, and this is one of those things. Written by comedian Paul Scheer (The League) and Nick Giovannetti (Adult Swim) this book shows the authors’ deep affection for all things geeky and wears that love proudly on its sleeve.
The premise of Aliens Vs. Parker is fairly simple; the year is 2150 and the crew of a Space-Ex delivery ship (Space-Ex being your interplanetary Fed-Ex of the future) is your group of ordinary, average Joe Schmoes, out delivering packages from planet to planet and killing time in between by playing video games with annoying, bratty kids back on Earth. One eventful day, the Space-Ex boys get caught up in something too big and a little too monstrous for them to handle, and, as they say, hilarity ensues.
Our title character, Parker, is just one of five guys on the ship; Parker is your fairly unremarkable white dude, not too handsome or too ugly – he’s just your everyman. Aside from Parker, the other guys on the ship are Parker’s self-described “bestie” Modi, Lawrence (who is very reminiscent of Zach Galifianakis’ character from The Hangover movies, both in appearance and how he acts), Kim, who is somehow always angry, and Grey, the navigator and seemingly the senior officer on board. I’m not sure if these are their first names or last names; needless to say, it’s the only names we get. These guys all mostly speak with the same voice, to varying degrees, but that’s not really a critique, it’s just the kind of thing that actually happens when you spend day-in and day-out with someone. Eventually, you all start speaking in the same cadence and telling the same jokes to each other over and over. The crew all seeming somewhat alike is actually realistic.
One day, their boring daily monotonous jobs are interrupted by having to carry some rare cargo, a United Space Marine Corps ship that needs to be discreetly taken to a planet where they’ve lost communication with the inhabitants (if you’ve ever seen any sci-fi movie from the past thirty years or so, you know that’s always bad news.) The Space-Ex boys are just supposed to hang in orbit while the trained professionals complete their mission, but Parker wants a peek at what’s going on down on the planet below, mainly to try to impress a lovely lady named Presley who was attached to the Marine envoy, and whom he briefly met and awkwardly flirted with. Parker doesn’t get lucky a whole lot out in space it seems, so he’s willing to risk his job and maybe even jail time to get a date with her. Naturally, when the boys get to the planet below, all hell breaks loose, and there are some nasty aliens to contend with. That’s not a spoiler, folks; “Aliens” is part of the title.
The writers know how to keep this story moving at a brisk pace, and for the most part, the characters are all relatable and likable. Every page has a joke or humorous reference that will at the very least put a smile on your face if not laugh out loud (although the overabundance of humor can actually be a problem, but I’ll get to that.) The artwork from artist Manuel Brachi is perfectly fine for something like this, where capturing facial expressions is more important than making giant two page spreads and action poses a la Jim Lee or something. This is a light book that requires a light touch, which is exactly what it has.
Aliens Vs Parker is a fun read, and although the book is essentially a comedy book, I wish that the writers had let the funny drop to the wayside occasionally. Even Shaun of the Dead knew that there were moments were things needed to get serious (like, say, when a character was about to die a horrible death) and it wasn’t a moment to be cracking jokes. Here the characters are always “on,” even in the face of imminent doom. It felt like the characters were that dude at a party who is always trying to impress me on how funny they were at every single moment. I get the sense that the authors wanted this to be an adventure comedy in the vein of Ghostbusters or Shaun of the Dead, but those movies knew when to stop making jokes, even if only briefly, as to not make the entire thing seem like a farce.
Another thing that kinda bugged me was how contemporary the pop culture references were for a book set in 2150. Granted, we have no idea how people will sound like when we get to there, but I somehow doubt that “It’s a trap!” will still be a reference to Admiral Akbar from Return of the Jedi, or that anyone will stay “pwned!” anymore. And God help us all, but I hope LOLcats is very over and done with by 2150. I realize for a book like this, a lot of the humor derives from pop culture references, but it all sounds a little too “of the now” for a book set so far ahead in the future.
But, those issues aside, Aliens Vs. Parker is a highly entertaining and enjoyable book, and I can’t imagine any geek out there wouldn’t get a kick out of it. And, if nothing else, THIS AvP is way more entertaining than those other AvP movies any day of the week.