Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Christopher Sebela
Artist: Ariel Olivetti
Release Date: 5th November 2014
After a near-flawless start over its first six issues, Dark Horse’s Fire and Stone event has finally experienced its first minor stumble. We’re back in the middle of the ongoing narrative here, as jacked-up engineer/synthetic hybrid Elden lays siege to the Geryon with revenge on his mind. Ariel Olivetti’s typically slick artwork is something of a mixed bag here, at least for my tastes. While there’s no faulting his technical abilities, I do find myself wondering whether his style is necessarily a good ‘fit’ for a comic like this. Don’t get me wrong, his depiction of Elden is utterly fantastic, complete with chillingly sadistic grin and distinctive, ‘mutated engineer’ appearance. On the other hand however, I’m still finding his Predators to be a little too clean, with a lot of the battles looking a little too tidy – posed, almost – as opposed to what should be a gritty, grimy battle for survival.
Unfortunately, the Predators – and the Xenomorphs, to an extent – once again feel almost like an afterthought in the grand scheme of things with the bulk of this issue being taken up by a lengthy monologue by Elden as he rips through the Predators in search of Francis. I’m guessing ‘Mutated Engineers vs. Humans’ wouldn’t have been as compelling a title, but that’s essentially what we have here. Admittedly, Sebela does throw in some absolute gems of dialogue along the way, and includes some great action set-pieces which Olivetti does a solid job of bringing to life. To be fair, the first half of the issue was shaping up rather well. That is, until – well – something happens at about the midway point that completely turned me off for the rest of the issue.
I’m not going to delve into the details here for risk of spoilers, but suffice to say that the creative team tried to add something new to the conflict, but in doing so took this book so far away from where I thought it was heading that I all but lost interest for the rest of the way. Hey, I’m all for trying new things, but when you take what I hoped was going to be a tense cat and mouse game between a monster and its creator and throw in such a ludicrous new factor, it’s difficult not to feel disappointed, cheated almost.
That said, this issue isn’t a total waste by any means. Francis is still a compelling protagonist, and his heart and determination to not just lay down and die – even in spite of his terminal illness – gives him a great level of depth and makes it difficult not to find yourself rooting for him. Sebela also gives some great insight into the ceremony and tradition of the Predators during a particularly memorable scene near the end of the book. In fact, if it wasn’t for that one addition, I have no doubt I’d still be loving this series for all of its impressive qualities. As it is, it feels almost like I’m going to have to grit my teeth and get through the last two issues, rather than savouring the conclusion to what should be a compelling arc. Personal taste perhaps, as I’m sure some people will get a real kick out of the addition, but I’m really not a fan of where it now appears this series is heading.
Rating: 4/5 for the first half, 1/5 for the second half. Let’s call it a 2/5 overall.
Don’t forget to check out our Dark Horse: Fire & Stone Review and Interview Hub for all our coverage of this event in one place.
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