We all love a good Xenomorph story, right? Yes, the recent movies have been met with fairly mixed reviews, but if there’s one company we can rely on for consistently gripping Aliens stories, it’s Dark Horse Comics.
So when we heard that, in addition to their ongoing “Life and Death” event, Dark Horse will be releasing a stand-alone Aliens series entitled ALIENS: DEFIANCE, we simply had to find out more.
From the pen of acclaimed writer Brian Wood and featuring artwork from Tristan “T-Rex” Jones, DEFIANCE tells the story of Colonial Marine Private First Class Zula Hendricks. Wounded in the line of duty, Hendricks’ continued battle through her painful rehab and refusal to admit defeat is truly inspirational, but when she finds herself accompanying a crew of Weyland-Yutani synthetics to investigate a derelict hauler – which, as you can imagine, doesn’t turn out to be all that derelict after all – her loyalty and bravery is put to the test in a major way.
We were lucky enough to be able to sit down with writer Brian Wood to have a brief chat about the series.
BIG COMIC PAGE: Hi Brian, and thanks so much for taking your time to chat with us. To help set the scene, where does ALIENS: DEFIANCE fit into the overall movie and comic book chronology, and is there any prior knowledge required from the reader before picking this one up?
BRIAN WOOD: DEFIANCE takes place early in the timeline, about 17 years after ALIEN, the original film. Which considering that ALIENS, the second, is like, what, 70 years after ALIEN (I don’t have my notes here), its early. The Aliens are mostly unknown to humans, almost entirely unknown, which is fun for us, as we can write these first contact scenes, really get into the fear and horror and mystery of it on behalf of our cast.
And I think its helpful to know at least one of two Aliens films in advance, but only for the smaller details. Like knowing what Weyland-Yutani is, or that synthetics exist. But honestly, even if you don’t know that, you will by the end of #1. We hold your hand a little to start.
BCP: It’s always tricky working with such established franchises. Were you given any limitations on what you could or couldn’t do in this story?
BW: Having done this a few times now with Conan, Star Wars, and X-Men, its tricky until you learn how to roll with the punches and not get so precious about any one thing. Absolutely its my job to pitch my story and defend it if need be, but up to a point. You have to respect your role and your place in the scheme of things, and work with these limitations or rules. And early on there was a whole lot of things I wanted to do that had to change once the people at Fox took a look at it, but that’s cool. I’m very happy with where we ended up. I mean, we’re creating a new cast, a new ship, and a new chapter in the overall Aliens history. Its great. Hope there’s toys!
BCP: Tell us a little bit about our main character, Zula Hendricks. She seems to be a living embodiment of the whole “defiance” tagline.
BW: Maybe reluctantly so. I mean, she is choosing to go AWOL from the Marines, but there’s no way she’s happy about it, about breaking her oath of duty.
Writing a Marine was something that came early… in the films, the Marines were, largely, presented as action movie tough guys (and women!), and Hicks aside we haven’t seen someone like Zula in the movies, an extremely human, very flawed soldier. Going an extra step and having her be wounded in combat, dealing with physical therapy and troubles with mobility was something I was personally invested in, as I know a few wounded soldiers in real life.
BCP: You’ve taken an interesting approach by having Zula being the only human on a ship full of synthetics. What prompted that decision?
BW: In a basic way its just a version of the fish out of water thing, separating Zula from her home environment and putting her in a tough spot. It also gives her someone interesting to play off of, because as inexperienced and as human as she is, these synthetics are what she calls ‘drones’ – corporate security with limited programming. If she’s looking for a friend on the ship, these guys are a tough sell.
BCP: What sort of tone are you looking to have for this series? Are we going to be seeing the tense horror of Alien, the all-out war of Aliens, or something in-between?
BW: Tense horror for sure. The goal is to recall the vibe of the early films. And since there is a significant Marines element here, there’s a whole bunch of shootouts in later issues, but not a all-out war in the sense of a battlefield thing. Its all very much in the ‘evade and survive’ mold, like the films.
BCP: Artist Tristan Jones has done a stunning job of capturing the horror of the franchise in the first issue. How have you found your collaboration with him so far, and what benefits do you think his style brings to the project?
BW: Whatever I know about Aliens, he knows that and like 1000x more. He describes this as his dream project, so there’s pressure there for me to write a good story for you, for readers, and for this guy! But he’s great, he catches things I miss in the scripts, suggests good ideas, and is a fantastic artist. I’m blessed.
BCP: And finally, if there’s anyone out there still on the fence about picking this one up, what would you say to help convince them?
BW: I think in addition to the tough sounding title and the cover image of the soldier with a pulse rifle, this story is so incredibly human in how the characters develop, that I think it had appeal far beyond just Aliens fans. Its my hope that Zula Hendricks is established as one of the great Aliens characters. After what we put her though and what she overcomes, she’s earned it.
BCP: Thanks again for your time.
ALIENS: DEFIANCE #1 goes on sale April 27th, and you can pre-order a copy from your Local Comic Shop until Monday April 4th using PREVIEWS Code FEB160010.