Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Mark Verheiden
Artist: Mark A. Nelson
Release Date: 26th April, 2016
Set for release on “Alien Day” (the 26th of April… 4/26… LV426… geddit?), Dark Horse Comics are bringing back the very first Aliens comic book title they ever published, as Mark A. Nelson and Mark Verheiden’s iconic series returns to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of James Cameron’s Aliens.
Not only that, but the classic series – which sees the horrifically scarred Hicks and the all-grown-up Newt on a mission to destroy the Xenomorph homeworld – is getting the oversized hardcover treatment with the story recreated in its original unabridged, unadulterated format. What that means essentially is that, rather than the heavily amended version which was released in the early 90s with Hicks and Newt replaced by “Wilks and Billie” to avoid continuity issues caused by their deaths at the beginning of the just-released Alien 3, we’re back to the original version — originally intended as a canonical sequel to Aliens.
I remember enthusiastically tucking into this story during my formative years, so being able to revisit it again here is a cause for genuine excitement. And, as with younger Ceej, the most fascinating aspect of Verheiden’s story – for me, at least – is religious zealot Savaje and his group of activist followers who worship the Alien as a “new messiah”. While this is a notion which has been explored countless times in the decades following this series, it has never been handled with such skill, flash and terrifying believability as it is here. Watching Savaje go from televangelist to terrorist provides some real punch to the story, and while it isn’t the main thrust of the narrative by any means, it’s definitely the aspect of this book which has remained with me over the last three decades.
Visually, Mark A. Nelson’s artwork is just as stunning as it was all those years ago, and his rendering of the Xenomorph has to be included in any discussion of the “all-time best” comic book version of the Alien. His human characters pale a little in comparison, and some of the male faces in particular are burdened by an uncomfortable similarity with one another. This minor niggle aside, the scenes featuring the Aliens themselves – particularly those which take place during the terror-fuelled nightmares of the traumatized Newt – are absolutely sublime in their exquisite, primal horror. All teeth and bile and slithering carapaces, the artwork sometimes actually ended up disrupting the flow of Verheiden’s story as I found myself lingering a little too long on each page, soaking in the beauty of Nelson’s work.
It’s not a flawless story, with Verheiden’s dialogue sometimes coming across as a little forced, and certain storyline beats not quite having the impact they probably should have. That said, whatever way you slice it, this is undoubtedly a far more entertaining, far more intelligent sequel to the first two movies than David Fincher’s Alien 3 ever was. While the lack of Ellen Ripley is disappointing, the fascinating character development of both Newt and Hicks – not to mention the overarching story itself – makes this an absolute must buy for fans of the franchise. Hell, even if you already read this story twenty-eight years ago, you simply have to get your hands on this oversize, hardcover beauty.
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