Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer/Artist: Gabriel Hardman
Colorist: Rain Beredo
Release Date: 9th January 2019
After a somewhat unforgiving release schedule over the past eight(!) months, Dark Horse are finally releasing the conclusion to Gabriel Hardman’s Aliens: Dust to Dust this coming Wednesday. The series tells the story of Maxon, a twelve-year old boy living on a terraforming colony who ends up in a frantic scramble for his life when a Xenomorph outbreak kills the majority of the colony’s inhabitants, his mother included.
The first three issues did a fantastic job of gradually ramping up the tension, keeping the pressure on the rag-tag band of survivors as they desperately tried to escape the planet. Hardman’s scratchy, visceral artwork really helped to underscore the frantic nature of the story, with the hazy shadows and jagged architecture managing to both hide and accentuate their pursuer, a one-armed Alien born from Maxon’s own mother.
This final issue continues to escalate the scale of the threat, with more and more Xenomorphs joining the hunt, culminating in a rather eye-widening scene in an elevator shaft near the end. However, after the tense, thrilling scramble for survival over the first three issues, Hardman loses a little bit of his momentum here by taking us out of the moment and trying explain why things are happening the way they are. For my money, it’s an entirely unnecessary piece of exposition, especially when it boils down to the same old “Weyland-Yutani are greedy and bad” shtick we’ve read a dozen times before.
That said, the way Hardman keeps the pressure on our trimmed-down cast of characters and the intriguing notion of the one-armed Xenomorph somehow retaining some of the protective traits of Maxon’s mother keeps the pages turning here, leading all the way to a typically dramatic conclusion. The epilogue seems a little abrupt, almost like there was a page missing, but the focus on Maxon as he is forced to grow up in a terrifyingly short period of time ensures that it’s equal parts satisfying and haunting.
At the end of the day, Dust to Dust does a great job of taking the Aliens franchise back to its stripped-down horror roots, and while this final issue sees the scale ramped up to almost ludicrous proportions at times, the focus on character and the frantic, almost primal sense of fear throughout makes this easily one of the best Alien books Dark Horse has released for quite some time. Highly recommended.