In Review: Predator: Life and Death #1

Dark Horse, what happened?

The covers: A pair to find before they find you! The Regular cover is by Brian Palumbo. It shows a Predator rising up out of a tangle of ancient tree limbs. Behind him is a cobwebbed covered Engineer ship. Could this be the same world from Dark Horse’s Fire and Stone? The figure and ship are familiar enough to spark recognition and the look of the ship should be enough to pique interest to pick this book up. This cover is a good way to grab readers. The Variant cover is by Sachin Teng and it’s so different looking, I had to pick it up. This is a bust shot of a Predator, but with a slight twist. The top of its head, which is helmeted, has been popped off, revealing an Engineers’ ship underneath. The rest of the Predator’s body is underneath the ship. It’s an odd construction for a cover, but there’s just something about it that has me looking at it again and again. Overall grades: Regular A- and Variant A

The story: One year after the events of Fire and Stone, Rapid Response Combat Ship Hasdrubal is making its way to LV-797. The Marine ship has been sent on a mission by Wyland-Yutani to see if unlicensed prospecting and illegal asset stripping is occurring. Captain Paget is informed by W-T attache Mr. Lormier about the situation, but she doesn’t trust him, since he doesn’t inform her about the cluster of “sensor voids” on the planet. The soldiers have recently completed a mission and are still feeling the adrenaline of battle, so the captain instructs them not to go gun happy on the planet. They drop down to the planet and discover several unexpected things. Writer Dan Abnett is setting things up quickly in this issue. The situation and several characters are introduced before heading to the surface, and once there the expected difficulties occur. It was hard not to think of Corporal Hicks on Page 15 and the appearance of the object on 16 was spoiled by both covers. However, just when it seems as though Abnett might be going through the motions with this tale, he delivers a major punch on 19 that instantly sets this book apart from all other Predator tales: this situation normally doesn’t appear until the second chapter. In fact, Abnett turns up the surprises even more with the final page. This was good storytelling: I was lulled into complacency with the first few pages only to have the rug ripped out from under me. Okay, Mr. Abnett, you got me. Now give me more! Overall grade: A-

The art: The visuals of this book were a disappointment. Things begin well with the first page establishing the settings and lead character Paget. However, notice in the second panel on her head is very boxy – this happens repeatedly throughout the book. One the second and third pages artist Brian Albert Thies nicely expands the setting as the captain speaks with Lorimer. He moves this point of view around well, making things visually interesting, considering that these are two characters sitting at a table talking. However, looks at the character’s head in the fourth panel on 2 and look at the distance of the arm from the body in the second panel on 3; this foreshadows difficulties to come in the art. With a turn of the page, Paget’s head becomes a box, almost a quick sketch, and this is repeated on the marines at the bottom of Page 5. This sketchy technique continues into the settings, such as in the second panel on 8. If the settings and characters are not clearly defined, the book looks rushed. Page 11 is the greatest example of this: it’s incredibly rough looking. Look at the amount of space wasted in the upper right of Page 16. Thies does well in close-ups of characters, but not elsewhere. The visuals are going to severely limit this book’s sales. Overall grade: D

The colors: Rain Beredo is responsible for the colors of this book. They’re used to provide some definition to the art, but aren’t wholly successful. The first three pages are well done, with the overpowering red of the Weyland-Yutani logo overpowering Paget and Lorimer’s scene, creating the familiar tone of the company overseeing everything. Once with the Marines the colors go metallic and olive, with flesh providing the only highlights. Look at the third panel on Page 6: if this were seen in the original black and white it would be an indeterminate blob of black. On the surface of the planet on 9 the colors are too pale, looking as if they ran in the rain. The first panel on 10 has Beredo doing what he can to bring some differentiation to the grass, but it’s bleeds too easily into the colors of the sky, creating a blanket color of blasé. Beredo is a very competent colorist, as has been demonstrated in other books, but not here. Overall grade: C-

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, radio transmissions, yells, sounds, and the tease for next issue hail from Michael Heisler. He does everything well, with his contributions being the strongest of the book. Overall grade: A

The final line: The bar was set high with Fire and Stone. This series, visually, is far below it. If the visuals continue to look like this, I’ll look at the next issue, but not purchase it. Dark Horse, what happened? Overall grade: C

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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