In Review: Vampirella/Aliens #1

This cross-over brings all the best elements of both series into a nightmare where only one can survive -- and it probably won't be the reader.

The covers: Eight different covers for you to gather before they hatch and jump on your face. The A cover is by the sensational Gabriel Hardman and Jordan Boyd, who both can be found in Invisible Republic. This illustration has a monstrous drone behind Vampirella, who’s walking slowly through a nest of eggs, with one in the foreground open. The alien looks terrific, Vampirella looks good, and the coloring is muted to give it a dark sensibility to raise the tension. This was a solid choice by Dynamite and Dark Horse to have for the A cover. The B is the blank Authentix cover that one could take to a convention and get the creators of this book to sign or have an artist sketch out a one-of-a-kind frontpiece. Although I would be hard pressed having to decide between having an alien or my favorite female vampire on the front. The C is the black and white art incentive cover. It’s the same as the A, though without any of Boyd’s contributions. I’m a big fan of Boyd’s work, so I do prefer seeing Hardman’s art with his colors, though this does show the incredible amount of detail Hardman puts into his work. The D is the “Virgin Art” incentive cover. It’s the same as the A, with Boyd’s colors, but without any text. If you’d like to see this work in it’s original state, then this is for you. The D is the Box of Dread exclusive cover featuring art by Dennis Calero. This is an intense close-up of an alien’s shoulder, its head turned and mouth snarling as it sees that Vampirella is trying to suck the blood out of its neck. Great idea for a cover that’s fantastic. I love the looks on both characters’ faces and the coloring highlights Vampy’s evil deed. In Your Dreams Collectibles is the source for the F, which, according to the text, will only be sold at the New York Comic Con. Vampirella is crouched low to the ground, among some familiar eggs, looking as if she’s hissing a warning at the reader. Behind her, similarly crouched, though not touching her, is an alien drone. This, too, is a really good cover. I love the way artist Andrew Mangum was able to put so much into the piece without overcrowding it and Gene Jimenez’s colors evoke the same dark tones as Boyd’s. A Baltimore Comic-Con exclusive is the G cover, and it’s by interior artist Javier Garcia-Miranda. This is one of the character studies on a comic book page that Dynamite has been doing terrifically on other titles. An Alien at three-quarters view is shown. Very nice. However, I prefer the H, which is a New York Comic con exclusive, also by Garcia-Miranda. This shows a full figured Vampirella, with three studies of her head, looking down at three-quarters, straight ahead, and from the side. She looks fantastic! Overall grades: A A+, B C+, C B, D A+, E A+, F A+, G B+, and H A- 

The story: Two figures in red robes bolt down an oddly structured red corridor, coming to a door that won’t open. One individual puts their hand on an electrical panel to open it, while the other beats on the obstacle frantically. An xenomorph diverts their attentions by appearing behind them and opening its mouth. Its tail whips around and kills the individual closest to it. The other’s robe is ripped off, revealing it to be a vampire: he has the typical Nosferatu look — clawed hands, bald head, big pointed ears, and fangs. It springs at the aggressive creature, smartly grabbing its extending mouth with one hand, to keep it from slamming into him, and holding its arm with the other. The vampire sinks its mouth into the alien and a gush of acidic green blood comes out. It begins to melt the creature of the night’s face. Standing above the smoking corpse, the alien looks ready to feast. That’s one heck of an opener from Corinna Bechko (a co-writer of Invisible Republic — you really should go check out that series). You’ve got your alien, you’ve got your vampires, but where is the title character? She appears on the following pages, making her way to the opening setting, but not in the way you’d expect. This story is a very clever way for Vampirella to get involved with aliens. Page 6 was a good introduction that harkened back to Sigourney Weaver. I also liked the conversation that was happening on 7; a good way to give story without forcing it down the reader’s throat. Page 11 had a nice unanswered reveal, with the fourth panel saying a lot with no dialogue. If this were a movie, Page 14 would be the page where viewers start yelling at the screen to get out of there. Page 17 has a good surprise — I’ll admit to suspecting this would happen, but in Issue #1? That I had not foreseen. Something else that occurred really soon was the coughing on 21, which climaxed in a major cliffhanger on 22. I expected these events to transpire eventually, but, again, in Issue 1? If this is how Bechko is opening the series, there must be some major twists ahead! Overall grade: A

The art: This is my first exposure to the art of Javier Garcia-Miranda, and I’m really enjoying what I’m seeing. The first four pages are a quick test to see if he can tell a story without text, because that’s what happens. Even if the sounds were to be absent, I would still be able to sense the tension on the page. The reveal of the xenomorph on 2 is a full page splash and it’s gorgeous. The aliens have always been one of the better designed Hollywood creatures, and Garcia-Miranda is doing them justice. I love the tail flick at the top of 3 — nice sense of motion and impending doom. I also like that there’s a reaction shot to the violence, and not the gore that’s occurring. I’m a big fan of “What one can imagine is worse than any visual”, and my imagination painted a pretty messy scene. The vampire reveal on 4 is also good, and the hand-to-hand action in the second panel is strong. The reaction on the vampire’s face as he bites into the alien’s neck is terrific, because fans of that franchise know exactly what’s going to happen, and it does, paying off in the bottom panel. Page 5 is a nice homage to the film series’ openings, culminating in 6’s reveal. The next three pages have a lot of exposition, but Garcia-Miranda moves his camera around well, making the visuals interesting as the characters make their way forward. Vampirella’s close-ups as the investigation begins are a good way to communicate she knows more than she’s telling, since she’s dialogue free. The bottom of 15 excellently shows that the chaos is about to begin, and it was foreshadowed just three panels earlier. Impressive action scenes involve one xenomorph often ignored in comics, and they are drawn absolutely disgustingly — I haven’t felt this sickened by them since the second film; and that bottom image on 18 is gorgeously gross. Every mark is correctly hit by Garcia-Miranda and I’m anxious to see more of what he can do. Overall grade: A

The colors: The setting on the opening page alerts readers that colors are going to be key in this book. Every shade of red is put on paper by InLight Studios. It instantly sets an ominous tone and makes the tension turn up to eleven. Even the robes the fleeing vampires are wearing are crimson colored. Having so much red makes the reveal of the ebony colored alien all the more intense. The green acid that comes out of the creature is a sickening light green that matches the films’ fluids perfectly. I like the way InLight did the interiors of the next setting. It’s a metallic structure, but it’s not drowning in silver and greys. The setting that the characters next enter is nicely darkened, yet everything important can be seen that is necessary to the story. My favorite page is 16: the greens, reds, blues, and whites are perfect. This looks good. Overall grade: A

The letters: Simon Bowland provides sounds, yells, computer transmissions, audio transmissions, and dialogue. I’m really impressed with how big Bowland is able to make all of his text without overpowering the images. With this much dialogue, I would expect something to have been at least partially covered, but nothing is. It’s a testament to his abilities that he can do this. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This cross-over brings all the best elements of both series into a nightmare where only one can survive — and it probably won’t be the reader. Excellent story and art that will put a smile on your face when you’re not hurriedly turning the pages. Recommended. Overall grade: A 

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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