In Review: Aliens: Defiance #2

Outstanding reading for fans of Aliens, science fiction, or horror. Succeeds on every level.

The cover: The glass is starting to crack, damning Space Marine Zula Hendricks to an attack by several facehuggers that are trying to escape from a fiery apocalypse that she created. Her face is fearful as she looks upon the creatures pounding their way though, her flamethrower alight to sear them should they get in. However, if she were to look at her feet she would see that one has already gotten in and is crawling towards her. Nice layout by Massimo Carnevale, with the reader’s eye naturally going from the facehuggers to Zula to the creature at the bottom. The use of oranges, reds, and yellows give this some great tension. Overall grade: A 

The story: Zula is having a horrific nightmare based on a combat situation when Davis 01 wakes her. She can’t feel her legs, but says she’ll report to the bridge in a few minutes. One of Davis’s fellow synthetics says, “She’s injured. She’s compromised.” This conversation is cut short by their arrival at LV-44-40, a science station. There’s been no data transmission from the satellite in the last seven hours and automated systems are down. However, “…we’re getting a large heat signature in one of the storage bays.” Hendricks tells the androids they have to go over to see if it’s aliens or survivors. They’ll have to pull the computer data by hand. Additionally, their armory supplies are depleted, so they’ll have to take all that they can carry from the station’s weapons stores. She and Davis spacewalk to the station and enter. That’s when things go bad. Brian Wood has crafted what could be the most disquieting Aliens story yet. As the leads make their way through the station, with its computers down, nothing is explained, only encountered. It’s up to the characters and the readers to decide what’s transpired on this base. Something is encountered on Page 7 and there’s a terrific line from Davis in the fourth panel of this page that makes the situation incredibly realistic. The second panel on 8 will be a familiar sight to fans of the franchise, but is completely new to the characters…If only they knew. Fallout from this reveal occurs on 9 and the dread it creates is amazing. Zula is a great complex character. She doesn’t explain things to the reader, but uses short bits of narration to explain details, such as the final panel on 11 and all of 12. 15 has the moment that fans will know is coming, and then the book becomes an issue of how to survive. The book closes with a terrific bit of flashback narration running through Zula’s head as she does something strong. A creepy story with terrific action. Overall grade: A+

The art: One of the joys of the original Alien film was the believability of the setting. It looked futuristic enough to appear like the near future and constructed with so much detail that anything could be hiding in it. Artist Tristan Jones more than captures both aspects with his visuals. The book opens with three panels of Hendricks experiencing the horror of combat, and though it’s brief, it’s wholly believable and terrifying. The transition to her current location is a dramatic shift, and is even more dramatic when the androids are shown in the final panel. The settings in this book are astounding. When Hendricks is suiting up on Page 3 the backgrounds are completely believable and the entrance to the station on 4 and 5 perfectly set the tone for what’s to occur. Jones is a master of light and darkness as Hendricks and Davis make their way through the station, with the reveal of the individual on 7 jarring. Pulling in closer to this character in the third panel only exacerbates one’s nerves.  The second panel on Page 8 telegraphs to long time fans what’s going to happen, and even when it does occur, Jones has made Page 9 frightening to look upon. Page 15 is horrific perfection, and the pages that follow don’t require much dialogue, as there’s not really ample time for the characters to speak, but the illustrations beautifully tell every harrowing event. The look on Hendrick’s face at the top of 19 is fantastic. One really impressive aspect of Jones’s art is that he’s able to convey motion without the traditional use of comic book motion lines. The bullets shot off look realistic as they leave their barrels, the explosions of gore look like frozen film cells, the steam from acidic blood is extremely fluid, and the two panels where objects are thrown look absolutely real. To capture the look of the films, with new characters, and create motion on the page is work that must be treasured. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The colors from Dan Jackson definitely add to the tension of the book. The reds of Hendricks’s nightmare make the violence of war more palpable, the lack of color in the androids’ eyes makes them creepy every time they appear, and the gray colors of the heroes’ ship makes the future seem so industrial and bereft of human life. The interiors of the space station are superior examples of how colors, and their lack, will make a reader look more closely into the art to see if he or she can spot a xenomorph before one leaps out. The space shots are gorgeous in deep crimsons, giving the whole tale a feel of impending doom. When the action breaks out the colors explode on the page, due to the bright blasts from the weapons and the iconic blood of the creatures. The sounds also go bold in these sequences. At the end of the issue the heroes have to go somewhere and the colors are blood red, signifying life and humanity, which are found nowhere on the xenos’ station. Overall grade: A+

The letters: The large font on this book from Nate Piekos of Blambot gives the book a wholly science fiction feel. As a reader makes his or her way through the book the text constantly suggests a futuristic setting with its thin clear design. Piekos creates dialogue, transmissions, the book’s credits, the book’s title, sounds, screams, yells, and the tease for next issue. The sounds create some absolutely terrific chills as noises echo through the empty station. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Outstanding reading for fans of Aliens, science fiction, or horror. Succeeds on every level. Highest possible recommendation of the week! Overall grade: A+

To learn more about other Aliens comic books go to http://www.darkhorse.com/

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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