In Review: Aliens: Dust to Dust #1

A masterfully horrific tale of a boy on the wrong colony at the wrong time. Recommended.

The cover: Two different covers to find for this premiere, and you better find them before they find you! The Standard cover is by Gabriel Hardman and Rain Beredo, the respective artist and colorist of this issue. Three drone warriors raise their heads up and shriek at an uncaring sky. Their tails undulate behind them. Beneath this trio, running into a cloud of debris that’s colored orange and yellow, Maxon and his mother can be seen. This is a solid symbolic cover for what this issue will contain. The Variant cover is by Carlos D’Anda and is a creepy frontpiece because it looks as though the xenomorph is acknowledging the reader’s presence by crossing its arms before itself. A highly detailed drone, shown from the waist up, looks at the reader and bares its teeth. If this isn’t creepy enough, look at the purple border around this creature, composed of skulls and bizarre shapes that would make H.R. Giger happy. A surprisingly bright cover for such a dark character. Overall grades: Both A

The story: Little Maxon, who could be eight years old, wakes up suddenly having heard something and calls for his mother. He looks outside his window to see a man running down the street shooting at something behind him. The window explodes and Maxon is thrown backward. He raises himself up and goes to his mother’s room where he sees something covering her face. It’s a xenomorph facehugger. Now he doesn’t know what this, but it shocks him nonetheless. Seeing his face in a mirror he sees something projecting from his face: a shard of glass from the window. He pulls it out and that’s when the tail of the facehugger begins to swing about, stopping only when the creature rolls off his mother and falls to the floor. His mother suddenly sits up, gasping for air. He hugs her strongly and asks if she’s okay. Looking at the floor she asks what the creature is that she spies. Before he can tell her where it used to be, she cuts him off. “Maxon. Stay away from it. We have to get–” and that’s when there’s a tremendous explosion outside. What follows is the mother and child trying to leave their building and escape the xenomorphs that seem to be crawling out of every shadow. Gabriel Hardman has begun this series in the most simple way, a mother and child have to find shelter to survive against the alien onslaught. There’s not much dialogue, but there’s plenty of action. An encounter on Pages 8 and 9 is thrilling and telling, especially if one has seen the films. A new character is introduced on 15, taking the pair to a new setting, though they don’t get far before something happens on 19 and 20. I have no idea where this story is going or how the characters got into this mess, but I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to see what was going to happen next. This is a tense tale that starts the reader in the middle of the action and never stops its nerve-racking pace. Overall grade: A

The art: Gabriel Hardman is also the artist of this book and his visuals make this an intense reading experience. His wide eyed Maxon is a completely sympathetic character that has the reader warning and cheering for the character at every encounter with danger. The fourth panel on the first page is a terrific introduction to the impending troubles, shown from the child’s point of view. The explosion that follows on Page 2 is violent and I completely believed Maxon being tossed to the ground. The discovery of the facehugger had me dreading what must eventually occur. As grotesque as this creature is, I found myself squirming as Maxon pulled the shard of glass from his face. The rise of his mother at the top of 4 is startling, but not as surprising as the massive explosion that ends the page. Hardman’s use of silhouettes is superb, showing the reader the lack of power during the scenes and allowing the reader to guess what’s going through the characters’ minds. The setting of this story is shown through a visual on 5, which I thought was clever storytelling. The find on 7 is only a tease to the horrors that this pair will encounter. The reveal on 8 is spectacular, with the visuals telling the story without any text. The chaos on the streets is coated in a fine shower of debris and fog, partially obscuring the violence, though it’s clearly shown at the top of 11 and Maxon’s reaction was my own. The entrance of a new character is explosive and his design sets him apart from the established protagonists instantly. The bottom panel on 16 is shocking like a scene out of one of the films. The escape on 17 is terrifyingly beautiful for all that’s shown. The last page has no dialogue, again letting the art move the story forward, and the two panels on the page certainly do so. Hardman captures the intensity and fear of the Alien films perfectly. Overall grade: A

The colors: Due to the story being set during the night and most of the electricity in the Trono Colony out, Rain Beredo uses sparse colors for this book. However, don’t think this book is in black and white. Look at how his coloring adds to the cinematic nature of the artwork by giving the opening page dark colors, but still allowing the art to be clearly seen. The brightest color on the opening page is the sound of the running man’s gun. The explosion of the window has some bright colors for its sounds to accentuate it. The facehugger has got a wonderfully sick flesh coloring. Maxon’s reaction has the background turn a blood red to show his terror and the creature’s fall from this mother’s face has the sound receive a bright orange, highlighting it. The explosion that occurs at the end of 4 is beautiful in light blues and oranges. Once on the street, grays, blacks, and browns dominate, punctuated by the yellows and oranges of fires and explosions. The coloring at the bottom of 16 is my favorite of the book as it most closely resembles something from a film. Overall grade: A

The letters: I’ve seen Hardman’s work on other books, so I believe that some of the sounds in this issue are by him. That said, I know that the dialogue and transmissions are done by Michael Heisler. All the text on this book looks great, with the sounds spectacular and the dialogue easy to read. Whenever the xenomorphs appear, the reader knows that the sounds will be cranked up to eleven. Overall grade: A 

The final line: A masterfully horrific tale of a boy on the wrong colony at the wrong time. Once it starts, the tension never lets up. Fans of the franchise will take note of telltale signs of future dangers, but even they can’t expect every ghastly twist and turn in this tale of survival. The visuals are wonderfully cinematic, increasing the reader’s heartbeat with each turn of the page. Recommended. Overall grade: A

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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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