In Review: Aliens: Dust to Dust #3

Why can't the sequels be as good as this? Highest possible recommendation.

The covers: A pair of covers to tempt your money to burst out from your wallet. The Standard cover is by Gabriel Hardman and Rain Beredo, the interior artist and colorist. This features one of the xenomorph’s giant heads shown in profile from the left side, while young Maxon’s head is shown opposite it from the right. This suggests a relationship between the pair and the cover’s text also points in this direction: The Monster and Me. The alien looks great, the boy looks frightened, and the coloring makes both look shocking by using reds and yellows. Very nice. This was the cover I purchased. The Variant cover by Carlos D’Anda features one of the most infamous incarnations of the iconic monsters — the chestburster. This image clearly shows the tiny monstrosity exploding in a spiral out of its host in bloody fashion. The poor soul who was fated to carry this creature is seen behind the splatter of red that dominates the creature’s exit. This is simply outstanding. I’m thinking I may have to purchase another copy of this book just to get this illustration. Overall grades: Both A+

The story: Writer Gabriel Hardman starts this penultimate chapter right in the thick of things as the survivors are caught in a blinding whirlwind of debris and dust. Old man Roman has fallen over. His wife tries to get him up, unaware of what is growing inside him. He opens his eyes to speak, but it’s not the words the reader is expecting. Instead, Hardman has him say something that’s revealed on the second page. The action then moves to Maxon who’s all alone. De Vore comes upon him and starts berating the child from not looking out for the others. De Vore is contacted by the captain and tells his superior he’s going to search for the others. Before leaving, De Vore tells Max to stay put. Sitting down, Maxon pulls out his mother’s identification badge and begins to weep, for she died before him as a xenomorph burst from her chest. Someone dramatically appears and starts Max on the run again. There’s a telling moment on Page 6 that confirms what the reader, and one of the characters, has been thinking. The characters get a momentary respite from the winds and the aliens in a new location, with the youngest member of the group getting some needed sleep. However, Max wakes and hears something he shouldn’t, prompting him to do something rash. This leads to a fantastic reveal on 14 and the action begins and doesn’t let up, ending the book with a cliffhanger. I was sad at the fate of one individual on Page 18, but one should know that the xenomorphs aren’t selective. However, Hardman suggests in this tale that one of them might be. Great thrills and nice to see smart characters in all of this chaos. Overall grade: A+

The art: Artist Gabriel Hardman is always impressive and he does something I’ve not seen before in this issue. The first seven pages in the sandstorm are very striking. I expected the characters’ skin to start bleeding due to the nonstop hammering of the dust. The slow reveal at the bottom of the first page is exciting, because fans will instantly recognize what’s appearing, even if it is blurred. The large panel on 2 is outstanding — it’s what the reader wants to see, but it’s still shocking. The full-paged splash on 6 is neat example of a strong action caught in the moment and fans will know this will very bad. The turn of a character in the third panel on 7 is killer. It’s the fifth panel on this page where Hardman does something new, at least to me: he uses some really thick lines. I’ve been following this artist’s work for some time and I’m used to seeing him use thin line work. In this book there are several panels with thicker lines, thicker than he’s done before. It was a noticeable change to what I’m used to seeing and it gave those panels a much more surprising tone because they came across as harsh and intense. The location on 8 looks great and its interiors look as though they could be found in any of the franchise’s films. I like the use of black on Page 11, showing how someone’s identity is swallowed by the darkness or how someone isn’t considered a person by someone else. Black is a key element on the following page as someone is trying to stay hidden. The large panel on 14 is the Wow! moment of the book: it’s a large panel, it shows a lot of characters, and everything is now going to go to hell. The final panel on 15 is outstanding for the action that it shows and the pose of the last character on the page is perfection. The third panel on 18 is a heartbreaker: it’s so overwhelming, sad, and final. Hardman hits all the right beats while he’s tearing my soul in two with the visual. The final panel of the book has Max in an element he’s not been in before, though the aliens have been shown to do quite well in this stuff. This book looks great. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Rain Beredo is absolutely the right person to be coloring this book because he gives Hardman’s art very cinematic colors, making the reader believe they are looking at stills from a film. The blowing of sand and dirt in the opening pages rightfully mutes most colors, because they just wouldn’t be seen clearly in such a harsh environment. I even like how the sounds’ colors are deadened. When crimson appears it’s rightfully shocking and certainly commands attention. The dark interiors of the new setting are truly dim and they should be because there isn’t much lighting there. Having much of this location in the dark contributes to the realism of the location. The final page uses some sickly greens beautifully to show the jeopardy all are now, literally, in. Overall grade: A+

The letters: This issue’s text features sounds, yells, dialogue, writing on a ID badge, and the tease for next issue’s conclusion. I’ve gone after one sci-fi comic book franchise for using thin letters for dialogue because it makes the characters look weak. I can’t say that about the dialogue on this book from Michael Heisler. Such a thin font only emphasizes how frail each human is as they face the inevitable onslaught of xenomorphs. The sounds are shocking, composed of maniacal letters stretched and shredded, creating violet, disturbing sounds. I know that Hardman often inserts his own sounds into his own work, so I don’t know if he did the sounds or Heisler did. Whoever is responsible did a great job. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This is like reading a missing Aliens film. This is frantic, frightful, and absolutely fun. Maxon’s creepy connection to the one armed alien is revealed and it’s not going to have things ending well for anyone. The story is great and the visuals awesome. Why can’t the sequels be as good as this? Highest possible recommendation. 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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