In Review: Aliens: Dust to Dust #4

A terrific conclusion to a terrific series. Absolutely recommended reading!

The covers: Two covers conclude this series. The Standard cover is by Gabriel Hardman and Rain Beredo and contains quite the action imagery. Young Maxon has climbed to the top of a spear-like construction that could be an antenna for the colony. He turns to look below, pulling one hand from the structure. Four xenomorphs are ascending to kill the boy. There appears to be no hope for the protagonist. The characters are colored darkly and are set upon a yellow and crimson background that contains debris flying about due to high winds. This looks sensational and is the perfect frontpiece that shows the reader what they are in for if they dare open this book. The Variant cover by Carlos D’Anda features a xenomorph from the chest up in the reader’s face. In its hands is a yellow human skull. The coloring draws the reader’s eyes well as it stands out against the monster’s violet colored skin. The details on this are insane. Gorgeously gruesome. Overall grades: Both A+

The story: Maxon is drowning, falling to a watery grave along with several xenomorphs that caused his fail into a river. A figure dives after him and pulls him to the surface. Thrust to land, Maxon coughs out water and inhales. His rescuer crawls out of the water and reveals something about himself. I can’t say who this individual is, for it would spoil the surprise, but my hat is off to writer Gabriel Hardman for this twist in this series’ final act: every Alien story needs to have this element and I had forgotten that until I was smacked with this. What his rescuer asks of him is another shocker from Hardman, but it becomes clear that this is the best course of action for the young protagonist to take. Page 5 reveals another survivor of the xenomorph attack and she joins the pair. Unfortunately none in this party realize that they are being followed. Pages 8 and 9 reveal why the alien attack on this colony occurred and it’s completely logical. I was not pleased with the stories of the last two Alien films, so I was happy to find that Hardman’s justification for all the unpleasantries made perfect sense. A familiar foe springs up on 10 causing the trio to run. Unfortunately it has them running into the belly of the beast on Page 12. This forces them in a new direction to avoid momentary death. The true big bad of the book is revealed on 17, but is distracted by an expected character. I was very happy to see the action that occurs at the top of 19: this action seems rare in an Alien tale. The final page puts a solid period on the series, though the memories will never end. This was an enjoyable, thrilling conclusion. I wanted smart escapes and vicious creatures that were unyielding in their attacks. Hardman delivers. Overall grade: A+

The art: In addition to being a strong writer, Gabriel Hardman is an incredible illustrator. The opening page is set entirely underwater and the reader will join Maxon in his fear and paranoia at drowning. The third panel is an excellent image of the bodies lost to the liquid. The setting in the third panel on the second page is intense, showing the reader futuristic technology still breaks and shatters like the machines of the present. The character reveal at the bottom of the page is masterful: I was not expecting it and it made me say to myself, “Of course.” The shock on Maxon’s face at the end of the third page matched my own. This is an event that would be in an R-Rated movie and would be completely appropriate in an Aliens film. The third panel on Page 4 echoes scenes from other films and is wonderful in its bizarre and horrific visuals. The final panel on the page sums up how much Maxon has changed since this series began. The scale of the opening panel on 6 alerts the reader that the heroes are not home free (no pun intended) yet. The visuals in the fifth panel on the same page shows the reader how entrance is gained without it being explicitly stated; I so enjoy when stories allow the art to move the tale forward without text. Before I had read the text on 8 I knew exactly what I was looking at and what had occurred at that location. Page 10’s entrance is exactly what I wanted it to be and the action that follows it is furious. The panel that floored me is on Page 12. That’s something I’ve not seen before in an Aliens film or in any comic book adventure. That is a nightmare brought to life. There was an opportunity to have a lot of showy visuals follow this reveal, but the story only needed a few panels to move the protagonists to a new location. The reveal on 17 looks good and the action that follows is also solid. This, too, could have gone on for a few pages to highlight Hardman’s artistic skills, but the story needs to focus on other characters. The book ends with a character alone, looking at something, accompanied by no text. The reader knows exactly what’s going through the character’s head and will continue to do so for eternity. That’s a great example of art telling a story. Hardman never disappoints. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Rain Beredo is the book’s colorist and he’s got one heck of a job. Hardman is so accomplished, his black and white work is just as effective as his colored work. However, Beredo directs the reader through the harsh world Hardman has created. The sickly blue-gray on the opening page gives the river the colors of a tomb. I like how characters’ skin is colored realistically, but is bright enough to have it stand out against the harsh environments that surround them. Maxon’s shirt is a cold burgundy, which is an added element of color that draws the reader’s eyes to him. The blues used on 9 also draw the reader and will telegraph to the reader what’s occurred. The coloring on 12 must have been a nightmare, but it’s gorgeous. This is a fantastic job by Beredo in how to place highlights. The oranges and yellows on 18 and 19 add to the action and the reds in a location’s interior also increase the tension. A flawless job. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, yells, and sounds are created by Michael Heisler. There are several sounds in the book that I believe to have been created by Hardman, such as the alien screeches, but the mechanical and electronic sounds are by Heisler. The dialogue is a thin font, which makes the speakers seem even more vulnerable to the xenomorphs. It also allows the yells by characters to sound extra loud when they are made. The electronic sounds look as though they were created by something mechanical, so they’re a perfect match for what’s occurring on the page. Overall grade: A+

The final line: A terrific conclusion to a terrific series. Plenty of action and surprises, plus a believable justification for why these creatures are let loose. I would love to see all involved with this series return for a sequel, chronicling the further adventures of the survivors. Absolutely recommended reading! 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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