In Review: Aliens: Fire and Stone #4

Outstanding and recommended.

The cover: Taking to the tress to hide from the ever present xenomorphs, Derrick looks down at a pack of the creatures as they finish off something that was too slow to escape them. I like the perspective on this illustration by David Palumbo. I don’t recall ever seeing the aliens from this point of view before. My cover is much darker than the image used in this review. The details in Derrick and the trees in the foreground are completely lost in darkness. I wish the actual cover had been as bright as the one used to advertise it. Overall grade: B-

The story: This final installment by Chris Roberson has Derrick Russell on his own. As far as he knows, everyone else is dead. He’s talking more often to himself, not a good sign, and he’s looking for the origin of Rover, the recording device that he found on the planet and he’s using to record his journals. He finds another downed ship and some salvageable materials, but nothing else. It’s also getting more difficult for him to find food that hasn’t been tainted by the black goo that’s spreading. He finds Standish’s diary but before he can begin to read it a hiss behind him alerts him to a xenomorph’s presence. Shockingly he identifies it as Nolan Cale, the doomed prospector who put everyone into this terrible situation. Somehow he’s merged with one of the creatures–he’s the most human looking of the xenomorphs yet. Derrick runs as fast as he can and finds safety in the most unlikely places. This is a slick ending for this series. As the story progresses the reader is continually wondering if Derrick can make it to safety from these creatures, including the ultra strong Cale. I wasn’t surprised to see Derrick going back to that location on Page 8, and was really frightened by that tiny sound at the end of 9. Page 12 shows that Derrick has gone to a point of no return, and his discovery on Page 14 solidifies it. Page 20 did surprise me, but it shouldn’t have considering the action that occurred on the previous page. This was a fascinating read to see a scientist trapped on a planet trying to figure out what was going on while trying to keep the monsters at bay. Never read an Alien story like this before, so some much deserved praise goes to Roberson. Overall grade: A+

The art: This book is a joy to look at because of Patric Reynolds contributions. His artwork is photorealistic, giving this book a found film quality. The opening panel of the first page instantly shows the situation that Derrick is in before the aliens are even seen. The emotions that Derrick has are magnificent, as can be seen at the bottom of Pages 2 and 3. That bitting of the lip on 2 gave me pause. The arrival of the Cale xenomorph was a very cool design. He/It doesn’t look like a man in a suit, but something that wasn’t completed or didn’t form correctly. This is an excellent, original alien design. The sequence where Derrick is being chased by Cole is terrifying because of the proximity of the reader to the lone human and the fear in his face. The reader can only see what Derrick sees, until he makes the fateful decision to turn around. My favorite page is 12. No monsters, just the man alone, and what a shot that is. Beautiful and frightening. The art has always been good on this book, and Reynolds closes it out like he began. Excellently. Overall grade: A+

The colors: LV-223 is a grim environment. It’s drawn that way but the colors by Dave Stewart reinforce it. The first page spectacularly uses colors to show how the world is not hospitable for humans. The second page brightens things up due to the fire Derrick has brought into his cave. The look of anger on the survivor’s face turns to fear on Page 3 and notice how Stewart uses colors to highlight the character in practically the same pose. The background colors reflect his emotional state while his flesh and clothing are almost the same. This is an excellent way to move the reader emotionally into the story. The best colored page is 13 because it was probably the most difficult to color. How does one create darkness, but allow the reader to see what’s going on? Stewart does it magnificently because he’s a professional. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Narration and dialogue (same font), scene settings, sounds, and yells are crafted by Nate Piekos of Blambot. His lettering was my favorite of 2014 and he closes out this book as well as he began it. I really like that when Derrick puts emphasis on a word it’s not just italicized but also bolded. This makes his speech seem a little more frantic, as it should be, being alone on a world inhabited by insatiable creatures. Overall grade: A+

The final line: A scientist stranded on a rural world populated by xenomorphs gets into a fascinating exploration of their origin which slowly becomes a life or death situation. Outstanding and 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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