In Review: Aliens: Defiance #1

This is beautifully frightening: a love letter to fans that will make their chests explode in joy. Recommended.

The covers: A pair to take away, if you can. The Regular cover is by Massimo Carnevale and it shows the protagonist of this issue, Marine Private First Class Zula Hendricks, making her way through a mysterious environment and she’s not alone. Spooky cover because of the imagery, with the soldier looking great in her tech suit, and the emotion on her face solid, and the colors; it’s hard to go wrong with that eerie green and gray. The xenomorph above her is wicked. The 30th Anniversary Cover is by Mark A. Nelson and it’s a stunner. The cover is presented in the classic format of a Dark Horse Presents issue. Out of armor, but bearing some type of weapon, Zula looks up from the confines of a slim rectangular box, unaware that the remainder of the cover is full of xenomorphs, all looking to tear her apart. This is fantastic. This is poster, print, and tee shirt worthy. Overall grades: Regular A and 30th Anniversary A+ ¬†

The story: Just when you think there’s nothing new to be done with these iconic monsters, Brian Wood shows there’s plenty of life in the Aliens franchise. Zula is the sole Marine surrounded by a squad of Weyland-Yutani corporate security drones, aka androids. A mass hauler is adrift in space and the corporation has claimed salvage rights, but a marine has to be on board because it’s in lunar space. She has “to punch in a code and transfer its flight recorder data down to Tranquility” Base on the moon. In her own words, “I’m a glorified key.” Before boarding the ship she thinks of her recent past where she had to regain her ability to walk, encountering a familiar name along the way. With her legs passable she reenters service. On Page 5 she and the drones enter the ship and it all begins to go wrong quickly. This isn’t going to surprise anyone who’s read or watched an Alien¬†film, but Wood is doing this early for a reason. The story takes a major turn on 14, having a character do something that’s not been done before. From this page on Wood is charting new territory with the franchise. The characters learning the inevitable truth about their corporation is nothing new, but they learn it so quickly it allows them to make decisions that other characters have never had the ability to do before. The sense of impending doom is inescapable, but these characters are going into the situation knowledgeable of what horrors lie before them. This is what makes the final page so mind blowingly awesome. Tense, surprising, and absolutely new. Overall grade: A+

The art: Matching the incredible story are the incredible visuals by Tristan Jones. This is an unbelievable looking book, with the details of every panel being filled with something interesting to look at. Nothing is clean; it is aged by use and its exposure to space. Lines and dashes of wear and tear are not only on technological items or the settings, but the characters as well. Page 5 is a cinematic entrance into the hauler, with no dialogue or sounds. Only the credits and opening title are in the four panels, but one can hear every footfall and breath from the characters. The derelict is reminiscent of a very famous ship and Jones captures its look spectacularly. Having seen the film it hails from multiple times, Jones has rendered it perfectly. When the xenos appear they are utterly terrifying. There are not so many that they crawl up the walls of the ship’s corridors; instead, they move as the classic monsters did in the first two films, like humans, and that makes them so much more real. Page 12 is set up to mirror events from one of the films and it, too, is great. From 14 on, the book is in new territory and Jones makes it sing with the reality of the films. The new character speaking with Zula is amazing; I must see more of this individual, especially given his reaction in the third panel on page 21. The setting for Pages 20 and 21 are outstanding. This iconic location only makes Zula’s plight greater and Jones’s details make the information that’s given on these pages overwhelming. This book looks amazing. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The colors of this book by Dan Jackson are a necessary component of its frightening tone. The first page is filled with the dark colors of a military mission into space, with the only white colors being the pupil-less eyes of the synthetics. Tranquility Base uses cool blues to make the medical aspects of the story more palpable. Reds are absolutely wicked for the action sequences, making the xenomorphs like demons from Hell. Oranges are also used in these sequences to make the flames and sounds stand out. From Page 14 on the colors are not as military, but do maintain the blase nature of utilitarian devices. The colors truly bring the visuals to life. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Nate Piekos of Blambot is back on an Aliens title after his superior work for Dark Horse Comic’s Fire and Stone. He creates narration, transmissions, and scene settings (all three the same font), yells, credits and story title, dialogue, computer text, and sounds. His computer text is exactly the same cold font from the films and his alien hissing will chill readers to the bone. Overall grade: A

The final line: This is how to celebrate a 30th anniversary. This is beautifully frightening: a love letter to fans that will make their chests explode in joy. 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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