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Monday, September 15, 2014

Comic Spotlight Review: Aliens: Fire and Stone #1

On the most recent episode of the podcast, we talked a bit about Prometheus: Fire and Stone #1, and how it could be the beginning of a rebirth in the franchise for Dark Horse. In just a week and a half, we'll get the second installment, Aliens: Fire and Stone #1, written by Chris Roberson and drawn by Patric Reynolds. Being big fans of the movie franchise and enjoying Prometheus last week, we were thrilled to get the chance to check out this issue a bit early! I'll try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible.

The story begins on LV-426, after the events of Prometheus (the movie), but before Ripley returns in Aliens. We see the Hadley's Hope community devastated by the alien outbreak, with the last group of survivors frantically running with the creatures just on their heels. Their plan is to use a mining vessel, only meant for transporting materials from surface to orbit, to get off planet and send a distress signal.

Naturally, things go wrong. The brood of aliens is fast and brutal, and while the comic is not overly gory, it doesn't shy away from showing how hopeless any kind of confrontation with the creatures is. The story is very intense, with breathless pacing that makes it read very quickly as you anxiously turn the pages. Whereas the Prometheus comic is more exploratory and science-based, Aliens is much more horrific and action-packed, much like the contrast between the two films. Interesting, too, is the idea that this book may take place mostly in the alien jungles of LV-223, which immediately brings to mind environments more out of the Predator movies than the cold spaceships of the Alien franchise.

Roberson has started planting seeds of interesting characters here in terraforming engineer Derrick Russell, greenhouse supervisor/teacher Genevieve Dione, and surveyor/prospector Nolan Cale. Cale might be particularly interesting in issues to come as he plays a similar role to Baltar in Battlestar Gallactica, his cowardice having directly lead to the potential doom of his party.

Reynold's art adds much to the issue, really selling the heart-thumping pace. He's got a Sean Phillips sort of style that lends itself very well to this kind of story, and the work on facial expressions really gets across the sheer horror of the situation. He has a tendency to pull the camera (so to speak) back and let us see the fleeing people and the terrifying creatures swarming behind that is a different choice than the usual over the shoulder view, and it creates a different kind of tension.

Most interestingly is how it already has begun to weave through the film series, finding times and places that warrant extra exploration. We're talking about a series that regularly has decades (if not centuries) that pass in between films, so there is a lot left uninvestigated. It works very well with the Prometheus comic that came out last week as well, actually acting as a prequel to the prequel to Aliens in some ways. At any rate, it's very exciting to see how these gaps will be filled and how this rich universe will be explored!
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