In 1988, Dark Horse’s Aliens, with a script by Mark Verheiden and stunning, black and white art by Mark A. Nelson, was published as the official sequel of the 1986 Ridley Scott classic. On the thirtieth anniversary of the movie, Dark Horse presents an oversized hardcover edition of the unabridged and unadulterated series. This book contains issues #1-6.
In deep space, a salvage crew is attacked by seemingly unstoppable monsters. The marines are called in, but they need someone with experience. Soon Hicks (the horribly scarred survivor from Aliens) and Newt (now almost eighteen) find themselves on a mission to locate and destroy the aliens’ homeworld!
This is a glorious and beautiful comic book, but is the story any good? Will it appeal to anyone other than Alien(s) fans? The story starts off with several strands. We’re 10 years after the Scott film. Rebecca “Newt” Jorden, as rescued by Ripley, is institutionalised as she struggles with the trauma of her childhood. Doctors, who appear a little on the sadistic side, decide to wipe her memory in order to cure her. In space, an abandoned ship is found drifting, containing a familiar creature. Back on Earth, Hicks, now facially disfigured, cannot deal with what happened to him.
Meanwhile, people are experiencing odd telepathic dreams; nightmares beyond description. A scientific corporation has captured an alien Queen and is harvesting eggs, and a weird cult thinks that the aliens are deities. Before long, aliens have infected most of Earth. Hicks agrees to go back to the alien home-world to destroy the hive. He smuggles Newt aboard once he discovers that her memory is to be wiped. She falls for one of the marines. Not all is as it seems and many truths are revealed along the way.
All the main ingredients are present in this comic book to satisfy fans of the franchise. All that is, except Ripley (except for a very brief flash-back). The narrative deals with the horrors of war. Issues of motherhood and belonging. The corporation is profiteering from weaponised aliens. And the eternal question of who are really the monsters? Plenty of nods to the films including an unexpected character turning up. And of course the brutality and horror of the creatures. Since 1988, with the sequels and prequels, much of the narrative of this book has been removed from canon, as it no-longer fits. In a way, this helps the book. It no longer becomes an integral part of the franchise’ story. It is more like a ‘what if’ but can also be read as a standalone, without knowing much about it.
Most of the story-telling is done in voice-over, flash-back and in the shadows. This gives it a noir-ish feel. Mark Verheiden’s (Predator, The American and films such as The Mask, Timecop) story is a little confusing at times, certainly in this presentation. There are no ‘chapter breaks’ as such and some of the characters are hard to distinguish until you get used to them. Perhaps this is down to a lot of them being drawn in partial shadow. Don’t get me wrong, Nelson’s (Nightbreed, Dark Horse Presents) art is delicious to look at. The black and white suits the theme, but it does take a while to get your eye in with the human characters. The aliens themselves, however, are as perfect as you could want. And the horror, both in nightmares and in the characters’ reality, is gruesome and truly horrible. There are some lovely touches and interesting new editions to the franchise. However, it is Hicks and Newt that ground the story – they are who you are interested in, despite all that is going on around them. Credit therefore to Verheiden’s writing.
This lovely, detailed edition also comes with the short comic Lucky; there’s a space ship, characters in conflict and some aliens. It isn’t going to end with picnics and puppies. There is also a gallery and comments from both of the creators. This book looks amazing and once you are up to speed with the various story threads and characters, it is great fun to read. However, I’m not convinced that a non-alien fan would enjoy it as much, and would be confused about the plot lines. Still, a terrific book for any collection.
Title: Aliens 30th Anniversary: The Original Comics Series
Publisher: Dark Horse
Reviewer: Ian J Simpson