Alien #6 by Phillip Kennedy Johnson

Alien #6Alien #6 by Phillip Kennedy Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Chapter One of Marvel’s first foray into the Aliens franchise comes to a close in satisfying fashion. To a certain extent this is by the numbers Alien fayre, with all of the required elements ticked off one by one. But, for me, that was the correct approach for Marvel straight out of the gate. They needed to reassure fans that they understand the franchise, know what makes an Alien story an Alien story and that everyone’s favourite xenomorphs are safe in their hands. And by those metrics, this first arc has delivered perfectly.

I know Larocca’s heavily photo referenced art isn’t to everyone’s taste, but for me it fits this series perfectly. I need to recognise that a Bishop unit is a Bishop unit because it looks like Lance Henriksen and not just because the script tells me it is. This kind of hyper-real art adds to the atmosphere and the terror of an Aliens story. That doesn’t mean that other approaches aren’t equally valid, but this works for me here, in the story, and that’s what matters.

Of course no Alien story is complete without a twist in the tale and this comic doesn’t fail to deliver on that, potentially setting up Aliens on Earth, and, indeed, the tease of next month’s cover suggests that’s exactly what we’ll be getting in chapter two. And that, my friends, is very exciting indeed!

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Aliens: Aftermath #1 by Benjamin Percy

Aliens: Aftermath #1 (of 1)Aliens: Aftermath #1 by Benjamin Percy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In Aliens: Aftermath, writer Benjamin Percy and artist Dave Watcher offer up a sequel to Aliens in which a renegade terrorist group track down the site of Haldey’s Hope where their leaders aunt, Private Vasquez, was sent on a mission by the Weyland-Yutani corporation and never returned.

Vasquez’s nephew is supposedly hunting for answer to what happened to his aunt, but in truth his working for a rival corporation, tasked to bring back the cryogenically frozen body of the first colonist to be implanted with an alien embryo by a facehugger and then frozen on company orders. Because, as I have said before, the real monsters in this franchise are the people. After all, you don’t see the aliens screwing each other over for a percentage…

Of course, things go horribly wrong, because of course they do.

This one-shot starts really well, but the ending feels really rushed. It’s over before you know it and has the feel of a mini series that’s been cut down heavily so that it could be released as a one shot. There’s not enough time to get to know the characters, and the slow build that’s a necessary part of any Alien story results in there being no real time for action and not nearly enough of the actual alien. The Cryo-Alien is a really good concept, but Percy doesn’t have the time or space to do anything interesting with it.

This certainly isn’t a bad comic by any stretch of the imagination, and is definitely recommended for fans of Aliens, but it could have been so much more.

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Alien #5 by Philip Kennedy Johnson

Alien #5Alien #5 by Philip Kennedy Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you were expecting more than one person to get out of this story alive then you probably aren’t too familiar with the Alien franchise.

First up I’ve got to draw attention to that gorgeous cover art by Korean artist InHyuk Lee. I’m fast becoming a big fan, and his upcoming Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage variant covers for Marvel are so gorgeous that I’ve pre-ordered the lot.

We’ve reached the point in this Alien story where psychological terror has given way to frenzied shooting, which has in turn given way to frantic running. It’s time to escape, but Alien being Alien it’s not that simple. Cruz’s son Danny has an alien growing in his chest and the hypersleep tube they were relying on to get him home safely is damaged. Which is when the shooting starts…not shooting aliens, shooting each other. Because, as ever, the real monsters in an Alien story are the people.

This beautifully illustrated and expertly written series perfectly captures the look and feel of an Alien movie and is heartedly recommended to any fan of the franchise.

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Alien #4 by Phillip Kennedy Johnson

Alien #4Alien #4 by Phillip Kennedy Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The pacing in this issue is, quite simply, superb!

This feels like an action/horror film on paper…well, it feels like an Alien film. The tension is palpable as you wonder if anyone’s going to get out of this alive…as the characters make the same stupid and all-too-human decisions that they do in the films. They should just blow up the station, but they foolishly believe there’s hope…when we know that the only thing that can possibly result from their actions is xenomorphs on Earth…and there won’t be any Predators to save the human race (due to complicated legal reasons, sadly…god, you don’t see them screwing each other over for a percentage…).

The art is gorgeous, the writing’s superb, the terror is real.

I love it.

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Alien #3 by Phillip K. Johnson

Alien #3Alien #3 by Phillip K. Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is still a great book, but it is a little confusing due to time shifts that aren’t adequately signalled in either the captions or the art.

It’s a personal bug bear of mine when scene transitions aren’t properly signalled, so your mileage may vary.

Still, there’s the appropriate amount of terror and a final page reveal that’ll make any Aliens fan smile.

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Alien (2021-) #2 by Phillip K. Johnson

Alien (2021-) #2Alien (2021-) #2 by Phillip K. Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is more top notch stuff from Kennedy and Larocca.

The stand out moment, however, was at the very start. There’s a scene with a little girl and her grandfather hiding while alarms blare and the aliens break into their quarters and all you really see is her face…and the tension is palpable, the sense of horror so very real.

The rest of the story is fairly standard Alien stuff, the man who thought he was out of it all is dragged back into it all and has to face certain death as he has no choice but to put himself in the way of the greatest killing machine that ever bled acid.

Look, if you like the Alien franchise you’ll love this. I’m the kind of person who personally thinks there’s no such thing as a bad Alien movie. So, of course I love this.

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Alien (2021-) #1 by Philip Kennedy Johnson

Alien (2021-) #1Alien (2021-) #1 by Philip Kennedy Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Set after the events of Alien and Aliens, this book sees the estranged son of a retired Weyland-Yutani security chief steals his access codes and, along with a group of fellow anti-corporate activists, uses them to break into what they believe to be cyber warfare facility…but is, in fact, a bio-weapons lab. And if you’re familiar with the Alien franchise, you know what that means.

I’d worried that this book would leap straight into man vs alien action, and eschew the slow build up and character moments that characterise the best entries in the movie series, but thankfully that’s not true. The xenomorph only really appears in flashbacks, and all we really get is a little face hugger action at the end…and that’s exactly as it should be. The main focus is on Gabriel Cruz, the aforementioned retired security chief, who’s plagued by nightmares of unspeakable bio-mechanical horrors…which seem to be inspired by an incident from his past…which possibly included the death of his other son. Many questions are asked but, given that this is just the first issue, inevitably answers are in short supply.

There’s a creeping sense of dread throughout the issue, and the use of a Bishop series android actually adds to this. It’s a familiar face for fans, but also not quite the character we know.

Larroca’s art is Larocca’s art. Personally I preferred his art before he started heavily using photo reference, but I only found it to not quite work on one early double page spread. Your mileage, no doubt, will vary. But the fact that his Bishop looks exactly like Lance Henriksen is a plus as far as I’m concerned. Mostly the art gives the book a cinematic feel, but I can understand people not liking it.

Overall this is an outstanding start to the series and to the new Marvel era of Alien comics.

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