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Aliens: Defiance Volume 1

by Forrest.H on January 29, 2017

Aliens: Defiance Volume 1 Front Cover

Aliens: Defiance Volume 1 (Issues 1-6)

Writing: Brian Wood

Art: Tristan Jones (Chapters 1,2,5,6)
Riccardo Burchielli (Chapter 3)
Tony Brescini (Chapter 4)

Colors: Dan Jackson
Letters: Nate Piekos
Publisher: Dark Horse

The first collected volley of Aliens: Defiance issues is a wonderful, and grisly, addition to the larger Aliens canon that nails the thematic highs and lows of the Aliens brand, especially on Jones’ end, but takes a while to latch onto an idea that hasn’t been covered extensively elsewhere.

Dark Horse’s Alien, Predator and Prometheus offerings are varied at best, they exist on large spectrum from downright pandering, to genuine and exciting takes on the universe and its building blocks. Oftentimes, too, it’s hard to tell where a series will fall in the first issue or two (and sometimes these runs are, unfortunately very limited – 4 issues at a time). Defiance, however, hits the ground running and quickly establishes itself as a delivery on the exciting end of the branded sci-fi horror spectrum.

Zula Hendricks’ and Davis 01’s (an off-the-rails Weyland-Yutani android) story is one of resilience and…consequently, defiance. Wood writes a compelling duo stuck between a rock hard military complex and an acidic carapace of a hard place. The duo’s mission is simple – the utter destruction of Weyland-Yutani’s ever present nefarious Xenomorph focused schemes. Anchored in humanism by Zula’s extensive bodily injuries and Davis’ voluntary expulsion from W-Y’s programming – resulting in unexpected new feelings and thoughts.

The two navigate the deep black of space, claustrophobic space stations, and fear in truly compelling and well-choreographed and paced scenes that create small, consequential vignettes adding up to a robust and well thought out larger narrative that by the end of the volume collected here – finally, perhaps rolled out a little too slowly, touches on something rarely covered in Aliens media. The idea that an entire Xenomorph specimen is no longer necessary, just a piece of the horrific beasts is, raises the stakes of containing the space-wide plague exponentially.

I would be remiss to not mention that Zula’s consistent thoughts about her injury and her ability to overcome it, waxing poetic on her time in the Colonial Marines, do verge on overburdening and while Wood attempts to dole it out in a way that makes her relatable and sympathetic the use of the injury as both a source of inspiration and resilience for Zula as well as a source of rash-decisions (Dr. Yang’s call) is a bit of narrative unevenness in what is otherwise strong scripting throughout these first six issues.

Equally strong, if not stronger, is Jones’ art. I would go so far to say that Tristan Jones is THE essential Aliens artist. His understanding of the inherent abject horror of Xenomorphs and the claustrophobic halls and blackened nests and hives they often inhibit and defend is unparalleled. If it wasn’t clear over his offerings on Silent Hill, and Mad Max (or his numerous Xenomorph fan art postings) that he would absolutely crush an Aliens comic, it is here. Aliens under his pen are appropriately horrific and immutable – their victims appropriately horrified. Jackson’s colors bolster the solid line work and the reader is left awash in a visual delight on par with every Aliens movie to date.

Unfortunately, that makes the issues not drawn by Jones’ look weaker in comparison. By no fault of Jones’ or the other artists of course, but the unevenness between the first two issues and then the third and fourth is notable and distracting when collected here. It’s not that Burchielli or Brescini’s issues are bad, but they do convey very different effects than the ones depicted by Jones that established a specific tone for the series early on. Ultimately the two issues become a weird artistic blip in an otherwise amazing swath of deep space horror. When Jones returns, it is welcomed with open arms and the series feels again comfortably uncomfortable under his control.

What the readers ends up with here, at the end of the first volume of this new Aliens tale, is a compelling collection of true-to-source sci-fi vignettes building to an explosive larger story. Hendricks and Davis are well crafted additions to the Aliens canon, the Xenmorphs themselves are true to form, and despite both narrative and artistic missteps over the course of these issues, the reader reaches the final page feeling not only fulfilled but also ready for more. 

Our Score:

8/10

A Look Inside