Book Title: Aliens Omnibus Volume 1
Author: Mark Verheiden (Author), Mark Nelson (Illustrator), Den Beauvais (Illustrator), Sam Keith (Illustrator)
Style: Graphic Novel
Target Audience: Adult
Genres: Science Fiction, Horror
Page Count: 384
Format: eBook (library)
Reading time: 3 hours
Date Finished: 2/07/17
Click here to find it on Amazon (New window)
My impressions: Growing up, I was far too scared of the little bit I’d seen of Alien and Aliens to actually watch the films. (We weren’t allowed to watch R-Rated films, and when I pushed to watch these at one point when I was 8 or 9 years old, my father offered to let me watch them if I would agree to be tied to a chair and sit through the entire film – either a genius bluff or a strange sort of prank. I’m still not sure.) But many of my friends were big fans, and some of them also read the Dark Horse comic book series that followed Aliens and which expanded its universe years before Star Wars and Star Trek really took over that sort of extensive multimedia expansion. Since I hadn’t seen the films, the comics made little sense to me, and both they and the Aliens Versus Predator comics shifted to the back of my consciousness.
Coming across the Omnibus editions of both recently on Hoopla, I decided to give each a shot. I finally watched the Aliens films when I was old enough to do so, and while I loved the first two, I lost interest quickly once I saw Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection. (The only good Predator film is the first one; any other movies containing Aliens and/or Predators should be ignored.) The Omnibus collects three full miniseries and two one-shot comics, and though they’ve been altered a bit from their original run, the stories are pretty much intact and provide the same sort of weird alternate take on the Aliens universe that I found so compelling in The Star Wars‘ reflection on its universe or the drastically different visual interpretation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? when compared to Blade Runner.
The thing is, the Aliens comics were written before Alien 3 charged in and wrecked the continuity, and thus they began as a canonical sequel to the second film only to be rendered obsolete when the third one decided to kill off all the main characters. This means that Newt, the little girl from Aliens who served as the main character in the comics, was renamed Billie in collected editions following Alien 3, and the Space Marine Hicks was renamed Wilts. Ripley shows up in the third miniseries, but I’ve heard it’s later retconned that she’s an android version of the Ripley in the films (which makes absolutely no sense, but whatever). The story itself follows a very different trajectory from the films, and I daresay it’s a lot more interesting and focused on the idea of the Aliens as being a means or humanity’s corruption and destruction rather than just showing up as super-powered monsters that kill everyone onscreen.
The story’s written by Mark Verheiden, a then-little known writer who made his mark with this series and who’s since gone on to film and TV (most notably, working on the script for The Mask and later writing quite a bit for the Battlestar Galactica reboot and the Netflix Daredevil show). The Aliens comic are some of his earliest work, and it shows; the dialogue is quite clunky and the characters aren’t too exciting. What makes the story work, however, is that Verheiden’s interpretation of the grown-up Newt focuses a lot on her struggles with sanity following her terrifying life, causing her to act irrationally and to have premonitions about terrible things happening. The Space Marines also play a major role in the story, attempting to weaponize and train the Aliens to become fearful bioweapons, always with disastrous consequences. By the end of the Omnibus, the Earth is overrun with Aliens and its future remains uncertain as another sentient being seeks to take control.
One of the more interesting ideas in the story is that the Alien Queens have some psychic abilities and can implant ideas in human heads to make them more susceptible to being hosts for their brood. This leads to a religious cult forming and then turning into a terrorist group so they can storm a military compound and sacrifice themselves as the hosts of the Aliens. Honestly, that idea’s so much better than anything that happened in the third and fourth films that I’m surprised it hasn’t been used since.
One of the least interesting ideas is the return of Ellen Ripley in the miniseries called “Female War.” Ripley is a great character onscreen, but here, she’s not used particularly well. “Female War” was illustrated by the great Sam Keith (who went on to do the wonderfully surreal The Maxx), but his art style really sticks out compared to the more conventional look of the first miniseries or the beautifully painted style of the second. Between the writing and the art, Ripley just feels uninteresting, and I was annoyed that the comic felt the need to include scenes where she’s in her skimpy underwear just to provide a titillating callback to one of the more embarrassing scenes from the original Alien.
Anyhow, the Omnibus gave me a chance to finally read these comics, and I’m glad I scratched that itch, even if they were just OK in the end. I may move on to the second one later on in the year (there are six in total, all available on Hoopla!), but before that, I want to read Aliens Versus Predator‘s first Omnibus. If memory serves, it was the better of the two series, and I’m excited to read it.