Book Title: Aliens vs. Predator Omnibus Volume 1
Style: Graphic Novel
Target Audience: Adult
Genres: Science Fiction, Horror
Page Count: 456
Format: eBook (library)
Reading time: 3 hours
Date Finished: 2/09/17
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My impressions: As I mentioned in my entry for Aliens Omnibus Volume 1, I didn’t get a chance to check out the Aliens and Predator films until I was old enough to legally watch R-Rated movies, and thus the comic books based on these properties always had a mystique for me. Reading them now, I’m fascinated by how they managed to create a cohesive universe for both species of “XT” to inhabit, and while I still feel the Predators are much more fascinating than the Aliens as comic book characters, it was this series, Aliens vs. Predator, that found a way to make the humans more than mere cannon fodder and to establish the three-way conflict that has been a part of the various video game adaptations (some of which are good) and films (all of which are bad) that followed.
This Omnibus collects several miniseries as well as a couple of one-shots, and there are really two main stories – a narrative about Predators who seed worlds with Alien eggs and then return to hunt them for sport (and who wind up taking a human woman along with them on their hunts), and a narrative about a business tycoon on Earth who hunts Predators to retrieve their organs and technology, giving himself an unusually long life. The one-shots that follow have some interesting ideas, but aren’t anywhere near as compelling.
The tale about the roving Predators begins on a Western-style colony world where ranchers are trying to make bank selling their rhinoceros-like beasts to a team of corporate buyers. Unfortunately, this world was also seeded with Alien eggs before humans colonized it, and as Aliens begin attacking the human settlements, a hunting party of Predators also arrive and focus on killing both humans and Aliens. While most of the humans don’t have a chance, one of the corporate folks, Machiko Noguchi, saves an elder Predators’ life and fights with him, bringing down an Alien Queen and eventually finding herself initiated into the Hunt. After she’s fired from the corporation following the loss of all of the stock and colonists, she waits for the Predators to return and joins their forces, becoming the rare human who lives among them.
The story then focuses on two other worlds where Predators are hunting Aliens, and Noguchi’s narrative over the next year leads her to realize she can’t fit in among the warrior culture, even if she can match many of the Predators in strength and cunning. She ultimately betrays them to rescue a settlement of humans and has a showdown with some of her rivals. It’s fun, action-packed stuff, and I appreciated what a strong female character Noguchi turned out to be.
The other big story, Eternal, features a character named Gideon Suhn Lee who’s over 700 years old and who shows a considerable understanding of the Predators. Eternal is different from the other story in that in takes place in what appears to be 21st century Tokyo, and Lee possesses not only great wealth and knowledge, but also a mercenary force that uses gear similar to the Predators. His foil is a journalist named Becka McBride, whom he invites to chronicle his life story, but who winds up watching him meet his end during a battle between the Aliens Lee has raised in the Tokyo sewers and the Predators he’s lured as a result.
What I appreciated about both of these stories was that they had strong, original characters to offset the tremendous action. While the idea of Aliens and Predators killing one another seemed very cool when these books came out, the comics managed to make the story more than a one-note affair, and the themes involved are quite interesting. It’s also nice to see storytelling in this universe where the Space Marines aren’t front and center all the time, since their military culture can limit the story and characters.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Aliens aren’t that compelling of characters on their own since they have simple motivations and essentially play the role of monsters than show up and kill everything in sight whenever the story demands action. The Predators are more interesting because they have a culture, personalities and intelligence, but even so, the comics rarely allow them to speak and don’t give a lot of firsthand insight into their culture (beyond what Noguchi explains in her narrative), creating a mystery that’s both compelling and distancing. The humans become an essential part of the story because their stories become the context in which the action takes place. And while long stretches of their talking and planning can be boring, these comics do a good job of keeping things exciting.
I’ll definitely read the second Omnibus later this year. I found myself really enjoying this one. It wasn’t high art by any means, but it was far better a collection of stories and characters than I expected. It’s a shame the films were so bad; the source material here would have been great if adapted properly.