Saturday, 13 May 2017

Aliens: Dead Orbit #1 - Dark Horse Comics

ALIENS: DEAD ORBIT No. 1, April 2017
Described by “Dark Horse Comics” as the first in a “thrilling and claustrophobic” four-issue mini-series, this opening instalment of “Aliens: Dead Orbit” definitely makes it clear that writer, artist and even letterer James Stokoe, “re-watched the first two films and wrote down a bunch of notes” when he “was starting on the plot idea.” In fact, apart from the comic’s narrative taking place on the Weyland-Yutani way station Spacteria 284255, this twenty-two page periodical's plot initially seems to resemble the opening moments of James Cameron's 1986 American science-fiction action horror film "Aliens", by having a group of astronauts discover an "unmarked vessel" “this far out in wilderness space” and attempt to revive its passengers from their cryosystem; "Goes well with the "salvager" theory."

Unfortunately, despite so ‘iconic’ an opening gambit clearly providing an obvious nod to the franchise’s formidably long history, and seemingly containing as much detail within every panel as its illustrator could pencil, such an over-familiarity with the plot also disappointingly makes for a somewhat lacklustre and unoriginal introduction to Captain Hassan and his crew. Certainly, their fractious relationship with one another, especially Wascylewski and the foul-mouthed communications officer Rock, comes as no great surprise, and simply seems to mirror the disharmony amongst bickering Weyland-Yutani employees which has been so common place within the silver screen series…

Equally as disconcerting as his reliance upon the ‘blockbuster’ motion pictures for inspiration and story ideas, is Stokoe’s somewhat frustrating technique of interrupting the Spacteria staff’s frighteningly catastrophic attempt to wake up their ‘guests’, by occasionally leaping forward in time to a point when the fuel depot’s engineer appears to be the group’s sole survivor and is in urgent need of a mysterious carry case which he’s inadvertently left at the feet of a xenomorph. Just what’s inside this box is not explained, nor is the rationale as to why Wascylewski decided to bring it with him on his spacewalk. But it’s clear from the sequences that no-one else is going to outlive this encounter with the aliens, and such certainty that all the other characters are going to die dishearteningly dispels any suspense or tension as to the rest of the cast’s fate.
The variant cover art of "ALIENS: DEAD ORBIT" No. 1 by Geof Darrow

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