Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Aliens: Dead Orbit #2 - Dark Horse Comics

ALIENS: DEAD ORBIT No. 2, May 2017
Packed full of pulse-pounding corridor chases, chest-bursting chaos and blood-soaked baby xenomorphs dashing for freedom from the confines of a juddering corpse’s rib cage, James Stokoe’s narrative for Issue Two of “Dead Orbit” doesn’t admittedly bring anything particularly new to the “Aliens” franchise. But frankly, it’s doubtful that many of this twenty-two page periodical’s fans really cared, for in replicating the motion picture series’ more graphically memorable moments, and then weaving them amongst his own tale of terror on board the Spacteria 284255, the Canadian writer genuinely appears to capture all the spine-tingling horror of H.R. Giger’s merciless extra-terrestrials.

Indeed, within moments of the Weyland-Yutani way station’s newly-arrived patients starting to shudder and convulse in the Med-bay, it is likely the vast majority of this comic’s readership felt their hearts starting to beat a little faster; especially when Doc Harrow angrily remonstrates with his skipper that he is doing all he can simply to sedate and stabilise the badly mutilated “three unlicensed passengers”. This all-pervading sense of unease doesn’t abate either, just because the scene disconcertingly shifts to Wascylewski’s more sedentary investigation into the supposed freebooter salvager’s ship manifest.

Coldly curious as to why the recovered deep space vessel’s “payroll suggests” it still has five missing crewmembers, the engineer’s partial briefing to his shipmates actually succeeds in slowly heightening the storyline’s mounting tension up until the point where Captain Hassan is suddenly urgently called back to Medical, and Stokoe pencils some truly gruesome splash pages depicting infant aliens erupting from the inside of their ill-fated carriers. This sequence, notable for the carousel of panels showing the open-mouthed horror on the faces of “Wassy” and his dumb-struck colleagues, is incredibly-well illustrated, and goes a long way to recapturing all the chaotic atmosphere of Kane's dinner-time demise in the original 1979 British-American film “Alien”; “Stay back! Don’t touch them!”

Perhaps far less satisfying, is sadly the comic book artist’s conclusion to this publication, which disappointingly switches back to Wascylewski’s ‘present day’ predicament as the increasingly derelict fuel depot continues to break apart, and the protagonist finds himself momentarily breathing vacuum. Eyes bulging, gasping for a lungful of non-existent air, and unable to acquire an emergency rebreather, the sole survivor is shown one minute blacking out before the station’s computer can recalibrate the life support systems for that area, and then in the next being inexplicably dragged off into darkness by a pair of slavering drones...
Story, Art and Lettering: James Stokoe

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