Review - Aliens: Fire and Stone #1

"For a time, it didn't look like anyone was going to make it out of Hadley's Hope alive..."

Xenomorphs are really good a at a few things. Violent, gruesome deaths. Moving about in a menacing fashion. Giving vampires in The Strain a run for their money when it comes to using tongues as weapons. They're also really good at making pretty good stories when their feral nature is tapped into. Dark Horse Comics does just that in Aliens: Fire and Stone #1. The issue is written by Chris Roberson, illustrated by Patric Reynolds, colored by Dave Stewart and lettered by Nate Piekos.

Alien fans are familiar with LV-426. They know it's the planet where Ellen Ripley and co. first encountered the famed Xenomorphs in less than ideal circumstances. Fast forward quite a bit and terraforming engineer Derrick Russell is facing similar odds, fighting to lead a desperate group of survivors onto a rickety mining vessel called Onager. What they quickly discover is that the destination of their escape (a nearby moon) offers little change in the way of survival.

Thanks to Roberson, things sort of skip worse and go straight to hell in a handbasket. The issue opens with Xenomorphs slaughtering in their own way before Roberson gives them a slight glimmer of hope. It doesn't take long for Roberson to rip that hope away though, placing the characters in a situation that's arguably worse than the one they just escaped. In this regard, Roberson puts his foot on the gas and doesn't really let up, taking the characters and readers a on a pretty frenetic misadventure that mixes in a few character introductions here and there. Roberson lets the story unfold pretty organically, not really forcing things to happen and teasing the characters along just enough that you slowly become invested in their survival.

If you ever wondered whether or not Xenomorphs could look really good, then Reynolds has your answer. In short, yes, they can actually look pretty splendid. The way he illustrates them gives them the full range of terror, relying on heavy shading and the hive mentality appearance of the Xenomorphs to underscore the tone of the book. And characters demonstrate the appropriate facial expressions to really sell that terror. A few panels focus explicitly on the eyes of certain characters as they take in what they're seeing and Reynolds infuses those eyes with a certain weariness that emphasizes the direness of their plight. There's not much in the way of background detail, but when you've got Xenomorphs jumping to and fro you're not really going to look anywhere else.

The title page for Aliens: Fire and Stone #1 indicates that the events of the series takes place before Prometheus: Fire and Stone #1. If you've read the latter (or just know about Alien in general), you know things are only going to get worse before they get better. Roberson blazes through the first issue, taking the reader along on a frenzied ride that feels like it ends just when it's getting started. Reynolds' art is beautiful, using very kinetic movements to display the madness that accompanies the Xenomorphs' attacks. Aliens: Fire and Stone #1 is definitely an action-packed kickoff to what's likely to be a rather interesting series that Alien fans will definitely want to pick up.

Aliens: Fire and Stone #1 is in stores September 24 with interiors below.