Review - Aliens: Dead Orbit #1 (@DarkHorseComics)

"Maybe nobody's home?"

Aliens are out there. Whether or not they're as terrifying as James Cameron makes them out to be remains to be seen. That mythos does lend itself well to terror and Dark Horse Comics is all about that terror in Aliens: Dead Orbit #1. The issue is written and illustrated by James Stokoe.

After a horrific accident strikes a space station, an engineering officer must use all available tools—a timer, utility kit, and his wits—to survive an attack from the deadliest creature known to man.

Stokoe puts on a clinic in how to tell a suspenseful horror story in Aliens: Dead Orbit #1 mostly by keeping the scary parts off-page. The issue opens with a sense of isolation to set the tone and then jumps back in time to show what went wrong. Stokoe is very patient in working through the timeline, refusing to rush the pacing of the issue for the sake of the reveal. His dialogue is crass and natural, befitting a group of space explorers who are very comfortable with one another and probably a little unhinged to say the least. And Stokoe ensures that the suspense is elegantly ratcheted up appropriately as the issue unfolds, keeping the reader moving ever so closer to the edge of their seat.

Doubling down on the artistic duties, Stokoe infuses the issue with a look that's rife with detail. Each page feels meticulously constructed to emphasize the machinery and technology that surrounds the characters. At first, the artwork felt a little off-putting because it felt too loose, but Stokoe's style really feels right by the end of the issue as if it's helping the plot itself come into focus. There's a sense of foreboding on every page as Stokoe draws the reader further into the impending violence by focusing on the characters as they interact with the unknown of the abandoned space ship. And Stokoe renders injured explorers with a haunting style that reinforces the notion that there are things just as scary as the titular characters.

Aliens: Dead Orbit #1 is a chilling entry in the franchise that gets to the roots of what makes it so great: feeling alone. The characters in the issue are forced to contend with the unknown. Stokoe's script is a great example of how to let a horror comic unfold in a suspenseful way. His artwork is coarse in a positive way and fits the narrative extremely well. Aliens: Dead Orbit #1 is a fantastic issue that hits all the right horror notes.

Aliens: Dead Orbit #1 is available April 26.