Predator: Hunters II #1 from Dark Horse comes out this week and is the long-anticipated sequel to last year’s amazing Predator: Hunters mini-series. Once again we find veteran writer Chris Warner at the helm, this time with artwork by Agustin Padilla and Meeraj Menon.
This first issue starts out in eastern Afghanistan. An insurgent splinter group, looking to make a name for themselves, captures CIA agent Robert Fournette. Fournette is dragged into a cave blindfolded and placed on his knees in front of a camera to be beheaded publicly. As the machete is raised to his head, there’s a barrage of blood and violence as the insurgents find themselves attacked by some unseen force, torn to shreds and beheaded themselves. Much to the captured CIA agent’s horror, the cave fills with a crackling noise as the Predator decloaks, holding the insurgent leader’s head in its hands. The carnage is captured by the video camera.
Meanwhile, on a private island somewhere in the Indian Ocean, Jaya Soames is trying as best she can to keep her team of Predator Hunters together. After the incident in the Amelia Islands which resulted in great loss, most of the hunters have decided to move on to other things. Artemis, Enoch, Swain, and Mandy and their leader Jaya are all that remain. Jaya briefs her team on the incident in Eastern Afghanistan with the Predator by showing them a copy of the videotape. The team is greeted when they arrive in Afghanistan by their contact Malook. Malook transports them to a spot near where the incident happened, but as they exit the vehicle and look around, Jaya is spooked by something and instructs everyone to get back into the vehicle.
Back at the cave, an insurgent member enters deeper in to find agent Fournette still alive among the piles of dead bodies. As he looks further down the corridor, he sees a horrific shape moving in the shadows. Terrified, he draws his knife praying to Allah knowing that he will not survive, but prepared to fight nonetheless. He is no match for the alien Hunter and is beheaded, becoming yet another trophy.
The artwork on this issue is awesome. Agustin Padilla gives this story a much grittier look than the previous series by Velasco. His locations look authentic and you can almost feel the sand blowing past your face in the wind. The action scene at the beginning of this issue in the cave is visceral and savage. Padilla uses thin, horizontal frames that stretch the page stacked on top of each other with slick and quick slashes and sprays of blood and violence. Neeraj Menon’s use of color enhances Padilla’s brilliant artwork. The parts of the story when the characters are in transit are muted and bleak like the desert itself, but when there’s action and bloodshed the pages explode with vibrant crimson. If this first issue is any indication of what the art direction is going to be like for the rest of the series, this sequel should prove to be even more intense and action-packed then the previous one. The last page in particular with the Predator cleaning its trophy of skull and vertebrae is particularly gnarly.
Chris Warner is back at it again with an amazing story that continues a series of stories involving the Native American character Enoch. Warner has been writing for Dark Horse on their Predator comics since way back in the early days of Big Game. This time around we have a group of Predator Hunters that has not yet recovered from the events of their last mission. There is some dissension in the ranks as well as some mistrust duly placed on Swain. This mission is redemption for him, and the chance to make amends for what he did during the Amelia Island Operation. This is a very interesting character arc and could make for some dramatic writing in future issues.
Another interesting point to the story is how Jaya keeps her team of Predator Hunters together and functioning smoothly when they finally come face-to-face with the monster. All of them have been traumatized or damaged by the Predators at some point and Warner does a brilliant job of writing the human aspect of these Hunters as a contrast to the inhuman motivations of the Predator. This being the premiere issue of a sequel series, the story is more transition and setup for this new scenario. No doubt Warner has some very interesting things planned for these characters in this harsh brutal setting of Afghanistan. Not only will the hunters become the hunted once again, but there are new players in the mix such as the infidel-hating insurgent groups in Afghanistan.
Overall this is a great first issue, continuing the story of these characters and placing them in new surroundings with even more hostile enemies to contend with than just the Predator itself. It’s darker, grittier, and bloodier than its previous counterpart already and I am very excited to see where this will go.