Since Marvel officially announced their commitment to producing new Alien and Predator content, anticipation has only grown. Marvel only began releasing variant covers since the start of the year, but that all changes this week as Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Salvador Larroca officially launch the first original Marvel Comics Alien comic book. This first issue is a signal to many this creative team understands why the original film worked so well and how storytelling and mood triumph over action and overuse of horror.
Fundamentally, Alien is less about action and more about a slow build-up of tension and fear. That’s where this book understands Alien the best. It opens with horrors, of course, but the story focuses on a survivor of an Alien attack named Gabriel Cruz who is attempting to integrate back into normal life on Earth. This man has seen horrors, and he’s dealing with those horrors with an android that utilizes a familiar model from Aliens named Bishop. This issue sets up a story of a man trying to integrate into normal life while still being taken care of by the company that sent him on a living nightmare experience.
Cruz must live with the horrors while trying to break away, but something is clearly up. For starters, can we ever trust Wayland industries? There’s an unnerving nature to the events that transpire to Cruz in this issue, though they are domestic life stuff like reconciling with a son and attending a party. Through these questions, the story permeates a sense of dread and unease.
For context, the story is set in the year 2200, 78 years after the Nostromo, and Ellen Ripley first encountered the Xenomorphs. That firmly sets this comic book between Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection. That’s exciting since it allows the creators to break new ground in the universe while also play off the reader’s understanding of key factors within the universe.
The second half of the book gets into more of the action-frenzy horror we’ve come to love from the franchise, but for the most part, it keeps the storytelling focused on setting up and building tensions. It’s in this section casual fans will get fed.
The art is a big part of why there’s a sense of unease in the narrative. Larroca is good at mixing up shots of faces, talking heads within a scene, and establishing space between them. GURU-eFX handles color and it’s particularly great at capturing dread and unease. In one scene midway through the issue, that unease is crafted through purples and low light as darkness sets in at sunset. Using cool blues, you get the sense of a chill when Xenomorphs show up on the page, and the glistening drool of these beasties is also well rendered. It can look rather stiff though, which is customary for Larroca’s work. GURU-eFX does add nice volume to faces though, which helps.
Fans should be prepared for a slower narrative with talking heads in Alien #1. It is doing the work to establish its main character and the stakes in play for them though and for that, it’ll pay dividends in the long run. Hardcore Alien fans will need this, not just because it extends the mythos and builds on what we know, but because it firmly understands what made Alien so good.
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