When it comes to licensed properties, a good idea goes a long way. Alien Annual 2022 #1 from series creators Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Salvador Larroca focuses on a mission led by Gabriel Cruz years before the main series. Essentially we get an Alien trapped on board with a crew delivered in an exciting package.
This issue serves as a way to show why Cruz despises Weyland-Yutani and show his first encounter with an Alien. It’s also a reminder big corporations don’t care about human life and are willing to kill if it means raising their profits. Much of the issue occurs on a spaceship where Cruz and his men are stuck on board alongside a synthetic with ulterior motives regarding their lives. Don’t they all.
Johnson captures the twisted nature of the synthetic well through captions. As the story progresses, we see he’s becoming more inhuman with his investigation of the Xenomorph. An interesting juxtaposition is created, showing the synthetic lifeform may be as unfeeling as the Alien, further reducing the chances the humans can survive at all.
This builds a lot of ominous tension and horror. You know the crew won’t make it, but how Cruz survives is the biggest question. You won’t be thinking too much about that, though, as Kennedy captures the fixation of the synthetic so well. It’s reminiscent of David from Prometheus.
Ultimately Alien has always been a good haunted house narrative, with a cast of characters we grow to like and then see die off one by one. That’s no different here, but with the added benefit of anti-capitalist ideas mixed with humanity toying with things they don’t understand and certainly can’t control.
Larroca’s art style suits licensed properties like this with pinpoint accuracy with the Alien itself, spaceships, and up close facial expressions. Much of this issue takes an up close and personal approach to showing the characters, aided by Larroca’s style. It’s in your face and intense. The unnerving nature of the synthetic is depicted well in his cold eyes and a face usually steeped in shadow. Just look at the details on the Facehugger and the sack it came from in the preview and you can see the horror is very present in the visuals.
Guru-eFX does a great job with color, especially in creating an atmosphere. Sickly greens and yellows are used when the Facehugger is running amok, for instance, and the little touches of lighting on the Alien go a long way. That skin is slimy and icky, y’all.
An exciting one-shot, Alien Annual 2022 #1 serves as a reminder of all the things that make this franchise so good while delivering it in a package that feels new. Gory and horrific on different levels, this comic revels in Alien’s cold and isolating horror.
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