Aliens: Defiance Issue #1 Review
In the wake of Alien Day (April 26th), Dark Horse Comics have released a brand new Alien comic book series, titled Aliens: Defiance. This will be a limited run of 12 issues, which means it will be a fully self-contained mini-series.
The series is written by Brian Wood, illustrated by Tristan Jones and Riccardo Burchielli, and coloured by Dan Jackson. Massimo Carnivale created the wonderful cover art, with Sachin Teng and Mark A. Nelson also creating variant covers for the first issue.
Intriguingly, this series is set between Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986), and follows Zula Hendricks; a Colonial Marine who goes A.W.O.L. to defend Earth from the Xenomorphs.
With the arrival of the series’ debut issue, we take a look at how this new tale in the Xenomorph saga kicks off.
Issue #1 begins with Zula experiencing a rough ride as her dropship passes through the outer defences of a Mass Hauler. As we gain insight into Zula’s thoughts, one of the comic’s very first captions reads: ‘My back hurts’. Straight away, through this, Brian Woods identifies that we have an imperfect protagonist in Zula; a character who is damaged and suffering (already, before we’ve even got to any Xenomorphs), yet who fights on regardless.
If fighting on against the odds sounds familiar that is because it rings nostalgic of Ellen Ripley herself (and Zula does meet Amanda Ripley – Ellen’s daughter – in a flashback), and it’s a smart formula to use, because why alter the one thing that remains a unique and much-loved staple of the Alien-universe?
Yet Zula is much more hampered than Ripley was. We soon learn that Zula’s back problems are due to her recently having undergone reconstructive surgery to repair ‘massive spinal trauma’, yet Zula still goes on this mission to act as ‘a glorified key’, as she puts it, because the military’s jurisdiction in Lunar Space requires that one of their own must go on aboard.
Zula’s ethnicity cannot be ignored either. If you look at the cast of both Alien and Aliens, the ethnicity range is predominantly white, with only a few other ethnicities sprinkled within both films’ core crews. Here, we have a woman of African-descent not as a side character destined to die, but instead as the core lead of this series. And she’s even the only human for much of this issue, with the crew for her mission being full of only Weyland-Yutani Corporate Security Drones (which is a nice reversal on the crew being all human with one android, in the Alien films).
The art by Jones and Burchielli adds a lot of impact to the comic. All of the panels are drenched in dark, cold tones that evoke memories of the original films. There’s a roughness to the art style too that we like finding in comics – it adds a unique textured quality to the visuals.
It doesn’t take long before the Xenomorphs make their usual scary entrance and for a few pages the action flows as swift and unabashed as in any of the Alien films. Only this time it’s droids versus aliens, with Zula barely getting a round off before she cracks the visor of her space suit and bows out of the fight. Again, Woods shows us that Zula is no hero; she may have the heart and resilience of Ripley, but not the fighting skill at this stage (perhaps, due to her surgery), with her proving more of a hinderance than a help.
When Zula wakes, she finds out that she was saved and placed in stasis by one of the Combat Androids onboard the Europa, which they are now stuck on. And not any android – this is an android who has somehow broken his programming so that he can disobey Weyland-Yutani orders and follow his own agenda to work against them. Rebelling androids who assist our heroes is certainly something we’ve seen before in this franchise, yet at the moment, Zula’s view on this android is: ‘I don’t think I like this person’.
The plot also follows the much-used “Weyland-Yutani knew all along what was aboard that ship and sent us to collect it anyway”, however, this time we have a team (Zula and these androids) who are actively working to usurp Weyland-Yutari’s plan from the outset. It’s an enticing concept that does make us wonder what may occur in future issues.
We’d love to see Zula grow to like at least one of these androids and form a strong bond with them. We’d also like to know a little more about how exactly this android managed to bypass his programming (all he says is ‘I’m no longer satisfied with my factory programming. I would like to be more.’), but it’s early days yet and the series still has 11 issues to explain everything.
Overall, we enjoyed this first issue of Aliens: Defiance. It brings familiar tropes, whilst also adding new and unexpected deviations. We’re not desperate for the next issue, but we get the feeling that once a few issues have passed and this narrative has been built upon a little more, we’ll be fully in the thick of enjoying this series. It’s a strong start from Woods and co and we’re optimistic about the future of Aliens: Defiance.
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Image Credits: Dark Horse Comics / Comic Book Resources