26th Mar2021

‘Alien #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson | Art by Salvador Larroca | Published by Marvel Comics

For a franchise that leans heavily on its anti-corporate tone and history, there is a certain irony on Alien now being controlled by Disney. Disney of course bought 20th Century Fox, who own the Alien franchise, and it probably didn’t take an entire room of marketing executives to decide that Marvel, essentially Disney property’s marketing arm now, should maximise cross-stream revenue. Or give the fans new stories because that’s what they’ve been clamouring for. I’m messing about of course, cynic that I am, but the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Alien, comic book wise, has long been licensed and published by Dark Horse Comics, and they did a fantastic job down the decades, so Marvel have a lot to live up to with this.

Let’s take a look.

Behind an absolutely stunning cover by InHyuk Lee, we get a story set some 80 odd years after the events of the first Alien film placing this firmly in proper continuity. Dark Horse often had to be wooly on continuity, not controlling the franchise only licensing it, whereas Disney/ Marvel own it now and can essentially do what they wish. If you are not up to speed there is a handy catch up text blurb near the beginning, detailing the first encounter with Xenomorphs on the moon LV-426 back in 2122, and the later Xenomorph assault on Hadley’s Hope ( stupidly built on LV-426) in 2179. It’s now 2200, the Xenomorphs are still a clear and present danger, and the Weyland-Yutani Corporation are as bad as ever. Same as it ever was.

Meet Gabriel Cruz. A loyal Weyland-Yutani employee for many years, he narrowly avoided giving his life to the job when he survived a Xenomorph attack. Some of his fellow workers were less lucky, and he struggles with survivor guilt. Gabriel’s leaving Epsilon Station to return to Earth, to try and patch things up with his son and live a more normal, quieter life. Good luck with that. His son Danny, unbeknown to Gabe, is involved with an anti-corporate group, and he only wants to meet back up with Dad to see if he can steal any useful corporate secrets or info. The heated conversation between the two reveals a very conflicted past, one that involved a son dying and the family breaking up when Gabe stayed on Epsilon while his wife returned to Earth.

Johnson’s style of writing works well throughout all this, gently dipping our toes into this world, especially that of Gabe and his son and having us ask questions as we get more and more into the story. What exactly happened to Gabe? what happened to his son? why does Danny hate the Weyland Corporation so much? A clever device he uses as well is Bishop. Bishop, as fans of the films will now is a robot model favoured by the Wutan Corporation. Bishop here acts as a Psychiatrist, a confidante, but one who can store information, transfer it to other models, and modify his empathy levels dependent on what u=you want to hear. Turns out as well that Gabe didn’t retire. He’s sick. Seriously sick, and he’s come back to mend bridges before it’s too late.

Danny of course knows none of this which is a shame as it may have changed a bad life choice he’s just about to make. Using his father’s stolen corporate i.d Danny’s band of anti-corporate freedom fighters/ terrorists (you pays your money, you makes your choice) have managed to get aboard Epsilon Station, which they plan to blow up thinking it houses all their servers. Turns out it houses something a lot worse, an entire lab full of Xenomorphs…who get free. Security protocols lock Danny and his group on the station, lights go out, and the screaming starts…yep, this is Alien all right.

I really enjoyed this. I think Johnson wrote a solid, very cinematic story, incorporating all the elements we want to see in an Alien story. At first glance Gabe and Danny, and their relationship, seemed very generic storytelling, but as we learnt more those extra character layers made all the difference. Should we sympathise more with Danny? He lost his brother and family to the corporation after all. Or with Gabriel, loyal company man doing what every good Security Chief would do. Are Danny’s group fighting a fascist corporation, or just being bog standard terrorists. They certainly don’t mind innocent collateral damage. As with all good stories, the Xenomorphs are secondary to the main story playing out. Larroca’s art throughout is superb, again giving the feel of a cinematic experience. The pacing is spot on, and I like the use of panels to give longer lingering focus on dramatic scenes or sharp cuts to emphasize action. A couple of amazing double page spreads in there too. Outstanding.

A classic in the making? Not sure. But very good, and certainly recommended.

**** 4/5


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