Alien has left a lasting cultural legacy that extends far beyond the film and its sequels, prequels and crossovers. Beyond the movies, there are action figures, video games, comics, and there seem to be more and more of them all the time. It’s possible to be a fan of the extended franchise without ever having seen a single one of the movies—in fact, I’ve seen that happen. With the release of Alien: Covenant, there’s no better time to go back and look at some of the best Aliens comics to be released over the past twenty plus years.
In that time, comics based on the Alien franchise have attacted top level industry talent. People like Chris Claremont, Mike Mignola, Dave Gibbons, John Bolton and so, so many other comic book legends.
The great thing about comics based on a franchise like this is that they can expand the universe, often in more ambitious ways than the movies. And the Aliens books over the years have done just that. They’ve introduced bold new concepts, some of which didn’t work, but others that were fascinating.
We’ve selected some of the best Aliens comics out there to hopefully whet your appetite for more Xenomorph content beyond the new movie.
This was the first volume of Aliens comics after Dark Horse acquired the rights. These early comics are interesting because they were the first published before the release of Alien 3, so the stories centered on the continuing adventures of Hicks and Newt. After the sequel killed those characters off, the comic was republished with Hicks and Newt transformed into new characters Wilkes and Billie. I’m in the minority camp that thinks this works a little better, as the characterization didn’t always match what I recognized from the movie.
I actually think the second volume of that original Aliens series is a little better than the first. The thing I like best about it is something that some fans seem to hate about it, which is that it’s basically beat-for-beat the Aliens version of Day of the Dead. I love the weirdness inherent in a story about the military trying to train the Xenomorphs because that seems like exactly the kind of goofy shit that the Company wanted them for all along. It was clear from the beginning that they saw useful military application in these creatures, so to actually see that backfire in their faces feels rewarding.
Aliens: Colonial Marines
This series feels like a full season of an Aliens TV show, which is one of the things that I like best about it. It’s a ten-part story that tells the tale from the marines’ perspective—which Aliens didn’t really do, as Ripley was our central character through the whole movie. I also think it’s really neat that this comic gives us our first “good” Xenomorph. Named GERI, he’s basically the mind of a synthetic like Bishop inside of an alien body. It seems like exactly the kind of weird shit that the company would do for no reason.
Re-issued not too long ago in a premier edition hardcover, Salvation is probably one of the more beloved Aliens comics. In essence, it’s a really simple survival story. It’s a classic tale of being stranded on a desert island, except this time it’s about being stranded on an entire planet. Naturally, the Xenomorphs show up to make things much more challenging. The juxtaposition of slowly losing your mind while having to fight for survival makes for really interesting storytelling.
Aliens: Music of the Spears
This comic is so good because it is so insane. The concept is bizarre and the execution plays to that in the best possible way. It’s about a composer who wants to trap Xenomorphs and keep them in captivity, solely so he can record the sounds they make. It’s completely crazy and it relishes in being completely crazy. I think it’s so important to have radical, outside-the-box stories like this. Great way to avoid a sense of staleness and sameness by telling a story that you can be certain no one’s told in this franchise yet.
Genocide is also one of the more famous entries in the comics canon as it introduces the Red Aliens, a subspecies of Xenomorph that are basically just like the other Xenomorphs, but red. I think it’s great, because it can be easily related to black ants vs. red ants. As a kid, I made that distinction immediately. In general, it’s just neat to dig deeper into the Xenomorphs as a species and to see rival, warring factions, hives and tribes.
Aliens vs. Predator
The comic miniseries that kicked off one of the most enduring crossover ideas ever, Aliens vs. Predator is pretty much lightning in a bottle. It’s a terrific combination of everything that is great about both properties, introduces a new heroine who became a lasting part of the comics legacy in her own right. It’s a simplistic story about two species going head to head with humans caught in the middle, but it gets deep into those characters at the same time. Also a fascinating glimpse into how the Predators operate.
Not the most beloved or remembered Aliens comic, this one is nonetheless my favorite. Stalker is a great one-shot about Vikings being stalked by a single Xenomorph, which they basically think is a dragon. The concept is so basic and bare that it lends itself so well to a lean, mean, aggressive short story. Definitely one of my favorite things in the extended Aliens canon. Obviously there’s no way it could count in larger continuity if the Xenomorphs are as new of a species as the latest films suggest. But I love the “What if” idea of encounters with the aliens at different points in human history.