Much like Blondie and The Wonder Years, Alien Legion was popular in the eighties and then swiftly disappeared. The original series of comics ran from 1984 to 1990. Now, it has returned in this most recent incarnation, a miniseries titled Uncivil War. All of the creative forces from the beginning return. Among those reprising their creative roles are storywriters Chuck Dixon (a writer on the infamous Knightfall story upon which The Dark Knight Rises was based) and Carl Potts. And Larry Stroman handles the art.
Uncivil War drops us in right in the middle of the action, which is incredibly tough for new readers to grasp. This might actually be the problem with having the original creators write the script and no fresh blood, they sort of assume that everyone will know what’s going on. But a major part of comics, especially now that readership is larger than ever, is making sure that it will be accessible to the widest possible audience.
That’s different from the widest audience in general, mind you. You wouldn’t make a Punisher story geared at the kids who might watch the Avengers cartoon. That’s still inherently geared towards mature audiences and Alien Legion is geared toward the hardcore sci-fi/action crowd. But you still need to establish your world and your characters right out of the gate, especially with something that hasn’t been published on a continuing basis since 1990.
It would be one thing if the action lets up, but it doesn’t. Most of the best storytelling in comics comes from the quiet moments, not the sweeping action panels. Both writers have proven this on their own in the past. But it feels like they were so excited to have their baby back that they just completely indulged themselves in action beat after action beat. This is fine for a single, twenty page comic but in 90 pages it gets old pretty quickly.
The biggest issue with Alien Legion: Uncivil War might be that it steps out of the eighties as though it had never left. The landscape of comics has changed so much since then. Comics look, feel and are written differently and while Alien Legion doesn’t have the overly wordy exposition or as many cheesy one-liners as that decade was known for, it still doesn’t feel entirely modern.
A story with this much action on an epic scale would typically be hell on the artist, but Larry Stroman handles it with ease. The artwork is great and fits the style and tone of the writing well. The vibrant use of color might be the best thing about the comic, as it flies in the face of the gritty storytelling and yet doesn’t feel out of place at all.
While there are some fun moments, Uncivil War is not a good jumping on point for those unfamiliar with Alien Legion and after twenty-five years that’s the number one thing it needed to be.
Published by Titan Comics, Alien Legion: Uncivil War is available now.