Aliens: Defiance is off to a great start with the first issue and is shaping up to be one of the best Aliens comics in recent memory. We’re introduced to a new protagonist, Zula Hendricks, a very different character from Ripley but one who does a great job of filling that role. At least so far. What I like about Hendricks is that she takes us back to the everyman feel of Alien. These weren’t superheroes. They, including Ripley, were just a bunch of blue-collar workers trying to survive a situation where they were in way over their heads.
Hendricks is a marine, one who has clearly already been through an awful lot prior to being thrust into any of this shit. She’s undergoing treatment just to be able to walk and, after her encounter with the Xenomorphs, is paranoid she has lost the use of her legs.
We’re treated to a very cinematic showdown between the marines and the Xenomorphs, one that doesn’t feel forced in the way a lot of early Aliens fight scenes have felt in the past. In general, this is a very cinematic comic book, giving us opening credits and a battle sequence that plays out like genuine storyboards. That’s a testament both the to writing of Brian Wood and the art of Tristan Jones.
There’s also a really neat inversion of the original Alien structure. Hendricks is paired with a synthetic—a couple of them, actually—but they’re very different from Ash. And different from Bishop, for that matter. The synthetic she spends the bulk of the issue talking to has become aware of what Weyland-Yutani is planning to do with the xenomorphs once they get their hands on them and is virtually on a crusade to take them down.
It’s setting up a very interesting series and I can’t wait to see what they do with it. The issue definitely did its job of making me want to read more. Until the end, it felt almost self-contained, but I like that the first issue ended with an actual mission statement. Now, I know what the characters are planning to do—which is, of course, planning to wipe out the Xenomorphs.
There are also a lot of great nods to the franchise as a whole. Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen Ripley, introduced in Alien: Isolation although she was mentioned in Aliens, makes a brief appearance. Much of the architecture is lifted directly from Alien. In general, the artwork is great. It does an amazing job of establishing a tone that is gritty and serious, but not necessarily bleak. The aliens themselves are mostly kept in shadow, but when we do get glimpses of them, it feels very much in line with the look of the first two movies. There’s a great mouth closeup that could have been lifted directly from either of those films and in the narrative of the issue, it comes at what feels like the precise time we would cut away to a shot like that.
The cinematic qualities of this book are my favorite part. Yes, I’m left with a lot of unanswered questions, but that’s the point of a first issue. This is a great start to a series. The creative team clearly understand the franchise and the mythology, which is something I very much appreciate as both a reader and a fan. Fire & Stone didn’t make me fall back in love with Aliens comics, but this might. It’s captured my interest and I look forward to seeing how it develops from here.
WICKED RATING: [usr 7.5]