Monday, October 28, 2013

CBR Aliens vs. Predator OMNIBUS Vol. 1


Whoever wins... we lose.

I mean except if it's the Predators. Then you'll probably get a chance to live, that is if you are unarmed and won't attack them deliberately.

Want more Alien/Predator-related reviews? Check the following!!

Comic title: Aliens vs. Predator Omnibus: Volume 4
Art by Various
Written by Various

Published by Dark Horse Comics
From 2007
Lineup Alien/Predator Series
Format: Omnibus-sized Trade Paperback collecting the complete original Aliens vs. Predator series, Aliens vs. Predator: Blood Time, Aliens vs. Predator: Duel, Aliens vs. Predator: War, Aliens vs. Predator: Eternal, Aliens vs. Predator: Old Secrets and Aliens vs. Predator: The Web.

Promised as the ultimate clash between the two famous 20th Century Fox science-fiction properties, the original Aliens vs. Predator comic book series was like no other previous series anyone ever imagined before.

Sure crossovers are nothing new in fiction. The classic Universal Studios monsters come to mind. There's also been plenty of Tarzan crossovers in comics to name another example.

But there was never something on this scale before, perfectly fusing two distinct franchises into a brand new propriety, its own identity, that has been going strong and kicking for the last two decades.

And yet it originally started like such a simple idea at first.

The Aliens vs. Predator series originated in Dark Horse Comics books first, long before Hollywood ever thought about it (in that.. disaster). As an idea come up by artist Chris Warner during a brainstorming session.

"What if...?"

Just like that two distinct monsters were joined for the very first time. Pairing the alien hunters from Predator 1 & Predator 2, and the monstrous xenomorph creatures from Alien & Aliens (at the time). The result was like no other past attempt. They meshed surprisingly very naturally.

It all started in a black & white issue #0, right before the second Predator film hit theaters, introducing the whole idea while some off screen narrators discussed, pilots of the "Chigusa Corporation".

That's right. For this new spin-off crossover series, it was also decided to explore new direction with both series. Exploring new sides of the Predators' culture and finally discovering new colonies and worlds not attached to either LV-426 or the Weyland Yutani Corporation.

The book would of course retain the Aliens-inspired military tone making this a science-fiction war comic book series.

Dark Horse collected here in this Omnibus for the first time over 400 pages worth of classic timeless material.

And it all started in the original hit mini-series that launched it all. On this little colony planet of Ryushi...

"Aliens versus Predator" is the original series from 1990, the very first time both titular characters appeared alongside each other in the entire franchise. Reprinted here along the original 9-page prequel story from Dark Horse Presents #34-36 from 1989 for this occasion - which serves as a prologue. The story was written by Randy Stradley and drawn by artists Phill Norwood & Chris Warner. Machiko Noguchi is the new head appointed to the colony Ryushi. The Chigusa Corporation provides planets to settlers who have these ranches where they farm creatures to export to other solar systems for food. Machiko has been having some trouble settling in, and most local ranchers see her as a cold distant woman. She's never been much of a people person, she had some trouble finding her own path and working through sheer work and determination to get in her current position. But things would get far worse when the town of Prosperity Wells turns out to be the hunting ground of the Predator creatures. Tired of only hunting easy prey, they sometimes use Xenomorph Aliens for their rituals, infesting off worlds for their game. Without their notice, the captured Alien Queen on board the ship is able to trick the automated system to get one of her eggs carrying a new Queen along a new shipment... dooming the inhabitants of Ryushi in the process! Slowly the cattle gets infected... starting the trouble the settlers never expected! The Predators' ceremony gets severely out of control once the Alien Hive starts getting bigger and spreading all over the colony.  Machiko finally decides to take control of her own life and fight back the invaders, teaming up with a Predator she dubs "Broken Tusk" in the process.

This is were it all began! It's a fantastic original tale, partially Aliens-story and equally a Predator tale. It was imagined as a sort of "Wolfman meets Frankenstein" monster mash-up. And these modern great iconic monsters from the late 80s did mesh up naturally. It launched the entire Aliens vs. Predator sub-series, several Aliens vs. Predator comics were released over the years. A follow-up comic was later released following the later adventures of Machiko who would go on becoming her an iconic figure on her own amongst the franchise. It's a very fun captivating tale. I'm only sad the stunning painted covers from the time have sadly gone missing in this collection for the most part. The story was later adapted into a novelization. This story was also proposed as the basis for the original first draft of the AVP film (although even in the final product, there are a lot of elements later found in the actual 2004 movie).

Following our main feature is a 1994 story - skipping some earlier tales for the second omnibus - "Aliens vs. Predator: Blood Time". This one is a short story reprising Predator characters from the initial series. So it can be considered as a spin-off of sorts of the classic Aliens versus Predator. It comes from the same creative team of Randy Stradley & Phill Norwood. It follows this elder Predator dubbed "Top Knot" assisting at rites of passage of the new blood. We get a first glimpse of a "bad blood" when one of the younger Predators decides to cheat his way to glory... It's a nice little tale, not much but it is pretty engaging. It also setts up the sequel, "Duel".

"Aliens vs Predator: Duel" is a 2-issue story from 1995, again written by Randy Stradley, this time illustrated by Javier Saltares. It's another sort of-sequel to the first series, this time following Colonial Marines. Our Marines arrive on Ryushi to investigatea mysterious signal, but what they find is now a wasteland. There's barely any trace left of the once peaceful town of Prosperity Wells. They get caught in-between hunters... and monsters. The art on this one was a bit off. Typical 90s comics. But we did get to see the first appearance of a new cult favorite creature in the franchise.. the Predalien!

Next we have "Aliens/Predator: War". This one is a proper mini-series sequel, still written by Randy Stradley and drawn by Chris Warner, Mike Manley, Jim Hall & Mark G. Heike. Following the original limited series, it is also a follow-up to an Aliens story Aliens: Berserker, though that one is not a necessary read to get our protagonists and the plot. Machiko has now been living aboard a Predator ship. Recognized as "blood" after the previous story, the sole survivor of Ryushi is now part of the Predator clan. She joined a Predator pack, but they're still giving her trouble and she has to continuously prove herself worthy to be part of a hunt. But things get more complicated for her as the ship gets near the planet Bunda for the new big hunt. She has to take sides, will she continue to endure the trials to become a proper full fledged member in the clan and find her rightful place fighting for her survival amongst the tribe... Or will she turn on her new "family", join back with the humans below and meet with other survivors? Who's side will Machiko finally join? On the planet surface, humans are caught in between the alien warriors and the horrific "dragons". And these new hunters aren't as clear on their code of honor as the Predators Machiko encountered in the past. It's a serviceable story, not as epic I'd say. This sequel also served as the basis for yet another novel. While the ending and the plot resolution are far from satisfying, it's in the little details that I find this one the most enjoyable. Seeing Machiko's daily life amongst the hunters, yet another outcast amongst the tribe like prior to all this in the human colony. And that Predator, "Shorty", giving her trouble. My only real principal problem with this story is the constant frequent change of artist in the interiors.

"Aliens versus Predator: Eternal" is another full feature tale, this one's from 1998. It was written by Ian Edginton and drawn by Alex Maleev. This one takes place in the "near future" of the 21st Century. Around the 1300s, a Predator spaceship crash landed in the middle of mountains in Asia as a man watched. Now it is 2025 (as the story hints). The man now named Gideon Suh Lee is about 700 years old. How is that possible? Thanks to the Predators' blood, he was able to extend his life way beyond natural human life cycle. The story introduces us then to a young reporter, Becka McBride. Becka was in Africa following an important moment of history.. when they are suddenly attacked by a group of mercenaries sporting mysterious tech. Lee actually built his empire by salvaging the technology from the Pred ship and was able to rise from a simple medicine man to hi-tech mongul. Becka tracks back all of this to Lee's empire.. as Lee's laboratories have just unveiled some mysterious "eggs" from the alien cargo. All this of course comes crashing down as Aliens start running amok beneath the subway. I really liked this story! Really original, and it changes from all the usual wars in space, colonies and marines we're so used from the series. Lee's secrete search for immortality comes with a price. His ascension to fortune and fame thanks to the Predator tech was a nice plot idea. This story actually partially inspired the game Concrete Jungle. Alex Maleev's art is pretty nice and moody, he would come back to the series several times after this one.

"Aliens vs. Predator: Old Secrets" is another short story, this one comes from the 1999 Aliens vs. Predator: Annual. Written and illustrated by Alex Maleev all by himself. Old Secrets is only 6 pages long. It revolves around a priest talking about the legend of "St. George and the Dragon" and takes place somewhere in the middle of Eastern Europe. Turns out his story is actually about Aliens and Predators who came to Earth long ago, some unknown time in the past. It's a simple story but pretty effective. It just serves the purpose of showing Predators and Aliens have been ducking it out for quite many time and that both species have even used our planet as their field long ago. Another story drawn by Alex Maleev, love his pencils. Fun but forgettable.

Finally we have "Aliens vs. Predator: The Web", the last feature in this Omnibus. It's a 2-parter also originally printed in the Dark Horse Presents series. Written by Ian Edginton with art provided by Derek Thompson. Yet another off-shot from the original 1990 "Aliens versus Predator", one of the last stories from 1999 before the big hiatus Dark Horse did later on. The story follows the crew of the ship Herakles as they are forced to respond a distress signal. Since they were low on fuel, they decide to check out the situation and steal what they can salvage at the distress signal location.... only to find out one of the last survivors from Ryushi still alive! They get caught between the two deadliest aliens in the galaxy. And it was all part of some revenge scheme. While I didn't care much for Edginton's story, a long time Aliens writer at Dark Horse, I found Derek Thompson's art very fitting. It's only a shame this was a black & white feature.

And that is it for this first collection!

Overall, it's a fantastic entertaining read and a must for any fan of either franchise!

While some of the stories are a mixed bag, no feature anything like one of the others, each bringing their own direction and tone, this was a touchstone for Dark Horse Comics. This series singlehandedly put them on the map at a time only Marvel and DC were able to sell comics to the mainstream audience.

Like I said, the original Aliens Versus Predator series was and still is a classic to this very day. Due to its immense success it allowed Dark Horse to firmly establish Aliens vs. Predator as series of its own right. Which ended up getting enough approval as to even be acknowledged via a easter egg in the film Predator 2!

The series was then expanded into a series of video games, statues, figurines, toys and other merchandising, you name it! Even to finally full movie pictures (the less said about that, the better..)!

Machiko Noguchi even attained pop culture status on her own merit.

She would finally be brought back several years later in the 2010 story AVP: Three World War.

The Aliens vs. Predator series would even get several other crossovers of its own, with other franchises such as Witchblade, Darkness, Terminator and even a bizarre but fan-loved Superman/Batman one.

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Aaylas!

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