Thursday, June 5, 2014

CBR Aliens OMNIBUS Vol. 2


Earth has been devastated by the Xenomorphs. Humanity's left adrift in space.

But the alien creatures continue to spread through many, many other worlds and when greed pushes mankind to try dominating the beasts once again, nothing good never comes from it...

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

Comic title: Aliens Omnibus: Volume 2
Art by John K & various
Written by John Arcudi & various

Published by Dark Horse Comics
From 2007
Lineup Alien Series
Format: Omnibus-sized Trade Paperback collecting the books Aliens: Genocide, Aliens: Harvest and the never collected before issues of Aliens: Colonial Marines #1-10.

Following the first years of Aliens comics material collected by Dark Horse Comics in the first Omnibus collection, here comes the second volume!

This time the stories aren't direct continuations from one another or released at the same time.

This second Omnibus collects Dark Horse big three epic dense story, titled Genocide, Harvest (which was previously known as the "Hive") and the Colonial Marines on-going series.

These three huge full feature-length story arcs are spread over 400 pages-worth of comic book material. Yeah. They're huge and this makes for a much bigger Omnibus than the previous ones usually only containing short stories, despite it only covering three tales.

Three all-time fan-favorite classic Alien stories. Each pretty long (mini-)series filling out this entire book - no short story around this time!

They all continue to expand the mythos of the franchise and covering new details around the Xenomorph creatures. The first two dealing with the big "original Alien homeworld" glimpsed in the first Omnibus/Dark Horse's first series back in the 1980s. While the later third story follows the adventures of a Colonial Marines squad while the alien outbreak continues to spread towards outpost colonies. Going from one clean-up job to another containment situation mission.

As you can see this volume more than makes up for its lack of different tales with its sheer length.

"Aliens: Genocide" was a 4-ssue mini-series published between 1991 and 1992. Written by Mike Richardson and series regular John Arcudi, drawn by Damon Willis. Amongst these stories, this one's the only real continuation to the earlier self-titled Aliens series presented in the first Omnibus, although no previous characters returned. Earth had been ravaged by the Xenomorph infestation. Now an entire generation has since passed, and people came back to Earth in order to rebuild our world in the aftermath of the invasion. But while people are trying their best to move on, some ramifications are starting to appear on the surface. Namely how widespread this new drug called "Fire" is spreading around athletes and such. That's when the new government sees the possible application, which gets pharmaceutical companies trying to improve or replicate it. Problem is the secret ingredient turns out to be... none other than the Alien Queen's "royal jelly". That's right, the mysterious black goo produced by Queens which the creatures use to build their hive and stuff. While the humanity is trying to recover, an expedition is mounted to return back to the Alien homeworld by the rich billionaire Daniel Grant. They will head there with a group of mercenaries aboard the USS Razzia in order to locate what was left in the aftermath of the destruction of the Queen Mother Xenomorph matriarch (see Female War). He even has accommodated some secret labs aboard the Marines' spacecraft. But once arrived a new problem arises... It seems that without a leader, the Aliens formed two separate "clans" under different Alien Queens, two groups separated by different breeds. Unified once under the Queen Mother and fighting for territory now. Once arrived there, the marines start spreading a safe zone protected by protecting shield, but despite their best preparations they couldn't anticipate for this all-out war amongst the Xenos. The Aliens are fighting amongst themselves, raging a war amongst their broods. A war for supermacy of a strain of Xenomorphs over the other, it's the survival of the fittest! An Alien civil war! I really enjoyed this series. Finally an Alien comic that can properly stand on its own since unlike the previous series it did not revolve around characters from the movies (avoiding later usual retcons or edits whenever a new movie would come out). Their mission was pretty simple and straightforward. The idea of a mysterious addictive black Alien goo substance is something Ridley Scott's movie Prometheus would actually use decades later. At the time this was the first really original Alien comic that went truly beyond the films, actually setting the tone for future comics for years to come. We also get to know how Earth would fight back and recover from the Alien invasion on our planet. It's a very fun and quite original tale. Damon Willis's art was pretty decent. Nothing to write home about really, standard Dark Horse quality at the time. Finally Grant was a pretty interesting, who even gets to develop and evolve over the course of the story. This first series was probably the most original of the bunch.

Next up is "Aliens: Hive/Harvest ", which was originally published back in 1992 as well, and was also a 4-issue mini-series. This one written by Jerry Prosser and illustrated by the very talented Kelley Jones. Simultaneous, there also was a Dark Horse Books called "Cyberantics " published at the time, "by lead character Stanislaw Mayakovsky" (really, Prosser) which sadly was not reprinted in this Omnibus book since it was a novel, an in-universe book referenced here in this story which the main character supposedly wrote during his scientist career. "Hive" follows the infestation and recovery of Earth, after the "Grant Corporation"'s mission in the above previous story took place back in the Alien homeworld. In a world where human synthetics can be created so perfect, so flawless people wouldn't identify one in the middle of their crew, Mayakovsky actually built a synthetic Alien, named XL1 aka "Norbert". A woman named Gil contacted Sanislaw to develop this project in order to infiltrate a Xenomorph hive and get after the how-so precious Queen Mother Alien's royal jelly which can be used to make a very powerful drug as seen in the above story. Stanislaw had some success previously designing a synthetic ant used inside an ant colony hive to study the insects. The idea this time was to simply recreate this experiment on a much bigger scale. Stanislaw was now in fact slowly dying, the royal jelly drug being the only thing capable to literally "stop time" for him. Now in a relationship with Gil, Stanislaw noticed he had nothing to loose and only to gain from such an expedition. They send the gentle synthetic-Xeno Norbert inside the Alien hive... but things get complicated when they find some mercenaries already present there from a previous corporation also on a mission for the jelly. But it's about to get worse, more worst than anticipated... and those other people might be their only way out of there... "Hive" was one of Dark Horse's most reprinted stories, if anything for a good reason, it was a pretty original and unique story. An original trade paperback in '93 was then followed by reprints until a second remastered take in 1998 under the new name "Harvest". Writer Jerry Prosser was mostly at the time the editor on the Aliens comics. It's a very noire-esque dark tale. Featuring some gorgeous gothic artwork provided by Kelley Jones. Just gorgeous art all around. Jones used to work on Neil Gaiman's Sandman series at Vertigo Comics, and it really shows here! "Hive" or "Harvest" as it is reprinted here is a pretty good different complex story. This second story might not be a big favorite amongst fans, but I really found it fun and pretty original.

Finally we have "Aliens: Colonial Marines". A limited on-going series that ran for 12 issues from 1993 to 1994. During its run it was written by Chris Warner, Paul Guinan, Kelley Puckett and Dan Jolley and drawn by no less than Tony Akins, Guinan, Allen Nunis and John Nadeau, it even lived through two different editors during its run!! It had never been reprinted prior to this Omnibus collection. Basically said it follows a group of the movie's eponymous Colonial Marines and would change creative teams spread through the various story arcs, with time passing featuring less and less of the original Marines alive as the story moved on. The story followed mostly Lt. Joseph Henry, the son of one of the most important ex-military and politicians on New Earth. They put Joseph Henry at the head of a squad of the worst possible Marines available in the sector to first simply go check a nearby "toxic waste dump" in space... His team also includes a huge very off-putting synthetic named Liston assigned as an escort but not programmed to take unnecessary risks since he's a very expensive model (they reprogram him at the end to help along, and it turns out he was specifically built to battle Aliens, even resisting their acidic blood!). As they try cleaning places from Aliens infestations they lose more Marines, get from one point to another, fight another infestation in a nearby colony, etc. They also met some strange mysterious "bug-men" Alien hybrid-humans we never get much information on. Henry gets obsessed with the Xenos and ends up only living to locate and kill the "father" of all these aberrations!! Following this rag tag unit through various missions, cleaning backwater worlds and colonies in a sector of space pretty far from Earth. colonies, is pretty fun. At first.

Like the previous Predator comics prior to it, Dark Horse decide to introduce a character relative to a main character from the films. Namely Carmen Vasquez, sister of the Vasquez from the movie Aliens. As creative teams shifted and changed it caused numerous delays the time. I can't say every single issue or arc is as good as the others... The focus changed more times than necessary and even the personalities were rewritten quite a lot over the course of the series. In fact Lt. Henry started as this underdog rebellious son of a military official only to end up as a sort of corporate villain ordering people around for the worst... Which comes off whenever reading the entire series in a single sitting. With the best chapters probably covered in the first #3 issues written by Chris Warner, which also were better drawn incidentally. The beginning was also the most original segment while the later missions basis become kind of repetitive after a while, the first outbreak taking place aboard the toxic dump being pretty fun. This story marked the first time we got to see Aliens adapt from different sources of DNA, giving us sea-based Alien creatures! Also we finally got to see how bad humans affected by the royal jelly could mutate (similar to how Prometheus would portray such a thing years later on screen, but actually pretty close to that depiction as well). This series also served to introduce renowned Alien-killer and mercenary Herk Mondo who would get a couple stories revolving around him later on. It's a fun silly over-the-top figure. Colonial Marines ends up feeling more like a bunch of random Alien comics thrown together in a big gigantic patchwork (since it composes more than half of the Omnibus). It's a fun ride, but perhaps not as good as the rest of this book. The art was kinda uneven depending on the issues, a bit dirty but that works great with the overall gritty feel of the adventures these Marines live through. Colonial Marines was pretty decent all in all.

Overall, Aliens OMNIBUS Vol. 2 is composed of actually much better stories than the first volume. So I'd say it's a pretty fun recommended read for any Aliens fan or comics fans searching for good sci-fi space-based stories.

This second volume was only made of three series. Despite that it's fully packed and probably one of the biggest volumes Dark Horse released, and they couldn't even squeeze in any shorts this time.

My stand-out in this entire Omnibus was probably Norbert, the artificial xenomorph. He's a very fun concept, playing with the fact that in the Aliens universe humans were able to make by then  androids totally undingutishable from regular people. So why not try to make other type of these robotic beings?

All in all, a pretty good solid collection.

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Aaylas!

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