Monday, October 20, 2014

CBR Aliens OMNIBUS Vol. 3


They say you "can't unbreak an egg"...

... specially when a facehugger comes out of it!

Comic title: Aliens Omnibus: Volume 3
Art by Will Simpson, Paul Jophnson, Killian Plunkett, Mike Mignola & more
Written by Ian Edginton, Peter Milligan, Jim Woodring, Dave Gibbons & others

Published by Dark Horse Comics
From 2008
Lineup Alien Series
Format: Omnibus-sized Trade Paperback collecting the books Aliens: Rogue, Aliens: Salvation and Sacrifice, Aliens : Labyrinth and the Aliens tales from the issue Dark Horse Comics #3-5.

Time for yet another Dark Horse Comics Omnibus of their long-running Aliens comic book series.

While their core main stories have already been covered in the first two volumes containing mostly early material, this one features comics they published in the mid-1990s.

Once more stories about corporate suits and scientists meddling with the natural order of things, trying to control the Xenomorphs for their own gain. And often for the worse turn of events...

They just can't take a hint, can they?

This third book reprints some cult tales from various acclaimed authors in the medium.A few memorable story arcs amongst several short stories for about 376 pages worth of comic book material.

Let's start from the beginning, shall we?

"Aliens: Rogue" was a 4-issue mini-series written by Ian Edginton, with Will Simpson doing both the cover and the interior art, first published in 1993. It was already republished as a trade paperback a first time in 1994, with new cover by Nelson Faro DeCastro, and through a second one as "Aliens, Vol. 6: Rogue" in 1997 with a new cover from John Bolton. So this goes to say, this is a fairly popular Alien comics, and was even adapted into a novel! All because it featured something new at the time (and kinda original for a change). The story takes place following mankind's contact with the Xenomorph and its infestation of Earth. It is now the year 2081, we follow this man, John Kray, who was sent to investigate the work being done at the Charon Base. For corporate espionage. He was trying to infiltrate the place by passing himself as someone else, to get a look at the work of Dr. Ernst Kleist. Kleist has been having some impressive breakthroughs with his genetic experiments on the Alien creatures. He's been trying to control them through breeding and selection and having some success while he's at it. But thing is, lots of workers have also been disappearing in mysterious "accidents" all the time. Kray gets some help thanks to the pilot Joyce Palmer. Together they find Kleist's been conditioning a few pet Aliens. For further his research, Kleist has also been employing Colonial marines on simple bug-hunts (which he voluntary gets into danger to test his creatures). But he has been stuck on an impasse. He could never tame an Alien Queen despite all his positive experience with regular Alien drones. So he decided to think this through outside the box. And breeds a new entirely genetically engineered Alien! An artificial Male Alien, an Alien King of his own, if you will! This genetic experiment is a success, thanks to the Xenos' adaptive DNA. He captures Kray, the Alien King doesn't even end up attacking him! It's obedient and not dependent to its own instincts! But "The Rogue", this King, hears Queen through the entire artificial hive and the station. The King ignores the humans, locates her and goes on a rampage after her. He faces his "mate"... There can be only one! It's a pretty fun story, all in all. Playing with new concepts, writer Ian Edginton wrote a ton of Alien (and Predator and AVP) comics and he was never afraid to introduce new ideas. The art is decent, nothing much to it really. It's a fun Aliens comics in itself, the King Alien has a great kickass design. The colors are bit strange though, but it's pretty standard for the time.

Next up is "Aliens: Sacrifice". A one-shot written by Peter Milligan, with art from Paul Johnson. Originally an UK exclusive story from the Aliens Magazine #9-12 reprinted a first time by Dark Horse as a prestige deluxe-format comics in 1993. The story follows a woman, Ann McKay, who wakes up on this isolated planet after a crash of a spaceship she finds out she's the only remaining survivor of. She's actually a nun that was part of a missionary ship. Now stranded on this planet, she tries to find out about the people living in this remote village, but everyone's avoiding her at first and hiding long periods during the day. It turns out she wasn't the only one that crashed on this planet. The people are actually being terrorized by an Alien creature that arrived with another ship, they're now all living in fear. They developed these entire sacrifices and rituals in the hope the Alien won't bother to come to them if it is kept occupied. McKay decides to accept her fate and faces the monster in the jungle... It's fun, if a bit short. What stands out in this story is the gorgeous art from Paul Johnson. Beautiful painted illustrations that actually perfectly suits the series. Easily one of the better tales in this Omnibus.

"Aliens: Labyrinth" is the other fairly long story that composes most of this volume. It's a 4-issue series written by Jim Woodring and drawn by Kilian Plunkett. Another classic Aliens comics, also published in a trade before (as "Aliens, Vol. 7: Labyrinth") and later adapted into a novel as well. Originally a 2-part mini-story preceeded it, titled "Aliens: Backsplash", but worry not since it is also featured here as the first act of this Labyrinth with no distinction between the two in this book, in a seamlessly transition. Backsplash followed a group of Colonial marines that survived an encounter with an Alien Hive, which the only surviving character is Labyrinth's main character. This is yet another story of a scientist meddling with the Xenos for his own shady purposes. Colonel Doctor Paul Church is the head director and main scientist of this remote lab in space, the Innominata Space Lab. Long story short, Church once survived being captured and dragged inside a Hive. The Aliens kept him alive for a while, as he saw the rest of the crew of the ship he was aboard being dragged around and used by the creatures as hosts and playthings. He found out it was actually a dying Hive, the Aliens were sick with some kind of mutated illness. He was able to observe the culture of these creatures inside this Hive with no Queen and unable to produce a new Queen embryo to survive. No new Alien was born and the creatures were slowly dying off and losing any will to spread the Hive. Church would later be able to remove the Chestbusters gestating inside his stomach after escaping. This great (if terrifying) experience would help land him this important position where he would helm this entire station and be able to pursue his researches and experiments. He is also now partially synthetic (just as cold and inhuman as the creatures). And insane. Considering himself to be superior to human beings, not hesitating to use people to further his work. The Aliens might be impossible to control (as the first story above told us), but that's no reason that should stop his work studying their behavior. How they behave, how they track their prey and why. He was in fact able to declare the Xenos to be a lot more intelligent than anyone ever thought so far. Noticing patterns here and there in his cruel experiments with living people. Which explains why members of his own crew have been disappearing lately. In reality, he considers other workers to be expendable and the only important thing that matters is his own goals. That's when an official from the government is sent there, Colonel Doctor Anthony Crespi. Crespi was sent investigate and evaluate the situation, since the good Doctor Church's been cut off from the rest of the world. As he's trying to access his work, Crespi finds out some terryfing experiments in inter-breeding and genetic manipulations that have  nothing to shy away from Alien Resurrection, since Church was mostly running freewith his illegal research on his own staff, away from prying eyes... This is a fairly neat story, exploring the idea behind the Aliens' biology and thought process. Fairly intriguing story. The art's pretty good as well, if a bit stylized. Another worthy addition to Dark Horse's Aliens comics.

"Aliens: Salvation" was sadly just a one-shot. I say sadly because this is easily one of the better Aliens comics out there. It was written by Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons, and illustrated by the creator of Hellboy, Mike Mignola who also did the gorgeous Gothic cover artwork here. The story follows the two remaining surviving crew-members from a spacecraft, the freighter Nova Maru, following their crash on an indigenous planet. We meet this guy Selkirk, who is now stuck with his Captain after crashlanding on this small planet. It appears to be inhabited at the first look... Selkirk keeps praying to God, while slowly losing any hope of salvation. The Captain is suffering from an acific burn on his leg (guess what caused this..?). It turns out the cargo of the ship were actually Aliens! Selkirk is forced to eat anything - and I mean anything - to survive. And his descent into madness is a slow and painful process as he has to resign to any mean to survive. This prehistoric-like planet is home to pterodactyls, other primitive creatures and whatnot. He finally comes to face with the Xenomorphs and meets another human, First Officer Dean who also survived the crash. No longer a lone survivor, they have to make their way through the jungle to escape this planet... It's a brutal, dark and twisted tale. Filled with long monologues. A stylish tale. With Mignola's gorgeous unique art, pefectly fitting this world. Gorgeous inks and a minimalist coloring. Gibbons writes a very compelling tale about an inhuman survivor trying to justify his actions, facing these creepy-as-heck monsters...

"Aliens: Advent/Terminus" was a short 2-part story first published in the the anthology series Dark Horse Presents. Written by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett, with Guinan doing the art as well. It's a story about an extraterrestrial hunting expedition. A bunch of explorers found some ruins they decide to be the first to explore. There's this wannabe explorer, his mercenary bodyguard, a synthetic and this freelance reporter. They enter this Egyptian-like pyramid and encounter these Aliens in the tomb... This is a nice story, but doesn't really offer much. The art was pretty decent, I suppose, and gritty. What is interesting to note here, in this pretty forgettable little story, is that the basic synopsis is pretty similar to what would be used in the much later 2004 AVP film.

"Aliens: Reapers" is the weirdest one of the bunch. This one's a gorgeous painted short story, written by series regular John Arcudi, with artwork from Simon Bisley. It's an odd and eerie tale about Facehugger-eating alien creatures. It follows an expedition by some weird-looking extraterrestrial beings (the "Reapers" of this title?) going on a hunt in an Alien Hive. All the Aliens and the Queen are huge in this comic, bigger than the regular Xenomorphs shown in other Aliens stories (perhaps because their hosts on this planet are these weird-looking dudes?). It's notable for being one of the rare few Aliens tales to actually shown another sentient alien species (not counting Predators of course). The art's the main highlight here, from this great UK artist Simon Bisley who has done a lot of fantasy work and is mostly known for his art on Judge Dredd and Heavy Metal.

Finally here's the last comic reprinted here. "Aliens: Horror Show", a 3-part tale also from the Dark Horse Comics anthology series, written by Sarah Byam and drawn by David Roach. This one takes place during the time Earth was infested by Xenomorphs (see the first Omnibus). Mankind's separated, people are now mostly living off various little colonies. Our story takes place on the Moon. In this station, a scientist's been studying people's dreams and nightmares. Mostly through the use of the Alien's "Royal Jelly" (a substance the Alien Queen produces). A recurring dream resulting from this experiment appears to be people dreaming being haunted by Aliens... which goes badly for the patients. They've been selling these "nightmares" for people looking for a cheap thrill. But a father's decided to get his daughter back from these labs... It's okay. But feels really weird, specially next to the better stories reprinted here. The art's okay as well. Nothing much to it really. A nice little story, but not really the one I would have used to finish this Omnibus on...

Overall, this 3rd volume is composed of a lot of different stories. From artists and writers ranging from pretty good to just decent. Most revolve around these scientists trying to study and get to control Xenomorphs for their own gain, a recurring theme in the stories of this volume.

As you can see above, it's a pretty average Omnibus composed of somewhat decent stories.

"Rogue", "Sacrifice", "Labyrinth" and "Salvation" are easily the best ones featured here.

But it's nothing spectacular really. No really thrilling tale. Nothing close to the horror of the first film or its action-packed sequel. Retreating to familiar grounds. Nothing new or that unique that hasn't been covered so far in the previous tales.

Good. Recommended if you're a fan of the series or scifi comics in general, other might want to skip this book for better material out there.

I give it:
2 / 3 Aaylas!

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