Wednesday, October 21, 2015

CBR Aliens OMNIBUS Vol. 5

Aliens is one of these long-running licenses that helped define Dark Horse Comics back in the day, becoming a staple of horror comics on its own.

Let's look at yet another installment in the Aliens Omnibus series!

Comic title: Aliens OMNIBUS Vol. 5 Aliens Omnibus Vol 5
Art by John Byrne, Richard Corben, Guy Davis, Bernie Wrightson, Duncan Fegredo, Arthur Adams, and others
Written by John Arcudi, Jim Woodring, James Vance, John Byrne, Ron Marz, Mark Schultz and Mark Verheiden

Published by Dark Horse Comics
From 2008
Lineup Aliens franchise
Format: Omnibus-sized softcover trade paperback collecting the miniseries and one-shots Aliens: Alchemy #1-3, Aliens: Kidnapped #1-3, Aliens: Cargo, Aliens: Survival #1-3, "Aliens: Alien" from Dark Horse Comics #17-19, Aliens: Earth Angel, "Aliens: Incubation" from Dark Horse Presents #101-102, Aliens: Havoc #1-2, Aliens: Lovesick, and "Aliens: Lucky" from Decade of Dark Horse.

In the 1990s, Aliens was one of Dark Horse Comics' biggest licensed comic book titles alongside Predator, Star Wars and The Terminator.

The Aliens took form after James Cameron's phenomenal Aliens and did an impressive work expanding upon the lore of the franchise. Some of the additions to the mythos would even make their way into 20th Century Fox films (just take a look at the AVP films or Prometheus' black goo for one!).

This 5th Omnibus volume collects several stories from the late 1990s this time. By then mankind was now living in a different universe with the knowledge of the existence of the Xenomorphs. Yet humans kept expanding their worlds through space. Some individuals still trying to learn the secrets of the Aliens or trying to control them despite everything that happened so far, and you know that's just more disasters waiting.

A few stories collected here feature some other intelligent extraterrestrial species outside our regular Aliens (and occasional Predators).

The material was getting increasingly bizarre as the writers tried their best coming up with new stories different from everything past.. which means some pretty extreme routes and a few odd comedic stories to change things up.

360 pages worth of content for about 9 stories collected this time.

We open this book with "Aliens: Alchemy", a 3-issue limited comic book series from September 1997, written by Dark Horse regular John Arcudi and illustrated by Richard Corben. The story takes place on this small community in some distant colony. There's this weird religion, which we find out actually developed through the survivors after the crash of a ship carrying an Alien cargo! An Alien has managed to survive and visit the town generations later. People live in fear while an idiot priest takes the occasion to become in charge of the whole place. Someone finds the derelict ship again and the ghost-recordings of a long dead Colonial Marine... and a surprise surviving synthetic, the real father of this entire community! It's not the best John Arcudi story. There's some tension, the reader can perfectly guess and know what is going on from the start unlike the characters, the colony is kept in the dark to much of what is happening. The real problem here is that none of the characters are really interesting leads.. It's a bit boring and the muddy art doesn't help.

Next up we have "Aliens: Kidnapped", another 3-issue story, this one was from December 1997 to February '98, written by Jim Woodring and Justin Green, and illustrated by Francisco Solano López. This one marked the first new Aliens comic following the adaptation of Alien: Resurrection. This second main feature of this Omnibus jumps all over the place. It begins with a bunch of idiot smugglers that decided to sell a bunch of Alien eggs to a weird restaurant always looking for new tastes. Amongst those was this strange pink Alien egg... turns out the creature inside was sick. It hatches on the face of this big media guy Hank Zither before bursting open on this new leisure planet. The pink Alien spreads this huge plague wherever it goes. Soon there's a whole epidemic leaving people dying left and right. This one was... really bad. All the characters were pretty dumb and unlikeable. But the main problem was how it all started with a bunch of idiots selling a pink Egg to a restaurant owner! Seriously!? People try to eat Facehuggers now? How could this have turned any other way, pink sick Alien or not?? The art was all over the place, with weird pinup art for the ladies. It was ridiculous with bad art. Like the planet in the story, the only thing left to do with this one is to nuke it...

"Aliens: Survival" is the last 3-issue comic, this one was from February 1998. It was written by James Vance and drawn by Guy Davis. This is the story of an engineer guy named Charlie Thompson. Charlie lost his entire family while on a routine job on a colony. The whole story is quite unique and it's hard to summarize like this. It is mostly told through weird cuts and flashbacks as our protagonist is slowing losing his mind and awaiting for his end aboard his crashed lifepod underground. It's a non-linear story to better reflect the mental state of Charlie. Really good and really effective, one of the better one in this volume. The sketchy art worked great here.

"Aliens: Cargo" is a 2-parter short story that was published in Dark Horse Comics #15-16, from 1993, by Dan Jolley and John Nadeau. It takes almost entirely place aboard a cargo ship. This smuggler Gerald Coile wanted to retire after one last job. But after double crossing one people too many he's left stranded on a ship in the middle of the ocean.. with a single Alien aboard! He has to fight for his life without any resources nor weapons to help him out! It's a fun one-shot with nothing much going on. The guy hunted down survives and sends a Facehugger back in return. Funny but forgettable.

The appropriately titled "Aliens: Alien" is another 3-parter, from 1994's Dark Horse Comics #17-19, written once more by John Arcudi with art by Paul Mendoza this time. It takes place on a weird alien world, these different aliens are being plagued by a Xeno. The young one Suom is not a man yet but he wants to defeat the "Night Reaper" to prove himself. But in the face of danger, they all get killed. Suom finally meets the reason Aliens arrived there - one surviving human that crashed in the middle of this primitive extraterrestrial planet. Suom finally conquers his fear and makes good use of the situation... It's another one of these few rare comics that featured other sentient alien species. This is a fun short. The smart kid is really the star of this story. It's entirely told from these non-Xenomorph aliens' point of view who don't understand the human. All in all, it's a fun read.

"Aliens: Earth Angel" is a 1994 one-shot entirely made by comic book legend John Byrne! One of his rare excursions outside Marvel's X-Men and DC's Superman and Wonder Woman at the time, and is only contribution to the Alien franchise. It's also another rare time these Aliens comics were ever set in the past, which is usually the setting of the Predator comics. It takes place in the 1950s. A ship crash lands on Earth in suburban America! This is the first meeting between mankind and the Xenomorphs! The sole Alien is defeated in extremis before anyone could really get a sight of the creature. And there's a really non-sensical twist - it features Dr. Daniel Ripley, that's right the Ripley family met an Alien long before Ellen Ripley (and Amanda Ripley). I like how it goes for the 50s alien invasion film feeling, but it just doesn't work that well with our titular Alien creature. This Alien has a really weird shape due to the alien host at the beginning. While the stereotypical characters are kind of fun, the cheesy twist ending really ruined it for me.

"Aliens: Incubation" is 2-part comic that was published first in the 1995 anthology series Dark Horse Presents, from writer Ron Marz and artist Bernie Wrightson. It was originally used as a prequel short story for the upcoming Batman/Aliens crossover, but it also works nicely on its own. The entire story was really told from the point of view of an archaeologist trying to interpret a story he found. An alien ship crashed in the middle of the jungle (apparently there's been lots of ships crashed on Earth transporting Xenos if you take Dark Horse's word for it) It was pretty short but decent. Bernie Wrightson would go on working on two Alien crossovers, the Batman/Aliens one but also one of my favorites the Green Lantern versus Aliens miniseries. I liked how the story focused on this quick encounter aboard a spaceship. It also had decent visuals despite the 90s art.

The biggest comic of this entire volume is without a doubt "Aliens: Havoc". A really unique experiment on Dark Horse's part, a special "artist jam" comic. Originally published in June 1997 as a 2 issue story, it was written by Mark Schultz and in fact features several different artists, each drawing a single page telling the bigger story. I just wish the story itself was better than that. We have here various big names from the industry: Leif Jones, John Stokes, Duncan Fegredo, D'Isreali, John Totleben, Art Adams (!), Gary Gianni, Geof Darrow, George Pratt, Igor Kordey, Paul Lee, John K. Snyder III, Mark A. Nelson, Pete Bagge, Brian Horton, Dave Taylor, Kelley Jones, Guy Davis, Kellie Strom, Jay Stephens, Jerry Bingham, Kevin Nowlan, Frank Teran, Joel Naprstek, Travis Charest, P. Craig Russell, Adian Potts, Sean Phillips, Rebecca Guay, Jon Muth, Kilian Plunkett, Ron Randall, John Pound, Gene Ha, Mike Allred (!!), Vania Zarouliov, Sergio Aragonés (!!!), John Paul Leon, Derek Thompson, David Lloyd, Dave Cooper Tony Millionaire and mot surprisingly of all Mœbius himself!!!! The story itself is pretty straightforward and has a pretty odd premise. A search and rescue team gets trapped inside a hive. But they get the help from a scientist who's able to jump from one body to the next! Yup. That's... huh.. pretty random. It's illustrated by the different styles, and it all actually meshes thanks to the meticulous effort on everyone's part to give a lot of attention to the details. It's a visually unique story, the only part that made sense was having these different perspective showing who's talking each time. Overall it's probably one of the best Aliens comics out there just for the sheer creativity behind this project!

"Aliens: Lovesick" is another one-shot, from December 1996. It's written by Thierry Gagnon, Richard Forgues and Randy Stradley, and drawn by Forgues. Apparently it took these three guys to come up with the most childish Aliens comics ever printed. This 11 years old, Jimi, has crush on this older girl Nancy, a pilot for the creepy Dr. Dakien. This Dakien guy goes mad after one rejection to many and plans to resurrect himself as an Alien host to unleash terror aboard the station. It's one of the rare few comedy/action/adventure stories and not a horror story like most Aliens comics. It's really silly and you shouldn't take this one too seriously. As a one off it's okay, but I wouldn't really like it to stretch for too long or to read too many of those. The art was kind of amateurish and the colors ruined it for me, way too many 90s gradients for my tastes...

Finally we have "Aliens: Lucky", a short story published as part of the special anniversary anthology series A Decade of Dark Horse #3, from September 1996. It was created by the original 1988 Aliens comic book series creative team of writer Mark Verheiden and artist Mark A. Nelson. Verheiden and Nelson returned for a short anniversary tale. It's the story of how this bastard crewmember survived an infested ship. One of the last Aliens comics published in 1996 before the new wave of miniseries after Alien Resurrection. There's nothing much to it. Our "hero" is very unlikeable, but on purpose. He saves himself by dooming the others and telling lies to the marines when they arrive. Another story showing the true ugliness of human nature in the face of danger, but it wasn't particularly interesting. And we really deserved something better from the original Aliens comics authors!!

Overall, Volume 5 is probably not the worst you'll read, but it's far from the better stories the Aliens license offered us so far. There's just too many terrible stories collected in this omnibus and only a handful of good one-shots.

The experimental comic Havoc was pretty good as long as you let the art led you were the story lets us down.

It wasn't just enough to save this volume in the long run. By this point the Aliens comics were clearly going downhill and only around the awful Fox AVP movies would we be finally getting a bunch of decent new Aliens and Predator comic book material.

There's some big names included this time which might make you check it out, but otherwise I really Can't Recommend this book!

I give it:
1.5 / 3 Aaylas!

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