Monday, May 16, 2016

CBR Aliens vs. Predator OMNIBUS Vol. 2

Who knew having an Alien and a Predator fight would provide so many decades of fun comics and video games?!

Let's not mention 20th Century Fox's awful attempt at bringing it to the big screen, shall we?

Comic title: Aliens vs. Predator Omnibus: Volume 2
Art by Various
Written by Various 

Published by Dark Horse Comics
From October 2007
Lineup Aliens vs. Predator series
Format: Omnibus trade paperback collecting the one-shots and mini-series Aliens vs Predator: Deadliest of the Species, Aliens vs Predator: Xenogenesis #1-4, Aliens vs Predator: Booty, Aliens vs Predator: Annual #1.

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 were 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, which has been going strong by itself ever since.

The Aliens vs. Predator series originated in Dark Horse Comics books first, long before Hollywood ever thought about it (in those two disatrous films). As an idea imagined by artist Chris Warner during a brainstorming session. Pairing the alien hunters from Predator 1 & Predator 2, and the monstrous xenomorph creatures from Alien & Aliens seemed like a natural fit. The result was like no other past attempt. They meshed surprisingly well, very naturally.

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 their place in space, as well as finally discovering new colonies and worlds not attached to neither LV-426 nor the Weyland Yutani Corporation. Not just a crossover but a proper spin-off franchise on its own right, which only got confirmed time and time again over the years through other mediums like video games and films.

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

This second omnibus collects all of the rest of the classic Dark Horse Comics AVP material, over 400 pages-worth of content from the mid-90s to 2000!

On a side note, some comics reprinted here had their original titles altered.

The book opens with the main feature of this omnibus (as seen on the cover), Aliens/Predator: The Deadliest of the Species (or "Aliens vs. Predator: Deadliest of the Species"), a 12-issue limited series published between July 1993 to August 1995. This series is the longest Aliens/Predator/Aliens vs. Predator comic book series to this day. It was written by X-Men comics legend Chris Claremont and illustrated by Jackson Guice and Eduardo Barreto. In the Aliens/AVP comic book series, it takes place after the infestation of Earth by the Xenomorphs. With Earth now overrun by Aliens, humans have started living in these skyliners far off above ground level. Our main protagonist is this Caryn Delacroix, a sort of "synthetic". A trophy-consort wife of the corporate magnate Lucien Delacroix. Lately she's been having some strange nightmares, some past lives she had? As she's regaining memories from her past, she ends up in the crosshair of our first proper female Predator, an elite hunter nicknamed "Big Mama", stalking Caryn and repeatedly calling her "Ash Parnell". Things get even more complicated when our main enemy is revealed to be the AI aboard the city, the super-computer TOY. Turns out they lied about who she is, and her past is linked to both Predators and the Aliens. With some help she tries to escape the safe haven of the skyliner and ends up in a space station with an Alien Queen hiding aboard! Caryn gets captured, and escapes the local black market with a new ally, the Big Mama Predator! It is finally revealed her genetically-engineered body was created to be the perfect killing machine through a series of experiments designed to make "Ash Parnell" into the deadliest of the species! Big Mama trains Caryn and her friends into the ways of the Predators to take on the Alien hive. Caryn finds herself trapped in TOY's virtual realities. And they face a new type of Alien hybrid! There's been a lot of talks about this comic book series over the years, it's a pretty divisive story even among long-time fans. Since it was written by comic book veteran Chris Claremont, it's a pretty dense and epic storyline, containing a lot of references not only to the Aliens and Predator universe but also pop culture and other comics. The art was pretty detailed from both artists on the series, it's kind of what you expect from 90s cliché comics with rather subversive artwork on the female characters, they're always pausing like pin-ups for no reason (just pulling you out of the story whenever that happens). It's pretty long but kind of captivating, since you have no idea where this story is going on for the most part.

After that we have a few much shorter comic. Aliens versus Predator: Booty is a one-shot from January 1996, written by long-time Aliens editor Barbara Kesel and drawn by regular Predator artist Ron Randall. It follows some Predator on a hunt against a Queen Alien, as few remaining humans are caught in between the two monsters. They're pretending to be colonial marines. Three regular people get caught in the crossfire. It doesn't go anywhere since it was pretty short, but it had some terrific gorgeous art!

Next up is another one-shot, Aliens vs. Predator: Hell-Bent from from the July 1999 Aliens vs. Predator: Annual #1, written and illustrated by David Ross. It's the middle of a fight on a mining station infested with Aliens, a fight between a ship captain and a Predator. Like the rest of these one-shots it doesn't go anywhere, it's more like a look into this weird universe of Aliens, Predators and Colonial Marines. I liked it though.

Aliens vs. Predator: Pursuit also comes from the same 1999 annual, it was written by Ian Edginton, and drawn by Mel Rubi. This story acts as a sequel to Aliens: Purge from the Aliens Omnibus: Volume 6. It follows this character Eloise who is a mutant hybrid human-synthetic-xeno, after taking over a human colony and leading a whole Alien hive. She fights the human authorities, forcing them out of her newfound territory. Even without context, this was a nice change of pace, showing the weird science-gone-wrong experiments lurking around the AVP universe.

The 5 tale is a third comic reprinted from the very same annual. Aliens vs. Predator: Lefty's Revenge was written by Brian McDonald and penciled by Pop Mhan. It's about a woman forcing to work with a Predator she has took an eye from, to survive in this Alien-infested station. Only the girl proves much smarter than the Pred and runs off to live another day. Also a pretty short tale, but kind of an interesting premise, I wouldn't mind a sequel to this one though.

The last story from the very same annual (actually, there was one more, but they already reprinted in the first OMNIBUS), Aliens vs. Predator: Chained to Life and Death, by regular Aliens/Predator/AVP comics writer Mark Schultz, illustrated and inked by Tom Biondolillo. Chained to Life and Death follows the tale of an elder Predator that decided to retire from the hunt at the height of his reputation. He goes on one last mission to face the legendary Aliens. But is he up for the task..? This one was a very different type of comic, something you'd see in the actual Predator comics, it could only work as a comic rather than a feature length film. It's an intriguing look into the Predators' culture.

Last but not least, the next comic collected here is the infamous Aliens vs. Predator: Xenogenesis, retitled "Aliens vs. Predator: Genocide" for this collection. It's a 4-issue mini-series from 1999/2000 written by Andi Watson and illustrated by Mel Rubi and Ben Herrera. This one was part of a mini crossover-event crossing over Dark Horse various titles back in 1999. See also the "Xenogenesis" event in the Aliens Omnibus: Volume 6 ("Aliens: Xenogenesis") and Predator Omnibus: Volume 4 ("Predator: Xenogenesis"). Three loosely connected stories with similar art style and lore. The AVP Xenogenesis tale revolves around this girl named Charley who's been doing time in prison. Her boyfriend Elliot as a job in "The Company" thanks to a step-mom. She get her out of trouble in exchange to a small service... She wants them to pull a heist at a rival company! Elliot had been trying to get out of his troubled past while Charley dismisses Elliot for working for the man now. They reluctantly accept what was supposed to be a relatively easy task. Only thing is - Predator were not part of the expected job!! What type of research are they doing inside the complex? They have captive Aliens running havoc in the place! Their mission is to bring back some Alien eggs, only after its completion will they get the security codes to escape the place! This one is fairly controversial, at the time this story was badly received due to the lack of focus of the plot and the radical departure from the usual artwork, which is really rough and fairly typical from these types of early 2000s comics. Using a "fusion" anime-inspired style. What people didn't really like about it is that Dark Horse announced this was what they were planning for the future of Aliens comics, only it got cut short after only four issues. In retrospective and out of context nowadays, I think it's just ok.

Overall, this second volume of classic Aliens vs. Predator material is pretty decent.

Nothing spectacular, but it's a fairly decent run of stories ranging from mixed average to good. Check it Out!

The best of these comics can be found in the first omnibus, but the most popular of these comics collected here is easily Deadliest of the Species. It's not really the best in my eyes. I rather preferred the standalone one-shots.

Xenogenesis marked a shift in the interest in these series from the audience. Following the conclusion of that mini these franchises would be put on hold for a 10-year hiatus from Dark Horse publications before movie tie-in comics would bring back new Aliens/Predator/AVP comics.

I give it:
2 / 3 Aaylas!

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