Sunday, October 23, 2016

CBR Aliens OMNIBUS Vol. 6

Exactly one year ago I reviewed the 5th volume of Dark Horse Comics' Aliens OMNIBUS series.

It's time to finally have a look at the last collection of classic Aliens material from the publisher, before moving on to some of the more recent titles they have done since then.

Comic title: Aliens OMNIBUS Vol. 6
Art by Doug Wheatley, Gene Colan & Eduardo Risso
Written by Mark Schultz, Chuck Dixon, Ian Edginton & Jay Stephens

Published by Dark Horse Comics
From December 2008
Lineup Aliens franchise
Format: Omnibus-sized softcover trade paperback collecting the miniseries and one-shots Aliens: Apocalypse, Aliens: Xenogenesis #1-4, Aliens: Pig, Aliens: Special, Aliens: Purge, Aliens: Glass Corridor, Aliens: Stalker, Aliens: Wraith, and material from Dark Horse Presents #117, 121 140 and the 1997 Annual.

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

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

These comics often revolve around mankind exploring the darkness of space or trying to exploit the Xenomorphs... in the worst possible outcomes!

Here we are with the last Aliens Omnibus. Volume 6 finally collects the last few Aliens comics published between 1998 and 1999, before the series was put on a short hold and then rebooted following the release of the AVP 1 film.

This volume features the biggest number of stories, about a dozen of them, since it's mostly short stories aside from our two main features "Apocalypse" and "Xeno Genesis"!

The book opens with Aliens: Apocalypse - The Destroying, a 4-issue limited series written by Mark Schultz and illustrated by Doug Wheatley. Basically said, it's about a scientist team that had been studying Aliens that suddenly cut all communications with the everyone. A rescue team is sent to find some answers, only to find the head scientist living and studying from inside an Alien Hive! Where the story really surprises is that it actually really revolves around exploring the mysterious Space Jockey, the "Pilot" Engineer that was glimpsed in the original Alien film. And somehow this comic does a lot of things right that the movie Prometheus would attempt decades later. Because the comic plays with some of the ideas Ridley Scott had for an eventual sequel to Alien he never got to make, which explains why a star chart found in an archeology site helps a crew locate the Engineers' homeworld, how the Xenomorphs were created as dangerous bio-weapons, and how they finally find only one last giant Space Jockey alive in hibernation. Sounds familiar? Writer Mark Schultz even added an interesting religious tone and they played off other scrapped elements such as an early design for the derelict ship. And there's one last giant Alien that emerges from the Space Jockey!! This is actually one of the best Aliens comics. With some gorgeous artwork, clearly directly inspired by the work of H.R. Giger. One of the better and more unique comics! And it's better than Prometheus...

Next up is Aliens: Once in a Lifetime, a black and white "side-story" for Apocalypse actually, written by Philip Amara and Mark Schultz and drawn by Rick Leonardi. It's about the crew that located the Aliens the scientist in the above tale were studying, how they can impressively adapt and evolve. The art is good, but the story doesn't have time to go anywhere really.. It's... just ok. A bit short.

Here we have the biggest story from this volume, a huge Aliens/Aliens vs. Predator/Predator on-going crossover event. Xenogenesis was part of a huge 1999 interconnected storyline, this here is the Aliens tie-in part written by Tom and Mary Bierbaum, with art by David Ross. Reading the whole thing give you a look at the big picture, but it also works as a standalone story. We're basically following two tales, on a planet overrun by Aliens these colonial marines are testing brand new weapons that can easily take down Xenos, meanwhile their 5th member is stuck on a distant colony when people knock him down, steal his weapons and try to go free some kid captured by an Alien. Obviously both stories go from bad to worse. The marines can't take as many Aliens heads front and the weapons still need some adjustments, they can be quite toxic to the human organism. And the colonists ran in over their heads and end up sort of killing each other due to their lack of experience... This one was certainly the least "worst" offender of the Xenogenesis direction, but they were all so poorly received there wouldn't be anymore Aliens comics for a whole decade! The event had this very unique art style with more colorful artwork than usual. The art is a bit more modern, kind of like regular superhero comic books, but it's just didn't work for the whole horror/scifi-vibe Aliens comics usually went with.

Aliens: Headhunters is another black and white short story, this one from writer Mike W. Barr and artist Gene Colan. This one follows a couple of bounty hunters going after Aliens for their honeymoon (and for some quick cash). Even though this story didn't do much really, considering how little pages it had, it's actually gorgeous to look at! The all-penciled look it has going for works great with Aliens! But the narrative is really messy splitting pages in half between "then" and "now".

Aliens: Tourist Season is another short black & white tale, written by Beau Smith with art by Gray Morrow. It's definitively one of the weirdest ones to summarize, but it actually made sense in context. On a "theme park" planet, there's this whole colony designed after the Old West. Suddenly Aliens come crashing on this small fake-frontier town! With limited 19th century technology, the local town joins forced and defeat the invaders! The idea of cowboys vs. Aliens is interesting, but it just comes off for the series. There should have been a lot more causalities! The artwork was also pretty poor here, the Aliens looked so goofy and out of place..

Aliens: Pig is a fun short from renowned comic book writer Chuck Dixon, illustrated by Judge Dredd artist Henry Flint. Space pirates use a pig to loot a wreckage, but it doesn't work. So they kind of turn against each other and the cute little piggy carrying a ton of explosives come back to them at the end... This was a fun story! Made infamous thanks to an hilarious cover art.

Aliens: Border Lines is an even shorter black & white tale taken from one of Dark Horse anthology titles, written by Darko Macan, with art by Tommy Lee Edwards. It's about marines fighting Xenomorphs on the frontline. It's kind of confusing and eerie to read. The art was stylish. It was kind of reminiscent of Vietnam war tales.

Aliens: 45 Seconds is another black & white short, by long-time Aliens writer Darko Macan and artist Frank Teran. As the title implies, it's about the last 45-second before a pulse bomb detonates! This was easily the best story to make great use of the short story format, it was super short, but still very clear and distinct. The time explosion was a great framing device. With great art for once.

Another black & white short from the same Aliens: Special 1997 issue, Aliens: Elder Gods was made by writer Nancy A. Collins and illustrated by Leif Jones. It takes place on a small colony were all sorts of groups and sects are forced to work and live together. This cult digs a huge Alien Queen statue. They find some Aliens eggs and finally unleash an Aliens plague on the rest of the colony... This was another short but fun tale, pretty dark in fact. This one was actually directly inspired by tales of H. P. Lovecraft (specifically his Cthulhu mythos, and the god Tutilu)! Great art with some fantastic inks to boot!

Aliens: Purge  comes from long-time Aliens/AVP writer Ian Edginton and one of my favorite artists, Phil Hester. It takes place on a small scientific research facility were they've been infecting people with leprosy with chestbursters. They also created a unique human-synthetic-alien hybrid, Eloise! But corporates come down to shut down the whole facility... I like stories that try exploring the Aliens DNA or playing with synthetics, so this was fun and original. We also get to see humans and Aliens interact in a very different and unique way! The art was fantastic, I love how Phil Hester draws Aliens!! The story of Eloise would be followed by Aliens vs. Predator: Pursuit!

Aliens: Glass Corridor is a short written, illustrated, inked and colored by V for Vendetta artist David Lloyd! It's about this hitman named Frank who ends up trapped in a freighter spaceship with stowaways and an Alien! It's a very unique character-driven tale with a fantastic mood. The art was specially gorgeous here!

Aliens: Stalker is a little oddity, it's a painted short story written, illustrated, inked and colored by David Wenzel. It can be summarized as Vikings vs. Aliens! And yes, it sets Xenomorphs on Earth in pre-medieval times. It's one of the rare Aliens story set in mankind's history, which usually only Predator comics do. The art looks great here. The story as weird and odd as it sounds.. actually kind of works nicely into Vikings lore and legends!

Finally our last one-shot is Aliens: Wraith, a tale written by Jay Stephens and illustrated by 100 Bullets and Alien Resurrection comic book adaptation artist Eduardo Risso. It was the most 1990s comic collected here. It's about these teenagers spooking the new kid into exploring an abandoned Alien Hive in this agri-colony. But it's actually not that abandoned... It was very silly, extreme and oh, so 90s... until the very end! The kids survive an Alien encounter and shout bad jokes and one liners... And then at the end they simply get shot down by the Corporation to avoid spreading rumors about Xenomorphs. The end. This one was easily one of the worst stories from this collection. Really dumb and cliché. The art was ok, I guess. I did like the old half-destroyed white surviving Alien, though, it looked creepy! That said, the ending was a big surprise!

And that was the last Omnibus of classic Aliens comics material!

Overall, this 6th and final volume collects all kinds of Aliens stories!

All these short stories and one-shots are pretty different in range and styles. There's a lot of black & white tales collected here this time. Some are also pretty dumb and entirely disposable.

But I would say this book is worth it for Aliens: Apocalypse, alone!

If you're a big Aliens fan, Give It A Read, otherwise you can pass. There's a lot better science-fiction/horror comics out there.

I give it:
1.5 / 3 Aaylas!

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