• Aliens Defiance #1

    Aliens Defiance #1
    Released by: Dark Horse Comics
    Released on: April 27th, 2016.
    Written by: Brian Wood
    Illustrated by: Tristan Jones
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    “PRIVATE FIRST CLASS ZULA HENDRICKS is no stranger to combat, and war exacts its toll. Fortunately the Weyland-Yutani Corporation has great need for Colonial Marines with grit, be they of sound body or not. In the dark, quiet recesses of derelict ships hide monsters humanity has never known . . . or so Weyland-Yutani might wish us to believe. Warriors like Zula aren’t trained for terror like this. In her effort to save Earth, Zula’s grit will be tested.”

    Or so says the text on the intro page to this latest Aliens series from Dark Horse. When the issue starts out, Zula is escorting a squad of Weyland-Yutani security drones to a huge derelict ship adrift in space. WY wants salvage rights but the military has jurisdiction, which means she gets to accompany the corporate robots being shipped off to investigate. All she supposedly has to do is put in the entry code, let the drones in and then get the data off of the flight recorder.

    As she and the drones get closer to their target, we flashback to the Luna base where Zula undergoes reconstructive surgery on her back, and then some physio-therapy. Along the way she meets a doctor named Amanda Ripley.

    As Zula and the drones board the derelict, she finds out this was a hualer for Seegson named the Europa. To find out what happened to the crew she brings up the security logs only to realize that some sort of close quarters combat recently went down. And then it starts up again. Zula learns that synthetics can scream as an alien horde launches a sneak attack and in the fray, her suit gets compromised. With oxygen running low, she blacks out.

    Sometime later she wakes up, restrained to a bed with one of the drones watching over her. The drone explains that she has been out for twenty-seven days. She’s worried about having gone that long without treatment and that her legs and back won’t work right but the drone assures her that it’ll fix it self. He tells her that they cleared out the aliens but lost eight drones, meaning that Zula, the drone she’s talking to, designated Davis, and six others are what’s left. Davis also tells her that he’s disobeyed WY orders because they wanted the hauler returned to Earth with the aliens on board. Once Davis shows Zula the evidence of what the aliens are capable of and tells her that WY wants to exploit them as weapons, she sees his side of things.

    We’ll see where it goes from here, obviously, but the first issue lays things down in a big way. A drone, programmed to obey the corporation that owns it, that created it, goes rogue and basically kidnaps a Colonial Marine to help it take on the business intent on exploiting the aliens for purposes of military commercialism? Alright, we’re onboard pretty much immediately. It’s a great idea and Wood writes it well. Hints at Zula’s background make her interesting, more than just a girl with a gun. Will her back surgery issue come back to haunt her at some point? Probably, but there’s got to be more to this than that and the cameo from Amanda Ripley could very well wind up meaning something too. Davis, the drone behind all of this, is a great character too. It’ll be interesting to see if his programming takes over at some point, as he’s showing a lot more free will than we’re used to seeing from what are essentially robot characters in series like this.

    Accompanying the top notch storytelling is some absolutely killer artwork from Tristan Jones. His penciling has all the detail you could ask for and then some while the layouts do a great job of capturing both the claustrophobia of the internals of the Europa and the absolutely epic openness of outer space. He draws the humans quite realistically and the drones well too. And his take on the aliens is also impressive, sticking to the tried and true character design elements we all know by this point but putting his own stamp on the beasts. Dan Jackson’s coloring accentuates all of this really nicely, these guys make a great team.

    There’s been a lot of hype about this series in certain circles and it’s easy to see why – the Aliens franchise has always been treated with respect by Dark Horse but, as with any series that’s been as prolific as this one, it’s occasionally hit or miss. While we’re only one issue in at this point, Aliens: Defiance looks to be doing everything right, giving us ever reason to come back for issue two.