• Aliens Dead Orbit #1

    Aliens Dead Orbit #1
    Released by: Dark Horse Comics
    Released on: April 26th, 2017.
    Written & Illustrated by: James Stokoe
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    This new series begins at Weyland-Yutani station Sphacteria 284255, a fuel depot/weight station with a crew of six. One of those crew members sleeps in his chair until the station’s computer system wakes him up. He looks for a cigarette but he’s out – he’s also got just over four minutes to get things in order, because the station requires immediate attention. He heads into the airlock, suits up and grabs his gear. As he starts surveying the exterior of the station, he notices a space ship nearby.

    Cut back to ‘before.’ Captain Hassan of the Sphacteria radios a ship, we assume it’s the same one we just saw. There’s no answer. The man from the intro, who we learn is named Wasclewski, works on a console. A man named Rook says that maybe the comm systems are no good – a woman named Park chimes in, that ship was scanable and heat sensors show they have active cryo chambers. They assume that the crew is ‘still in the freezer.’ They also assume that the crew is either salvagers or raiders. Wasclewski is told to get the shuttle ready and to get Torrenson’s gun, even if it doesn’t have any ammo.

    Park and Doctor Harrow accompany Wasclewski and Hassan on the shuttle. They move into the air lock and dock, it’s a mess. Life support is functional but they leave their helmets on anyway. There are strange melted bits – like acid was splashed on parts of the ship, it’s melted through the bulkhead. In the cryo chamber they find two male twins and a female still fast asleep. Hassan orders the others to wake them up. They can’t leave them there but they’re not dragging the cryo chambers back to the Spacteria.

    They flip the switch, but something goes wrong. The systems on this ship are a mess and the tubes start flooding as the three survivors start to wake up. They crack the lids and get them out but it’s bad, they’re burned and going into shock.

    Back in the present on the Spacteria, Wasclewski hears a familiar HISSSSSSS and although he thinks it’s a leaking air hose, we know better.

    James Stokoe’s story is off to a pretty interesting start. It’s got everything you’d want out of a good ‘aliens’ story – some neat industrial sci-fi design work, surly hardened space inhabiting characters, corporate mischief and of course, one of the greatest monsters in movie/comic book history. There’s some strong violence here and the pages where the survivors wake up only to be seriously burned in their cryo chambers is intense, but it’s all in the context of the story being told, as such it feels quite fitting. The characters aren’t super well defined, that’d be tough to do this early in the run, but their own unique personalities are starting to develop and as such, they’re interesting enough to hook us.

    Stokoe’s artwork is also really impressive. It’s an odd but excellent mix of styles, showing a heavy anime and manga influence but also showing nods to Geof Darrow (who provides one of the variant covers for this first issue) and Moebius. There’s an insane amount of detail here, and a good sense of movement and flow in the action scenes. There are some interesting layout and framing choices here (in one panel we see Wasclewski standing in the hall of the ship from a hole that’s been opened in one of the walls) and great use of color too. Dark Horse is doing a LOT with the Aliens/Predator/Prometheus properties right now. Did we need another series? Probably not, but Dead Orbit is off to such a great start that you’ll be happy we got it anyway. In Stokoe’s capable hands, fans should rightly have some pretty high expectations for this one, and the first issue sees that we’re off to an excellent start.