Written by: Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Art: Julius Ohta
Released: November 2022
Published Marvel Comics
The third story arc in Marvel’s Alien series begins in the year 2217, fifteen years after the events of the six issue series Alien: Revival. For those who haven’t read Revival, or the first arc that preceded it, Alien: Bloodlines, it’d be worth seeking them out to see how writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson is already breathing new life into the franchise. Continuing to build on the foundation of the corrupting power of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, or “The Company” (a key factor in the ongoing story since Ridley Scott’s original Alien film in 1979), Johnson has created situations (or, more to the point, Weyland-Yutani have created situations) in which to place unwitting victims as the Xenomorphs are relentlessly exploited for their potential as biological weapons.
Each arc features a brief timeline outlining events thus far: the Nostromo’s ill-fated expedition in 2122; the tragedy that beset the Colonial Marines in 2179; then recounting the events that took place in Bloodlines (2200) and Revival (2202). So, if you want to jump right in with this issue, go ahead, but, as I say, maybe also consider bringing yourself up to speed first. Not only will it ease you into Marvel’s take on the franchise, but you will be privy to some truly exceptional character development.
It would have been easy for Johnson to create disposable one-dimensional characters who serve as fodder to be ripped apart or face-hugged (and believe me, there’s plenty of blood-letting and face-hugging to satisfy the meanest gore hound), but what I love about his work so far is how much attention he’s paid to characterisation. For example, Company man Gabriel Cruz’s relationship with his son in Bloodlines is well thought out, bringing to mind Garth Ennis’s Pride and Joy and how that mini classic explored the difficulties a father faces when trying to connect with his progeny. Placing a smaller, personal story within the context of the main plot without detracting from the action is one thing, but for the smaller story to enhance the bigger picture takes a skilful writer to pull off.
Johnson repeated this trick again in Revival, but this time he focused on the group dynamic and how they cope with the Xenomorphs infiltrating their own utopia on an United Americas terraforming colony. As impressive as Bloodlines is, Revival goes one better, cranking up the action and, yep, the gore factor to 11, without losing sight of the fact that readers need strong characters to root for. Add to this some stunning artwork by penciller Salvador Larroca and colour art from Guru-eFX (mostly Aliens-like blue and green hues for Bloodline, and earthy colours for Revival), and Marvel’s series is looking more than promising.
So, why prattle on about the first two arcs when you’re here to read a review about arc #3? Well, on first read, the thing that stands out the most is the absence of Larroca and Guru-efX. Whenever other artists pick up the baton, it’s inevitable that not everyone is going to be satisfied. On the other hand, it might improve the experience for others, dependent on personal taste. If you like thick line work and more definition to your characters and backgrounds, then this is for you.
In this first issue, artist Julius Ohta has only one opportunity to realise the Xenomorphs during a short introductory episode, and though he’s clearly a talented artist, when compared to Larroca’s reveal of the Xenomorphs at the start of Bloodlines, their appearance is far less impactful. What he accomplishes during this series remains to be seen.
That said, Johnson sets up the story well with a brief expository introduction of Tobler-9, a planetoid that serves as a hub for Weyland-Yutani’s research into and development of the Xenomorphs. Following on from this impressive opening, we are transferred to the year 2217 and the planet Europa-5. Here we are introduced to the ‘Steel Team,’ a band of exiled Synthetics who are called upon to head into Tobler-9. Their mission is to receive a biologic that can resist the deadly radiation levels that are threatening to wipe out millions on Demeter-2, a colony that has been subjected to catastrophe in the wake of a failed nuclear reactor.
Pitting a team of bad-ass Synthetics with almost superhuman capabilities against the Xenomorphs is a pretty exciting proposition, and one that should pave the way for an action packed third series. Whether the obvious tensions between The Company and the Synthetics who have been betrayed by them will offer enough in the way of characterisation remains to be seen. In Johnson’s hands, I’m confident he can pull of a triple run.
Reviewed by Christopher Witty