Aliens: Newt’s Tale – Throwback Review

‘Newt’s Tale’ is an example of an absolute gem from the early days and sports a great John Bolton cover painting. 


Aliens: Newt’s Tale 
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Published 1992

Writer: Mike Richardson
Penciler: Jim Somerville
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Colorist: Gregory Wright

This was one of 39 different mini-series and one-shots based upon the Alien/Aliens movie franchise that was handled so well by the folks at Dark Horse Comics. For over 30 years, Dark Horse was pretty much the sole publisher of Aliens comics, starting with the comic Aliens: Outbreak (originally titled simply Aliens) in July 1988. ‘Newt’s Tale’ is an example of an absolute gem from the early days and sports a great John Bolton cover painting. 

This two-issue story was based on writer/director James Cameron’s original screenplay and has all of the atmosphere, horror, and tons of action we found in the Aliens film. That’s no mean feat, transferring films well to comics. It is everything you want in a two-book mini-series, it’s so deeply true to the original Aliens film that any fan of the film would be hard-pressed to not be engrossed and invested in it. 

Just a little side note if you haven’t already read “Alien the illustrated story” by Goodwin and Simonson published by Titan Books that would be the perfect aperitif. The Dark Horse original three series sit well in chronological order with this offering, (Book 1, Book 2, and Earth War). They form a much better sequel to Aliens than Alien 3 since they involve a great Newt and Hicks dynamic and if you haven’t read them you might want to check them out too. Thank me later!

While this novel is recognizably true to the film this encounter is told from Newt’s perspective and includes more back story and the much-needed new material to really get this fan’s juices flowing. The plot development centers around the Xenomorph infestation at Hadley’s Hope. The overrun prospectors can only find hope in the wait for Ripley and the Colonial Marines to arrive.

The transition into the marine’s arrival transported me to the tender moment when Ripley finds Newt in the film and the action moves along well from there to an exciting can’t wait for book 2 nail-biting conclusion. The Xenomorph art is original yet familiar. These creatures aren’t posed, traced, frozen, or toy-like. These are original and appear sparingly and menacingly in an impactful way that adds terror and horror in equal measure. I find the character drawings charming. There is color and shadow mixed well with the expressions that follow the tension and action. Not one part of the team let this comic down. The only criticism I’d have is I wish this iteration of Ripley was drawn a little closer to other, slightly sexier, iterations or her at the time.


Verdict

A must-read for any Aliens fan.



Alien #6 – Review 

The writing remains pretty solid, and there are enough tie-ins to Alien lore new and old for this Alien fan to feel invested. There have been consistent nods to the Alien films in previous issues and this issue builds further with references to Prometheus.

Alien #6

Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Colorist: Guru-eFX


Published by: Marvel Comics
Release Date: 25/08/21

There is actually a great variant cover by Anacleto that I think is better showing the intrinsic link between Gabe and the mysterious ” woman in the dark “, an Alien presence that has been one of the great and slow-burning reveals in the series.

This main cover of a stand-off between Alien and human was a little frozen and lacking in both action and terror in comparison to some of the other covers in this series. It is however a fair reflection of the climactic action in this issue. A space-suited human (Gabe) faces off against an Alien he helped create. Our hero faces almost certain death, but the fate of all he holds dear is on the line.

Issue six is the end to Marvel’s Alien first arc. We get the usual round-up of the story so far in the first couple pages and are then straight back into the action. 

The writing remains pretty solid, and there are enough tie-ins to Alien lore new and old for this Alien fan to feel invested. There have been consistent nods to the Alien films in previous issues and this issue builds further with references to Prometheus. I liked how Iris the corporate terrorist synthetic has a humanity-threatening agenda similar to David in the film by trying to unleash Aliens on planet earth. She describes her role to create a ” post organic utopia”. The idea that the Xenomorphs are the universe’s method of greeting the hubris of organic species whose technological advancement sends them out into the great unknowns of space gives the unfolding franchise plenty of scope for one-shots and arcs. Organics are to be met by the “cleansing fire” and this is something I really thought reminiscent of Hadleys Hope in the Aliens film. 

Gabe’s fate in his attempt to redeem himself as a father, going to any lengths and sacrifice for his son concludes, much like depicted in the cover, in a fatal stand-off. It was a heroic way to face death in the face of insurmountable odds. I think there is enough plot development for this to possibly take future twists with the Xenomorphs and the mysterious connection they share with Gabe and the hypersleep and xenomorph impregnated Danny.  

Guru-eFX knocks the color choices out of the park. There is a sense of terror and horror brought to the pretty average Salvador Larroca art. Larocca’s art just isn’t consistent enough for me and any Alien depictions just seem a bit too jolly, posed, or lacking in punch for me. The lettering from VC’s Clayton Cowles is flowing in nature and makes for compelling page-turning which with the intriguing story again propping up the art for me. 

This first chapter offers promising new avenues for the future. Iris stated in her death a bigger picture or implied purpose” I don’t expect either of you to know what that means”  Well this reader damn sure doesn’t either!  Marvel hasn’t wowed with this first arc but there’s some good groundwork in a franchise that has a weight of several decades’ expectation on it. It is maybe not to everyone’s taste but it’s hard to not keep reading on. 


Verdict

A great blend of new and old gives us an exciting take on an expanding Alien universe. Roll on the next arc!!!


Reviewed by Taz Maz



Alien #5 – Review

This arc is beginning to show that they might be investing in more action-based plots than horror, but with a view to creating a bit of new Alien lore and reveals.

Alien #5

Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson 
Artist: Salvador Larroca

Colorist: Guru-eFX 

Published by Marvel Comics
Released – Sept 2021

Wow! This INHYUK LEE cover is an absolute stunner. I don’t care that it doesn’t resemble anything the “Alpha” or Alien drone looks like in the comic itself. It’s action, its terror and it is bursting through glass and the cover to attack at a frightening speed.

I love it, and I also love that it detracts from the pretty underwhelming Alpha we were introduced to in the last issue. It offers the promise that, although Marvel has failed to fully grab the reigns of the new Alien franchise, it can attract a wide range of influence from the House of Mouse (Disney) and the undoubted talent it might lure to the fold.

I actually quite enjoyed this issue especially when I gave it a read before the review write-up so as not to write it on first impression. My first impression was actually pretty good too though! . I chewed through it and found it entertaining. I think previous issues had helped me lower my expectations and increased my acceptance of the new audience that Marvel is trying to include and their approach to overseeing this current story. This arc I think is beginning to show that they might be investing in more action-based plots than horror but with a view to creating a bit of new Alien lore and reveals.


We are straight into the action from the start but this is delivered as an introspective insight into Gabe (our main character’s) history. It not only adds character depth it was reminiscent of the good old Dark Horse Comic plots. These few opening pages are pretty impactful and the gravity of the horror that could spread is so well-timed when Johnson writes ” I saw a TIDAL WAVE of living nightmares exploding out of my chest, blanketing the universe ” right before an image of a female resembling humanoid Alien around which there is building mystery and a sense of importance.

We get a nice double-page infographic that helps bring the reader up to speed. The mystery for me here though was that the Alpha Alien depicted was held in the Weyland-Yutani Epsilon station for heaven knows how long and yet with all them scientists not one thought to document things like its size whilst it was in a giant test tube! 


As for the main body of the issue, it’s pretty entertaining and rolls along quite well. Two pairs independently trying to trace against time and the ever-present xenomorph threat to the escape craft with an added little twist at the end. 
I’ve labored in past reviews about Larocca’s Aliens I don’t want to rehash old ground. Suffice it to say the drones particularly still look a bit frozen but I did find myself smiling in satisfaction at the presentation of the center ( stapled ) pages.


Verdict:
The Alien franchise is taking a new and bold direction in this first story arc. his is a solid issue and I looked forward to #6, titled The Beginning.



Alien #4 – Review

This is very much a comic that takes place in the same universe as the early Aliens but it isn’t a story that is chained to their lore; the references are there for lovers of the franchise but they are like sprinkles of connection rather than heavy investment.

Alien #4  

Written by: Phillip Kennedy Johnson  

Art by: Salvador Larroca 
Released: July 2021 
Published by Marvel Comics

This first foray into the Alien universe for Marvel has had many a critical eye from its considerable fan base.
I’ve found the issues so far have been limited in true horror scares as they focussed well on a more action based theme. This issue is well written and the lettering flowed to compliment the pace and developing many a possible twist. The central theme finds a good blend of characters descending into the bowels of the infested depths of the Epsilon station Alien hive.  

Is that Mark Wahlberg or Gabe Cruz on the cover of this issue with a poorly painted Bishop sandwiched between two Aliens? The covers and variants of them to date have been pretty solid but this one really isn’t my cup of tea. The veins on the foreground Alien are just a little too veiny in their phallic tones where the original art of H.R.Giger’s Aliens were more subtle in their sexual inferences. The hand placement on the foreground creature reminded me of a frozen Bela Lugosi which was entertaining but looked more tame than frightening. 

There wasn’t much in the way of claustrophobic tension that I would have expected in entering the Alien hive. As the main plot point of the issue, the livestock originated ALPHA sample is depicted well but like the cover just doesn’t have the crescendo and fearsome factor of other Alien art such as the early Dark Horse Comics heavy black ink work. 


There are big strides in this issue to push the story forward. Despite being a bit lighter on action than previous issues, there is a flowing momentum that helps elevate the danger the characters are in. Bishop’s functional android personality makes a great contrast with Cruz’s sombre and battle worn soldier disposition which helped me feel invested in the story. I really enjoyed the interactions between them especially in light of the early plot build of them being in a counselling relationship from issue #1. 

What could have been big reveals were a little flat in what could have been a seminal fright moments for a Marvel taking the franchise by the scruff of the neck first arc. There are still many directions this story could take and overall I think Marvel may be feeling their way into stories and the genre for the future. It really is a tough fan base to please. They certainly have the clout to attract fans, writers and artists to collaborate on some great work moving forward. 

This is very much a comic that takes place in the same universe as the early Aliens but it isn’t a story that is chained to their lore; the references are there for lovers of the franchise but they are like sprinkles of connection rather than heavy investment. Johnson provides us a more psychological and historic trauma insight into Cruz’s past life and how it affects him in this present rescue mission. 

Marvel titles garner wide attraction and new generations may find their way into the joy of the Alien franchise through this new branding. Some older fans may be quick to criticise this story arc finding it a bit short on its teen + promise. I expected a little more horror out of it. One thing is sure with a month between issues there is no shortage of historic material to keep us rolling in Alien stories.  


Verdict

An expansive story for an ever expanding Alien universe. 


Reviewed by Taz Maz

Alien #3 – Review

Compelling action that keeps the pages turning and a slow burn intriguing plot have this arc shaping up with promise…

Alien #3

Reviewed by Taz Maz

Written by : Phillip Kennedy Johnson

Art by : Salvador Larroca 
Published by Marvel

Released : July 2021

What a great cover! InHyuk Lee’s wonderfully dark Alien tail coiling around a troubled child’s face heralds issue #3 ; I eagerly anticipated it’s contents. Spoilers ahead….

Epsilon station, a Weyland-Yutani bioweapons and research facility is orbiting earth on a self – destruct trajectory.

Gabe Cruz has helped build the success of this station based on an encounter with Xenomorphs (Aliens) in the past. His son Danny, as part of a terrorist organisation have stolen a pass from him to get on to the station and in the process released the dangerous Xenomorphs. Cruz has had to come out of retirement to take the lead on the highly risky mission of trying to retrieve the mysterious “ALPHA” sample from Epsilon station is he is to have any chance of saving his son and preserving his legacy. 

Issue #3 is a seriously action packed issue as we are propelled in to the midst of an Alien attack, with Cruz and two Weyland-Yutani agents walking into a maelstrom of terror. The time around we open with a dying agent lying on the floor, ribs exploded open having been impaled by a Xenomorph in a swift attack. In a last act of defiance he manages to fire on the creature in the midst of a firefight where Cruz and the other agent looked to be facing certain death, causing the it to sweep up the heroic agent and flee with him. The encounter brings up flashback memories for Cruz of the first time he and a crew responded to a rescue call and came under attack from Xenomorphs.

Kennedy has done a great job in crafting a tense story full of intrigue. He also finds a way to add to depth through intriguing subplots that had me wondering how this arc might develop. During one scene, there is a mention of another mysterious and enchanting female looking Alien that Cruz has some mental connection with called ” The Dark One” . This “Dark One” was pictured back in the opening issue, who could not want to learn more!  Kennedy has dropped a great little back story that we are yet to see develop and possible links to plot in ways yet to be seen through Cruz’s flashbacks.

I have been consistently disappointed in Larocca’s Xenomorphs and inconsistency in drawing Cruz in previous issues, but I’m not going to rehash old reviews. What I will say is that his art is solid but at this point it just feels disconnected to the horror of the franchise and historical xenomorph art. In this issue there is so much in terms of visible xenomorphs that it detracts from some of the tension and mystery associated with what fans would associate as typical Alien horror. The art and the colors for the Aliens are bordering on cheery and too crisp to invite mystery, tension and the necessary foreboding tones. That feeling of the surprising attacking and not being so visible is lacking when they are front and centre consistently.

The lettering from Clayton Cowles is perfect for showcasing the artwork and complimenting the frenzied action and overall this issue reads well, with Kennedy doing a great job of getting the reader intrigued as to the the direction that this story may go. The clinical way Cruz kills his old friend Mitch who he knows cannot be saved is a touching and shocking moment and the emergence of two small Xenomorphs from the body is a nice unexpected twist from the conventional Alien gestation of one Alien per host.

Perhaps this is not the best jumping on point for this run and this may have been a difficult issue to open up on if you hadn’t already read issues one and two, but holds its own well enough to give the reader enough information so that they might be able to easily decide if this is the right kind of space-horror for them. 

Verdict 

Compelling action that keeps the pages turning and a slow burn intriguing plot have this arc shaping up with promise. Despite some minor artistic gripes over character consistency here and there, Marvel’s first Aliens run continues to impress.


Reviewed by Taz Maz 8/10/21

Alien #2 Review

Terror, action and horror in equal measures are strung together entertainingly in this continuation of a tense and atmospheric Alien story.


Alien #2
Reviewed by Taz Maz

Written by: Phillip Kennedy Johnson 
Art by: Salvador Larroca

Released: April 2021
Publisher: Marvel Comics


Alien #2’s cover of a ghostly Alien (Xenomorph) super-imposed on our protagonist, Gabe, had me eagerly anticipating what kind of direction this new story was going to develop.

In the first issue we learned that Gabe had been cocooned by xenomorphs in the past and his experience had been instrumental in the ongoing research at the Weyland-Yutani Epsilon station.  Issue #2 Return to Epsilon Station opens with a time line summary of events that bring us up to speed with all things Alien up to this point.

Spoilers ahead!!!
The plot development by Phillip Kennedy Johnson is engaging and progresses at a good pace. It is recognizably Alien franchise in nature, yet has a more Weyland-Yutani focussed twist to its development. 
Gabe has to return to Epsilon station having only recently been forced into retirement. Danny, his son, has broken into Epsilon Station with his girlfriend the leader of some anti Weyland-Yutani extremists called the Minute Hand Movement. Gabe may be Danny’s only chance of escape from almost certain death, either as a result of a “catastrophic systems failure”, (a cover up to burn up everything and everyone on Epsilon Station), or at the mercy of a new xenomorph threat that Gabe has helped create and that Danny has released. 


Gabe isn’t given much of a choice when he first learns of his son’s transgressions. He would prefer to embark on the mission with five synths (androids). Instead he’s given two wet behind the ears, cocky and ill prepared human agents. The clock is ticking, it’s over 32 hours since Danny boarded Epsilon station. Gabe has to race to face the threat and bring home the company’s prized asset, the ALPHA EMBRYO.

Gabe’s interactions with the company’s agents cement him as a no nonsense salty dog who isn’t easily riled. The flashbacks to his past provide good character depth around his traumatic experiences at the claws of the xenomorphs. Gabe having to get back into the ring with a frightening foe was reminiscent of Ripley returning to LV426 in the face of trauma for the second Alien film. 
I really loved a beautifully choreographed xenomorph kill in the middle of this issue. A headstrong, naive and foolhardy agent rushes after a face hugger who attacks from a ceiling tile. Seeing the face hugger enter in this fashion and the impaled agent on an intercepting xenomorph tail is iconic Alien imagery. I recalled Bishop at the end of the Aliens film. The rib removal in this scene was a delightfully gory death on the back of a thrilling piece of action.

Having set up up a new experimental xenomorph outbreak in issue one, the story opens with a frightened girl and her grandpa bathed in emergency lighting red. Outside there is chaos and the sounds of what may be xenomorphs. We are propelled straight into the action. The sound lettering is consistently eerie throughout this issue. The overall feel is claustrophobic, atmospheric and tense. The terror of the girl trying to find comfort in singing to herself provided a nice touch of emotional investment I thought.


Salvador Larroca (Artist) captures the instant terror of what has been released on Epsilon station to open and close this issue well by capturing well the frenzy of xenomorph encounters. Once again GURU-eFX does an outstanding job bringing the art to life, the colouring uses the perfect pallet for terror, suspense and threat lurking just out of sight. The entry to the station for Gabe and the agents is cold and shadowy. The red of the alarms framing the xenomorph encounters at the start and ending of the issue add to the overall heart pumping action. Splendid job GURU-eFX!

Larocca’s Aliens are mostly tracings or copies and this makes some appear clunky, disjointed or misplaced in their framing. The tracings do give a certain consistency to their presence  There is however, so much good xenomorph art to compare Larocca to that he comes off a bit short. The tracings do leave me questioning his passion for producing Alien franchise art. Gabe is drawn inconsistently in facial features and this affects the frame continuity. I did however wonder if this may be deliberate, maybe as part of some sort of clever metamorphosis process linked to Gabe’s encounter with Aliens, a mystery illness we know little about or perhaps as a result of the experimentation he was a party to at Epsilon Station.

The lettering is perfect and flows so well that I found it a great page turner and an easy choice to subscribe for A#3 Reunion. The xenomorphs are out! There is plenty scope in this story and more twists beyond a race to save the day. Keep it rolling Marvel!


Verdict 

Terror, action and horror in equal measures are strung together entertainingly in this continuation of a tense and atmospheric Alien story.

Reviewed by Taz Maz


Alien #1 Review

This is a bold start to an Alien story. It has good character development and a pacey, original, intriguing plot of fright inducing promise. 


Alien #1
Reviewed by Taz Maz

Written by:
Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Art by:
Salvador Larroca
Released: March 2021
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Regardless of if you have ever read the Dark Horse Aliens, any other previous Alien franchise books, or even seen the films, this new and exciting direction in the Alien franchise kicks off well in Marvel’s Alien #1. 

The artwork that the Swiss born painter Hans Ruedi Giger gave us for the original films was sumptuous and visually stunning.  In the over forty years after his original creations there have been many Aliens drawn by amateurs, fans and professionals inspired by his work. Dark Horse comics had previously published some great Alien franchise comics and arguably made their name on publishing’s of Aliens, Predator, Aliens vs. Predator and Prometheus. Seeing how Marvel would run with this new series was intriguing on an artistic level alone.

Ahead of this first offering there was a little stirring of Alien comic fan interest. Tristan Jones, who provided the artwork for Dark Horse’s longstanding series accused Marvel Comics and artist Greg Land of tracing his work for the cover of the Aliens Omnibus. I wondered how would this first printing would hold up to scrutiny.

Giger the comparisons were hard to avoid and I found Larroca to be pretty average in parts.  The first two page scene didn’t need to introduce Alien imagery. The original film was so great at building the slow burn. Seeing that it was clearly tracing of action figure Aliens made the actual Aliens introduction a little disappointing. Never the less the overall art is solid and the tracings from toys, best forgotten I’d say. The good likeness to Lance Henrickson ( actor in the original films ) in the Bishop, android role is a nice addition.

Bishop is introduced as the therapist to our main character and it really helped endear me to the content as being recognizable as Alien franchise from early in the plot development. The palette by Guru-efx really is amazing. I loved it. Spot on! The choices redeem the art to some extent. It is wonderfully dark, ominous and compliments the lettering, and story with a sense of tension and foreboding

The character development and story is set out well too. Gabriel Cruz is the soon to be retired Weyland-Yutani security chief. His loyalty to the corporation has been unquestionable in his many years of service. It’s clear this tough well respected company man has made a lot of personal sacrifice to the detriment of his family and mentally evidrnced through trauma in the course of his recollections with Bishop of surviving an Alien encounter.

Shortly after retiring with an undisclosed sickness Gabe tries to mend fences with his broken relationship with his son Danny. Danny unlike his father has nothing but contempt for the agenda of the Weyland-Yutani corporation and steals a security pass from Gabe in a brief visit with him. Danny takes the security pass with his girlfriend and a bunch of terrorists to break into the Weyland-Yutani research facility. They end up finding more than they bargained for. What they find could easily be compared to a scene from the Alien Resurrection film. The bloody way they infiltrate the lab looks promising in terms of future horror art. This again bodes well as I did wonder if Marvel may tone down the horror to appeal to a wider age range and customer base.

For the fans I’m sure there will be a mixed reception given the tracings mainly. There was enough here for me to connect it with the Alien franchise and although not mind-blowing as first issues go, continued page turning is defiantly something I’d stick with. The art on A#2 RETURN TO EPSILON STATION cover really had me mulling over plot twists and I look forward to more to come.


Verdict:

This is a bold start to an Alien story. It has good character development and a pacey, original, intriguing plot of fright inducing promise. 


Review by Taz Maz – 4/8/21