Tag Archives: Xenomorph

Alien #4 – Review

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

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


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