ALIEN #1/ Script by PHILLIP KENNEDY JOHNSON/ Art by SALVADOR LARROCA/ Color by GURU-EFX/ Letters by VC’S CLAYTON COWLES/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
I’ve never seen the original Alien movie. Not all the way through, at least. I’m familiar with the franchise, certainly, and I know all about the Xenomorphs by sheer virtue of general pop-culture osmosis and the many Alien Vs. Predator comics published by Dark Horse Comics, before we finally got an Alien Vs. Predator movie. There’s a rich history there and it’s one that I respect, though I never attempted to dig into it, due to a lack of time and generally preferring fantasy to sci-fi.
Given that, I was curious about Marvel Comics’ new Alien series and how well it would stand as its own beast, so to speak. This was a comic that, because of its legacy, logically should have been written for the die-hard fans who can quote chapter and verse from the Weyland-Yutani Employee Handbook. To my surprise, this book adheres to the Stan Lee dictum that every comic should be written as if it is someone’s first and serves as a solid introduction to the setting of Alien for those who know even less than I do!
The opening scene introduces us to Gabriel Cruz; a career soldier with the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, who survived a close encounter with a Xenomorph. Still plagued by the nightmares of the event, Cruz wants nothing more than to reconnect with Danny; the son he hasn’t seen in years. This leads Cruz to retire from his post on Epsilon Station and move back to Earth.
Unbeknownst to Gabriel, Danny has become an anti-corporate hacktivist and is intent on bringing down the company he blames for destroying their family. Danny has no interest in mending fences and only agrees to meet his father in the hopes of gathering dirt on Weyland-Yutani. It spoils little to reveal that things don’t go according to plan and Danny and his team wind up locked up on Epsilon Station, as the latest batch of Xenomorphs escape their captors.
Phillip Kennedy Johnson does a fantastic job of establishing the Alien setting, with the opening narration from Gabriel describing the Xenomorphs before we’re given a title-page blurb describing the events of the first two Alien movies and a matter-of-fact breakdown that it is the year 2200, some 21 years after the events at the Hadley’s Hope colony. This is there more for the sake of the continuity wonks than the newcomers, however, as Johnson’s story is firmly focused on the characters, the father-son generational conflict and how Gabe and Danny view the world differently but have far more common ground than they suspect.
Worry not, Alien fans! Lest you think this is going to be a touchy-feely tale, there’s plenty of action to be had as well, with a flashback to Gabriel’s encounter with the Xenomorphs and Danny’s team storming the Epsilon Station providing most of this issue’s action content. Johnson proves just as capable of writing a tense horror scene and capturing that aspect of the Alien films, but it is the artwork of Salvador Larroca that seals the deal.
I’ve been a big fan of Larroca’s art since 2019’s Doctor Doom series and Larroca is in fine form here, showcasing his talents of capturing fine details and crafting intensive shadows. The lack of light is an important aspect of the Alien aesthetic and it is nailed through Larroca’s lens, with the color art of Guru-EFX providing the perfect finishes. The letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles also deserve note, with the sound-effects being unobtrusive until it is time for the silence to be broken, when they suddenly stand out, bold as brass.
I can’t speak for the Alien fans, but I suspect this series will satisfy them. Speaking as someone relatively green to the franchise, however, I can say that this is a damn good comic and it captures the essence of what I know of the setting, even as it offers us a new perspective on it. Alien sets a new standard for movie spin-off comics.