By Nick Banks
Aliens: Defiance #1 Early Review
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Tristan Jones
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release Date: April 27, 2016
Rating: 10 out of 10
Synopsis: Dark Horse continues their almost 30 year history with the Aliens brand with a compelling new entry by Brian Wood and Tristan Jones.
Our Thoughts: I have always loved Ridley Scott’s Alien film and James Cameron’s sequel, Aliens. There has always been (and continues to be) a hot debate over which is the best; the original “haunted house in space” creature feature or the adrenaline fueled sequel featuring the colonial marines and a strong female warrior decades ahead of her time. I’m willing to listen to this debate and my choice usually depends on my mood or company. What are not as hotly debated are the sub-standard sequels, which most fans do their best to forget.
For most of us in the late 1980’s, the only worthy continuation of the series was in the form of the Dark Horse Comics serials. Dark Horse, at the time a new independent alternative to “the Big Two”, told some exciting “non-canonical” sequels set in the world of the Xenomorphs long before anyone in Hollywood considered adapting a “lowly comic book story” for the big screen. Unfortunately, Hollywood produced a series of confusing, jumbled stories that tried their best to pass as Alien films. Instead of the continuation of the adventures of Hicks, Newt, and Ripley in the Dark Horse series, viewers were dealt the soul-crushing news that these well-loved characters perished, according to the script of Aliens 3 (and because of the licensing agreement with 20th Century Fox, subsequent trade paperback collections of the first two series renamed Newt and Hicks as new characters).
I haven’t read many since this era, primarily due to the revisionist history and poor sequels. It would take a solid writer and artist to entice me back to this dark universe. Well, all I can say is that I am happy that I found my way back home. The key for me was the writer and when I saw that Brian Wood (Massive, Northlanders) would be writing a new Aliens series, I was intrigued. Opening the first issue, I was not disappointed and the art from relative newcomer Tristan Jones did a lot to ease any remaining fears.
Wood captures the tone of the best Alien films, with a lonely colonial marine on a salvage mission with a crew of synthetics from the Wyland-Yutani Corporation. The claustrophobia, danger, and deceit is palpable in this tale (as well all know how most synthetics in this universe turn out…) The protagonist, Zula Hendricks, has the requisite toughness and skepticism to appeal to readers of an Aliens comic, with plenty of back story that will most likely be filled in as the series continues. The art, by Tristan Jones (TMNT) was a real surprise. The highly detailed art is perfect for the interior of the spaceships, life on a futuristic earth, and the high intensity conflicts which ensue. Jones is also able to capture Zula’s expressions and pain in recovering from a drastic injury in a creative and realistic manner. The variety of panels, angles, and camera-lens shots makes for a very engaging visual landscape. Combined with one of the best storytellers in comics, this first issue is an excellent entry (or re-entry) point for both new and old fans of the series. If you’ve stayed away from Dark Horse Aliens titles, it’s time to come back.