24 November, 2014

Victory Snatched From the Double-Mandibles of Defeat

A Review of AVP #2
Part Six of "James Versus Fire and Stone"

For all of my enmity towards AvP #1, the second issue is actually pretty enjoyable. It is a marked improvement from the previous issue. As readers we're less burdened by Christopher Sebela's decision to write the comic en media res and are free to enjoy the spectacle in front of you. . . And boy what a heaping pile of nonsense that spectacle is.

If you had to boil down everything that is wrong with this book, you should take a look at Elden the Android. His motives are as oblique to us as it might be to the writer and artist. His design is atrocious (Juan Ferreyra does a slightly better job of it in Prometheus #3). He fails as a villain, he fails as antagonist, he fails as everything a villain should be. He seems to be opposed to the predators, but we don't know why (and he's after that dying doctor and we don't know why). He has a retinue of aliens following him and we don't know why (which don't seem to affect the plot in any meaningful way). And the very premise of his transformation is both abundantly clear and incredibly dumb. Across the two books that he is featured in, he has managed to be both over-explained and under-explained. He's a dicotomy built out of sheer poor story telling. Again: I don't think this the writer is being mysterious, I think he's just being sloppy.

Elden is simply the worst.

Speaking of his design, he has two little stumps that protrude out of his shoulder blades. Its imagery reminiscent of a fallen angel you would see in a Dore illustration. It's a fine image to summon up and it at least shows an attempt at making something bigger and better than a licensed comic book. But in this issue I noticed what his “wings” actually were. They aren't boney protrusions or superfluous spikes. No, they're tiny hands. Our main villain is at all times shaking little doll fists at the skies. Real frightening stuff.

Also, not only is he a GWAR, but now, apparently, he is also a The Thing. Half of the way through the issue, after shaking off a laser blast because, okay, sure, he develops a stomach mandible, because, okay, sure why not that too? 

And it goes on like this.

The major problem with the storytelling is that there are no transitions. Nothing leads to anything. Nothing comes as a direct consequence o anything else. Or, well, it kind of does. Sort of. This comic doesn't so much introduce new ideas and plot points as it just skips to them. It reads like entire pages are missing from the issue. It's like if they told the issue quick enough nobody would notice how shoddy it is.

I imagine that can work if we are invested in the world or the characters are given enough time to grow on us. I was just thinking about Christopher Nolan and he's a writer/director who occasionally skips important steps in his story, but with him it works because, as Mark Kermode points out, it makes emotional sense. If facts and continuity are not the through line, then the characters are. Or the grander story is. Something is there for us to follow. AvP #1 and #2 lack all of this. Instead of delicate character interactions, we have. . . Well, we have Elden the Android.

Man, what the fuck is going on with this comic?

WEIRD MUTANT OF THE WEEK: As with Aliens #2 and with Prometheus #2 someone or something is exposed to the black goo and we are treated to a new mutant grotesque. This week? A Predator is bitten by Elden's stomach mouth (God what a dumb sentence) and we are treated to what I would call a “Frankenpredator.”

The Frankenpredator is distinguishable from a normal predator by its big, black doll eyes and it having the rippling body of a steroid-filled Super Fund site. It's mouth has also transformed into that thing where you put your wrists together and curl your fingers in so it kind of looks like a monster mouth. It uses that to eat another predator's face. That's pretty fun.

This issue, for all of its nonsense, still gets THREE FACEHUGGERS OUT OF FIVE. It's still garbage, but at least it's garbage with a bunch of dumb aliens fighting. For all of its lack of cohesion, it still manages to chuck a whole lot at its readers. Ariel Olivetti's art is slightly tighter to, so I'll look the other way regarding its digital art problems (I also do not have the energy to get into it).

Most importantly, I don't have to look at that stupid spaceship again. It gets a bump just for that.

You can read previous entries in "James Versus Fire and Stone" below--
Aliens #2
Predator #1
Alien #1 and Prometheus #1

James Kislignbury is a writer, podcaster, and has nothing against androids.