17 December, 2014

Staring into the Abyss

A review of Aliens #3
Part Nine of "James Versus Fire and Stone."

Here we are. Another week another issue of the Fire and Stone mini-series event. Last time it was Predator #2. We're approaching the end here and I still don't know how or why Fire and Stone is happening or why I'm keeping up with it, but here we are. The sun is out, birds are singing, and I hve a new comic book to whinge about. Come along.

Reading all of these comics has sent my brain into a lot of weird directions. Usually reminiscing over pop culture will do that anyways, but there's something about Fire and Stone that has put my brain into a mild disassociate state. This weekend, as I was cranking this out, I began to think about Mass Effect. Specifically, I began to think about it's expanded universe and how I, in no way, shape, or form want to read anything associated with it.

That's strange because I love Mass Effect. The second installment in the series is easily one of the best games of the last generation and is destined to become one of the best games of all time (alongside Skyrim and the first Modern Warfare).It's a galaxy where anything is possible, from asexual gunslinger priestesses to floating jellyfish gunmen. But I don't want any of it. Send it back. No thank you. But why?

Because it doesn't "matter." Because it didn't effect the source material and was only tangentially reflective of it, I don't want to read it.

I guess the first sense of this was sometime in high school, when the Star Wars prequels were coming out. Specifically, I remember hearing about how Boba Fett's origins were going to be explained (see Exhibit A as to why that is a bad idea in the first place), and I remember talking to one of my teachers, another Star Wars nerd about the movies. To me I didn't need to know Fett's origins, I already knew them. His name was Jaster Mereel. He was a disgraced police officer. He made a point of not raping Leia. He can sleep with his eyes open. Don't you people know this? Doesn't it matter?

No, it doesn't matter! Of course it doesn't matter! And it doesn't matter way more than most other fiction "doesn't matter." The Prequel Trilogy is probably a bad example for this kind of a thing as it was lousy with its own legion of problems (link Red Letter Media here), but my point stays. If you stand around and invest energy into a property, there's a very real chance that that property (and its owners) will turn around and nullify the very ideas that you've become attached to. That your love of these things is somehow irrelevant. Or maybe it's just your awareness of how little your purchasing power matters to an economic engine. The worst of it, though, is you suddenly know that most of these stories are pointless, little more than fan fiction.

This must have been how the Gnostics felt.

In the wider world of comics, it's one of the big reasons I don't mess with main stream super hero comics. At some point an editor or a zealous writer or a marketing department is going to come by, wave a magic wand and all of the sudden Hawkman is an alien. Or an Egyptian god. Or both. And then you realize that you've been reading Hawkman this whole time and the joke was on you.

Despite all of this, I give Aliens a pass. Not all of it. Not the bad stuff. Not the stuff in that reads like a car crash of a bus full of fan fic writers and a Toys R' Us truck full of Kenner toys.  None of it will ever get back to the main series. We'll never see the Alien Queen Mother in an Aliens movie. Ridley Scott is even actively hostile towards the AvP "movies." The only screenwriter who pays enough attention to the wider world of Aliens is me and I count only on a technicality.

(God. I would kill for a Prometheus series. Or a Blade Runner series. Hell, I'd watch a Legend series. Just do something with TV, would you, Sir Scott?)

"Here's our Story Bible. Study up, kid."
It's funny, though, as Dark Horse already had revise its fiction when Alien 3 came out. They actively scrambled to make up for the fact that their fiction is, and always will, be completely disposable. In 1989 Dark Horse released several comic books detailing the further adventures of Newt and Hicks. Obviously, come 1992 this was a problem. The release of Alien 3 came with the fact that these characters were dead. In future printings (and SD Perry adaptations), the characters were renamed so that it didn't contradict the movie's timeline. How ridiculous is that? The stories are further obscured by the release of Alien: Resurrection and Prometheus.

These thoughts always come hand in hand with a solution I've been hearing for years: "Make your own continuity." I first heard the idea from iFanboy, and it's brilliant. On a functional level, it allows you to reconcile the things that "matter" with the things that "don't," as well as with the things that do matter, but are just dumb (I think this is how Bryan Singer approached Days of Future Past). On a deeper level, though, that hits on a kind of Campbellian mythological idea. Even now, two thousand years on there isn't a singular vision of Jesus Christ. What chance does Batman stand?
So. There's that.

Aliens: Fire and Stone is a good comic. I think it's solid beyond my fanboy blinders. It might not be as substantial as I remember Rogue or Berserker being, but the story that remains is still really pretty cool. It has space truckers. They die. It has some other weird shit that we have only begun to get into (including possible time travel, of all things). And then, in the end, we're left with a cliffhanger. Everyone is dead but one character, which finally completes out desert island narrative, moving it from Lost to Robinson Crusoe (but with Aliens and no racism).

Plus, besides the story itself being interesting, I honestly want to see if Patric Reynolds and Patric Roberson can pull this thing off. So far it's been a fairly solid book, but considering how Prometheus ended (I'm cheating, I know), I have some serious doubts about the direction of this book-- and of all of the books, really. But, I'm hopeful. And if there's a string that holds all of this rambling together, it's a hope for a better comic books.

MUTANT OF THE WEEK: It's the Alien/Man Blob. We ended last issue with the cliffhanger of the Alien/Man Blob arriving on the scene, emerging from the water like a cat that just wouldn't drown, as if stating to the reader "Look at me, I just wouldn't drown." And I was excited. So excited. This thing was weird and gross and it finally showed the consequences of Prometheus leaking into the Alien universe. And, so in my excitement, I named him. I named him Robert. Because he looks like a Robert, you know?

Anyways, in this issue, Robert finally shows up to fuck everybody's shit up and that lasts for. . . Like a minute and a half and then he gets taken out by some drunk trucker with a spear. And he dies like a buster. Why even show up if you're going to do that? Why tease us? Why titillate me and you know that's exactly what you were doing with this comic book, you bastards. Poor Robert, we hardly knew ye.

We also get another Prometheus Fiefield zombie, which at this point is pretty boring. That shit is done.

I give thee FOUR OUT OF FIVE CHESTBURSTERS! While I cannot gather the same kind of glee that I get out of Predator, Aliens is a fine book. Solid. It's built a world that fits within its four issues. I applaud it and its effort to write a compelling story that has every reason in the world to suck. Thank you for giving me a story that matters. Whatever the hell that means.
You can read the previous installments of "James Versus Fire and Stone" below:
Predator #2
Prometheus #3
Alien Versus Predator #2
Aliens #2
Predator #1
Alien #1 and Prometheus #1

James Kislingbury is a boxed wine connoisseur, a writer, and a podcaster. You can support his show A Quality Interruption here.