08 January, 2015

What's the opposite of a "Resurrection?"

A review of Aliens #4
Part twelve of "James Versus Fire and Stone."

You hurt me, Aliens. You hurt me deep. From the time of this writing, there are only two issues left to come out in this mess of a crossover event thing. The sooner this is all behind me, the better off we'll all be. It'll allow me to clean out the gunk from 2014 early. Well, let's quit faffing about and jump into it.

Aliens #4 is a variation on the non-ending of Prometheus #4. All of the world building, all of the tension, all of the artistry and writing and everything else lands in issue #4 like a paper bag full of rotten oranges. And considering how poorly Prometheus ended-- That is to say how it did not end-- I'm not willing to grant Alien: Fire and Stone the "open-ended" conclusion that it was probably aiming for. I'm too spiteful of a man to allow for that sort of a thing.

As much as I hate to hammer home a point that isn't based on any hard facts, I feel that there is far too much of everyone else's story tied into Aliens. Indeed every book in the "event" suffers from relying on the other books to do some of the heavy lifting. No single storyline is allowed to stand out on its own. What's more is that it is asking way too much of the reader to have to buy four series in order for one of them to make sense. That's a Marvel or a DC move, not a Dark Horse move and I expect better from them. It's not having dumb crossover events like this that made them my favorite comic book company from high school right up until 2013 when Image decided that it was done fucking around and was going to put out every good book in the world.

Put simply, the stories are not good enough. The weak endings are a symptom of an overall failure to craft 

And think about all of the endings of the Alien movies. Are there any of those movies that left you hanging? It might be that I think that because I am such a big Alien fan, but I can't imagine that I am that blind. But I think I might actually be right about this one.

Alien has its final showdown in the escape pod (along with Sigourney Weaver's low cut 1970's undies). Aliens has the power loader fight with the queen (in addition to the whole hive sequence). Alien 3, for all of its sins, has Ripley jumping into the fire and that's an image that survives beyond that film's poisonous reputation (plus, I think the end of that film might come with a certain sense of relief). Resurrection is the weakest of the bunch, but that has the craziest use of a depressurized cabin that I have ever seen and it then has the setting for the first four acts of the movie crash into Earth. Those are memorable images.

As much as Aliens #4 does not hold together as a story or conclude its larger story, it does have a few wonderful images scattered throughout its 22 pages. There's a full page of Russell's crazy Robinson Crusoe cave scribbled with his madman scribblings (as well as an obligatory reference to the scourge of this entire mini-series: Elden). There's also a few pages of the graveyard of Hadley's Hope's survivors that are rather poignant. I mean, at least until the plot crashes back into the pages.

Beyond these few points of interest the actual story that contains these images fails to connect. It's an issue that consists entirely of a mad man having a monologue (and a monologue that reads like somebody needed  to tell the audience something) and then kills that character off for the sake of wrapping up the entire story. Or does it kill him? Do I care? Am I really asking rhetorical questions like in my AvP reviews?

I don't want to dwell to much longer on what is wrong with Aliens. Part of that is because I'm going to unload with both barrels on AvP #4 and also because going on and on about how something isn't good is a real bummer. Patric Reynolds and Chris Roberson has also turned out a fairly decent comic book, as well. They don't deserve to get shit on like I do the hacks that are churning out AvP. It isn't worth the calories. In the end there are a lot of things I like about that and I am going to take those away with me as a fan and as a writer. In that way Aliens and even Prometheus are not failures.

It has to be Hypothetical Super Mutant Doctor. The way the issue ends, Russell (I just now finally broke down and looked up his name) is attacked by aliens at the edge of a big puddle of the black goo. The panel then cuts away to another shot, leaving us to wonder whether the doc is really dead or if he's been turned like so many Cale's and Fiefield's before him. But, of course, he's really just dead. Because of course he is. And besides, the story hasn't earned a tease like that. But a man can dream, can't he? Plus he'd be way better than Dr. Hulk in AvP.

For all of its faults, for all of my winging, I give Aliens #4 FOUR OUT OF FIVE CHESTBURSTERS, mostly because I don't believe in giving half-stars. So, with that said, this is really a 3.5 star book. Overall, I think Aliens: Fire and Stone is a fairly good book, with some great art and a solid handle on the Aliens mythology, but because of its inability to either take off or stick its landing, it fails to become anythng more than an above average licensed comic. It's a real shame.

You can read the previous installments of "James Versus Fire and Stone" below:
Prometheus #4
Alien Versus Predator #3
Aliens #3
Predator #2
Prometheus #3
Alien Versus Predator #2
Aliens #2
Predator #1
Alien #1 and Prometheus #1

James Kislingbury is a writer and a podcaster. He knows he'll keep buying AvP comics no matter what and he would murder the world to see it stop.