12 June, 2016

A Matter of Life and Death Part 2

Written by Dan Abnett
Art by Brian Albert Thies
Coloring by Rain Beredo

It's fine. Predator: Life and Death is fine. Perfectly fine. There's colonial marines. They fight and they bitch at each other as you would expect Colonial Marines to fight and bitch. Somebody screams “Get some” and unloads a magazine into the jungle. There's a corporate goon. There's a predator-- Predators, even. And it's all fine. It's a Predator story and it's fine.

Predator: Life and Death is another "multifranchise story cycle" from the minds at Dark Horse. Their previous attempt at weaving Predator, Aliens, Aliens Versus Predator, and Prometheus together into one big story involved different writers and different artists for every story. This time around, they just got the one writer.

Dan Abnett is a perfect choice. He's done space warfare with his Gaunt's Ghost series and he's done comic books (with Andy Lanning) in Guardians of the Galaxy (you might know them from the only Guardians of the Galaxy comic story than anyone has ever ready).

Unfortunately, like much of the line art and the coloring, Predator: Life and Death is a merely adequate experience. At best, it hits the beats that it needs to, at worst it just feels slightly off. It's a book that's better than it could have been, but still not as good as it should be.

At least it's not good enough to get me to forget about how the last time this went down, half of these stories were garbage.

There's one thing about these books, one thing that almost always bugs me, which is that the art doesn't feel right. It doesn't have the grit or the feel of the movies (or even my memory of the novel adaptations-- shout out to SD Perry). The work of Brian Albert Thies is no exception. His work feels unfocused, making it look less like an Impressionist's vision of Predator and more like sloppy art. I suppose there's an argument for both of those art styles. It isn't like adhering to the world's previous creators is going to do anyone any favors.

The colors from Rain Beredo don't help either. The page are colorful in a way that a limited edition bag of Skittles are colorful. It's a semi-pastel wash that doesn't seem to match either the art from Thies or the story from Abnett. In some cases the coloring from Beredo seems to be doing a lot of the heavy lifting (and not very well). The two sides of the art seem to be telling a different story, and neither of those seem to agree with what kind of story they're telling. It isn't bad. There aren't any mistakes that are irredeemable, but they're mistakes that keep the book from being better than a competent licensed comic. That's a bummer, considering the potential that even something as silly as Predator (see: Predator: Fire and Stone).

Then again, I suppose Thies deserves some credit as far as the design of the world goes. He's got some chops as a mechanical draftsman, which sounds like it isn't much, but, seriously, you go out there and try drawing machinery that looks like it actually works. It's really hard. He also manages to embed references to the original 1990 AvP comic which is a nice, if superfluous touch.

But, of course, the most important touch is this:

Thies put the Cracked Tusk Predator from the Kenner AvP action figure line into the comic. There's two reasons for this: 1) He's lazy and used the figure (or the Neca update) as a physical reference or 2) Either him or Abnett did such a deep lore dive that they figured it would be cool for the superfans to see a twenty year old toy in their silly little comic book.

Well, I noticed, and I love it.

It's little things like that that this book needed more of. More weird stuff. More easter eggs. More joie de vivre. As it stands, it's a very nice book, I just see myself having any real future with it.

. . . That was weird. Don't know where that came from. . .

Anyways, like I said, all in all Predator: Life and Death #1-4 is fine. And as fine as it is and as glad as I am that anyone can get comic books made, I can't help but feel that this isn't the best project for Abnett's talents as a military sci-fi writer and that Thies could use a few more years in the oven before he's allowed to handle something as kinetic as this book. And Beredo? He'll be fine. Jordie Bellaire and Dave Stewart can only color so many books, right?

MONSTER OF THE MONTH/MONTHS/WHATEVER: There is none. It's just the predator. Unless you consider Man to be the ultimate monster. Which I don't. Because that sucks. I suppose a straight Predator story, if well executed, doesn't need a gimmick monster to make it worth reading. Predator: Life and Death is not in need of a silly monster. It's fine as it is. It'd just be nice, you know? It would be nice if there was something more to this story than what there currently is.

I give Predator: Life and Death THREE CHESTBURSTERS OUT OF FIVE. It's a likable, well put together action story, if entirely by the numbers.

ONE QUICK NOTE-- This is not the only Dan Abnett story on the shelves right now. Over the past five years or so Dan Abnett and his artist partner INJ Culbard have been quietly making some of the coolest science fiction books out there (The New Deadwardians and Dark Ages) and Wild's End is a continuation of that run.

Wild's End is-- and I want you to stick with me on this until I'm done saying what I've got to say-- is a retelling of War of the Worlds in the world of The Wind and the Willows. It's an alien invasion with anthropomorphic animals.

It's a conceit that allows for Culbard to do some pitch perfect cartooning and for Abnett's handle on the English vernacular to be that much more charming. It's a well written, beautifully illustrated book that I simply adore. I would highly recommend it to anyone. I also feel like after the amount of shit I just talked, I should say something nice about something. Well, there it is. Buy Wild's End.

IN OTHER NEWS: This series doesn't stop here. I will be covering Dark Horse's "Life and Death" story cycle for as long as it's going. That also means that I have an excuse to talk about other Aliens, Predator, and AvP comics because, boy howdy, have I been making some dumb decisions on eBay lately.

If that sounds appealing to you at all, then stand by. If that doesn't sound appealing to you, please send help.

Aliens: Defiance #1 and #2 are out as we speak (and are not part of the "Life and Death" cycle as I had assumed they were) and, just last week Prometheus: Life and Death #1 has come out as well. I'm working on those reviews as we speak.

More on the way, in the meantime, you can check out my previous run of reviews by searching for “James Versus Fire and Stone."

As far as other parts of this series (which includes Archie Versus Predator and Aliens/Vampirella), you can go here.

See you soon.