Aliens: Defiance (Volume 1 & 2)
by Brian Wood and Tristan Jones
Dark Horse Comics
Go on. Admit it. You’re as monomaniacal about the perfect organism as The Weyland-Yutani Corporation’s Bio-Weapons Division is. And much like the USCSS Nostromo‘s Chief Science Officer’s white circulatory fluid-spattered severed synthetic head, you admire its purity. Ergo, you’re quite likely to find Dark Horse’s recently published 12-issue limited series to be the kind of thing you may wanna get a little fucking crazy about.
Author Brian Wood’s tenure on this title has given what the franchise’s extended comic book macrocosm needed a good shot of: strong characterisation. Meet Colonial Marine Private First Class Zula Hendricks, dear reader — modelled on the precursory bravura of Ellen Ripley most certainly; but that’s the first goddamned principle of Aliens dramaturgy: it riffs on the generality of the distaff role’s putative inferiority — and then subverts the shit out of it with unyielding animus. I understand that this isn’t really the place for anatomising the enunciation of feminist theses in the current history of Anglo-American popular entertainment; however, I think it’s apt to restate how Sigourney Weaver’s heroine sealed her forte for the kind of badass pragmatism that could countervail all the machismo in the room when she went head-to-head with an Alien Queen and handed the bitch her own hindquarters at the end of James Cameron’s Aliens, making her one of Hollywood’s toughest action movie icons. And although PFC Hendricks isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a superlative incarnation of Lieutenant Ripley, she sure as hell ain’t allowing the profiteering scum that sit on Weyland-Yutani’s board to get their grubby little hands on a live specimen. Fuck no. And I haven’t even mentioned the androids yet.
Coinciding with the commencement of Alien: Covenant‘s principal photography, the first issue of Wood’s book hit retailer’s shelves back in April of 2016, and in spite of that fact that I’ve been faithfully invested in the mythos ever since my first close encounter with H.R. Giger’s designs for the xenomorph in the pages of The Book Of Alien — which I found on the shelves of my primary school library when I was but a wee bairn — to say that I was punching the air and hollering “YES!” like a solipsistic Tom Cruise over Ridley Scott’s new movie and all the preludial comic books and shit would be an exaggeration. I may have been overheard absent-mindedly whistling the string arrangement from James Horner’s ‘Main Title’ from Aliens; but for the most part, the book’s core creative partnership of Wood and Jones was the predominating draw. And they don’t disappoint.
Wood’s tale is driven by the pivotal dramatic tension that lies at the heart of the human-alien-android trinity — an important plot observance that was rather oddly held in abeyance by the screenwriting teams for Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection — without studiously miring itself in the ill-conceived theogonies and the grandiose quests for absolute meaning that Prometheus and Alien: Covenant found themselves uncomfortably up to their nuts in. Fortunately, there aren’t any Engineers to be seen here, folks. And thank fuck for that. It leaves Defiance free to trade in the franchise’s defining elements — claustrophobia, paranoia and terror — whilst illustrating that it’s also entirely possible to be thought provoking in a way that is nothing like Sir Ridley Scott trying to guarantee bored audiences that the flakey, pseudo-conceptual horseshit of his last two Aliens movies might make profound sense with five more expository sequels.
And last but not least — a tip of the hat to Tristan Jones’ legerdemain on pencils and inks. He’s got the hang of how it all works, along with a style that gives Wood’s story it’s leading edge on Dark Horse’s contemporaneously published Fire and Stone and Life and Death movie tie-ins. Harking back to Syd Mead’s futurist industrial design for Scott’s Alien, it’s a virtuoso performance; and yes, the widescreen paneling and opening title sequence to each issue seem like an affectation of sorts — until you realise that this comic’s way fucking better than anything 20th Century Fox has delivered since perfecting the art and science of hiring some of the most uninspired screenwriters in the business to script Aliens movies.
And there you have it. A selfless heroine with exemplary ethical focus. A neonatal alien queen. A rogue Weyland-Yutani combat synthetic. And lots of nasty xenomorphs — whose famed hostilty has always made them a refreshing counterpoint to that cutesy and saccharine E.T. shit Steven Spielberg tried so hard to emotionally manipulate us all with. And alongside the whole enterprise’s other villain — Weyland-Yutani — doing what it does best, Aliens: Defiance fires on all fucking cylinders and then some.
Well? What are you waiting for, sweethearts? You know the drill. Assholes and elbows. Get down to your local comic book store, reach into your pockets, and lend a little support for these upstanding gentlemen tout de suite. Tell ‘em I sent ya.