This week, after over thirty years with another publisher, a new interstellar species arrives at Marvel Comics with the debut of the ongoing Alien series! Does the xenomorphs’ first outing from the House of Ideas set itself apart from its predecessors?
We’ve got a review of Alien #1, as well as a Rapid Rundown of other new Marvel Comics titles, all ahead in this week’s installment of The Marvel Rundown!
Writer: Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Artist: Salvador Larroca
Color Artist: Guru-eFX
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Artist: InHyuk Lee
The first issue of the new Marvel Alien series has a lot of things it needs to do. For readers wholly unfamiliar with the franchise, it needs to introduce the key concepts and players of the universe in an interesting manner. For those who are well-versed in all things Alien, it needs to set up a story that’s not a rehash of what’s been seen before. For everyone, it needs to introduce compelling characters and be entertaining enough that they’ll want to come back for more. After reading the issue, though, I’m not sure how well Alien #1 accomplished any of those goals.
Written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, illustrated by Salvador Larroca and Guru-eFX, and lettered by Clayton Cowles, Alien #1 introduces Gabriel Cruz, a recently retired Weyand-Yutani employee who returns to Earth for the first time in years to try to reconnect with his son, and who suffers from horrific flashbacks to and dreams of a xenomorph attack that he somehow survived. The mystery surrounding Cruz’s past alien encounter, and his relationship with a Bishop model android that is basically his therapist, are both extremely engaging plotlines, but a central element of the issue, the strained dynamic between Gabriel and his son, Danny, feels tired and uninspired. After writing a nuanced, revelatory story about the relationship between a father and son in this month’s issues of Superman and Action Comics, Johnson’s tale here of an absentee father trying to connect with a son who is not only uninterested in doing so, but who is actively — and dangerously — rebelling against everything his father stands for, could not feel more standard and predictable. Where that leads Danny as the issue progresses somewhat redeems it, but it was still a disappointingly rote path to take to get to the good stuff.
It’s also hard not to notice that Alien #1 is an extremely male-dominated comic. Danny has a girlfriend, who we see pushing him into betraying his father’s trust in their first scene, and who doesn’t get a name until towards the end of the issue, after she shoots the second female character we meet, an unnamed Weyland-Yutani guard, in the face with a shotgun in the issue’s most truly shocking and unexpected moment of violence. The only other named female character is a Weyland-Yutani scientist who appears for a total of five panels before also being murdered. In fact, of the three people definitively shown being killed in this issue, two of them are women. I suppose it’s fine if you want all the main characters in your comic to be men (or male-presenting robots) — and perhaps there are more women to come, as it is only the first issue, after all — but for a franchise that is known for its iconic female protagonist, it feels like an odd choice to say the least to either sideline or outright kill the only female characters in the issue.
Salvador Larroca is no stranger to media tie-in comics, having worked for years on Marvel’s Star Wars titles. His heavy and obvious use of photo reference on those books was distracting to say the last, and I had hoped coming into Alien #1 that the nature of the series, which doesn’t use any characters from the movies, would mean he would get away from that. Unfortunately I’m not sure that’s the case, though — it certainly isn’t with the Bishop android, who’s the spitting image of late ‘80s Lance Henriksen. His figures all seem extremely posed, and even during tense scenes like a confrontation between Gabriel and Danny the characters are lifeless or completely static. There are scenes that are visually interesting and exciting, like Cruz’s dreams of the xenomorph attack or the issue’s closing action sequence, but they’re far outnumbered by the plot-heavy scenes filled with listless talking heads.
Overall at this point I can’t recommend the debut Marvel Alien comic to either new readers or longtime Alien fans. The characters and relationships so far are fairly trope-y, and the artwork definitely leaves something to be desired. I know Johnson has it in him to tell a compelling and inventive story, as he’s been doing it over at DC for the past few months already. Hopefully things will pick up and improve as the events of the issue’s close play out in the coming months.
Final Verdict: Skip.
- This issue is a solid transition and setup point for readers of Cable. After finding out that his much older future self’s clone Stryfe is still alive, Kid Cable is now on a mission to kill him. Like most of the current X-Books, this book has a piece of the Krakoan Society puzzle, clarifying some of the Krakoans Resurrection Protocols, which hint at a possible return of an older time-displaced mutant, and a showdown with Stryfe. Along the way writer Gerry Duggan and artist Phil Noto manage to squeeze in some teen angst and soap opera like family dynamics. Again a decent transition point in Cable’s story. —GC3
Carnage: Black, White, & Blood #1
- I have a soft spot in my heart for Carnage, a character who was rising in prominence just as I was really getting in to comics. I particularly loved the fourteen-part “Maximum Carnage” storyline, so imagine my utter delight when the first story in Carnage: Black, White, & Blood #1, from Tini Howard, Ken Lashley, and Juan Fernandez, was set between the panels of that nearly thirty-year-old story. It also helps that the story was damn good, as were the issue’s other offerings, a Carnage-themed western by Ben Percy, Sara Pichelli, and Mattia Iacono, and a choose-your-own-adventure-style story by Al Ewing, John McCrea, and Iacono in which you ‘play’ as Carnage. If you never saw the appeal of Carnage before, reading this book just might change your mind. —JG
Miles Morales: Spider-Man #24
- Miles has been through the ringer recently, what with dimension-hopping villains and invading symbiote gods proving a nuisance. Not to mention the whole anti-teen hero thing the government had going on for a while. This was a nice, mostly relaxing issue where Miles and Kamala Khan catch up in light of these recent events. For as low-stakes as everything was, this is one of my favourite issues of the series yet and even features a really intriguing scene where Miles loses his cool when confronting a slummy landlord, which is something I think a lot of people have been dealing with over the past year. In any case, it was a relatable issue and a nice palette-cleanser before the big Clone Saga begins next month. —HW
Next week: Beta Ray Bill, Silk, and Man-Thing!