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Alien Annual #1: More Than Just Another Bug Hunt

Marvel’s Alien relaunches with a new #1 next month, but before that happens Quinn Hesters has some thoughts on the annual.

Like Gabriel Cruz, the corporate soldier in this comic who is assigned a very special mission, I thought this issue was going to go one way, but it went another. The story sees the sinister Weyland-Yutani Corporation attempting to kill two birds with one stone by field-testing their newly acquired xenomorph on some vigilantes who have overtaken one of the company’s industrial stations. Weyland-Yutani sends Gabriel and a fireteam of soldiers to accompany the creature on its way to its victims, as well as an android to document the xenomorph’s “effectiveness”.

This story takes place after Aliens, which establishes that newer androids have safeguards to keep them from allowing humans to be harmed. To get around this, they put the mind of an older, more morally flexible model of android into the body of a newer “combat synth”, a secret that they keep from the soldiers. If you’ve ever watched the movies, you’ll immediately know that it’s Ash from Alien way before he dramatically reveals that he’s Ash from Alien.

Written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Art by Salvador Larroca, Colours by Guru-eFX, Lettering by VC’s Clayton Cowles / MARVEL

You can also easily predict that all of the soldiers who think they’re not going to see any action will inevitably be slaughtered by the alien. However, while the overall plot is fairly conventional, the specifics of how it plays out aren’t. Things go awry when the vigilantes hit the ship with a rocket before it can reach the station, stranding the crew inside. The undercover Ash, like the one in the movie, goes into full “crew expendable” mode as the surviving humans aboard the ship are the only ones he can use to study the xenomorph’s killing capabilities. From here, you’d think that the story would focus on Gabe going around the spaceship and being badass while remaining cool in the face of unimaginable horror, but Ash manages to remove him from the board early on, because surprise, bitch, this comic is actually the murder robot’s story.

I was honestly very worried that I’d have to slog through “Alien, but this time Ripley is replaced by a beefy man with a big gun”, but Phillip Kenedy Johnson really took things in a refreshing direction. Also, I definitely have to commend his dialogue. From the heartless corporate speak of the Weyland-Yutani higher-ups to the fireteam teasing their synthetic companion, it all feels natural. Even Ash’s “the alien is a beautiful, perfect organism” monologue feels more gripping and authentic than the franchise’s many other attempts to have similar characters express their unhealthy admiration for the xenomorphs. Truth be told, the writing doesn’t really do anything revolutionary, but what it does do, it does satisfyingly well.

Written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Art by Salvador Larroca, Colours by Guru-eFX, Lettering by VC’s Clayton Cowles / MARVEL

Even Larroca’s art isn’t as bad as it usually is… but it really isn’t good either. I’m still astonished that Marvel continues to hire him (I guess he’s good at meeting deadlines), and when they announced that they were going to do Alien comics in late 2020, my interest immediately evaporated when I saw that he would be doing the art. I read through one of the previous arcs from this run on Marvel Unlimited, and it confirmed most of my worst fears. However, in this annual, Larroca’s faces only sometimes look like wax figures under hot lights, his xenomorphs only occasionally seem to be tracings of awkwardly posed action figures, and his sense of scale and dimensions often aren’t horrible. In fact, this is probably one of the most tolerable Larroca comics I’ve ever read.

But I won’t pretend that I didn’t cheer when I reached the end and saw an ad proclaiming that Alien is launching with a new #1 next month, and Larroca isn’t returning. That alone is enough to finally make me at least a little excited about the future of Marvel’s Alien comics.

By Quinn Hesters

Quinn is a vat-grown living advertisement created by the LEGO Company to promote their products. When he's not being the flesh-and-blood equivalent of a billboard, he's raving about the X-Men on Twitter.

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