Aliens Dust to Dust #1 Review
Writer and artist: Gabriel Hardman
Colors by Rain Beredo
Letters by Michael Heisler
Cover by Garbriel Hardman
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Not enough gets said these days about the consistently high quality of just about every Aliens book that gets released by Dark Horse. These days we have a comic market overflowing with outstanding indie books crowding out the shelves and the culture at large seems to be riding an endless wave of nostalgia exploitation. There is a comic right now for virtually every thing I ever grew up with and amazingly most of it is worth reading. Aliens is no exception and more often than not should be considered as a benchmark for the industry.
Dark Horse’s Aliens has for years been one of the shining examples of how to properly make a licensed property comic. They have often offered a more satisfying experience of that world in accord with source material beyond the first two movies that virtually every other movie sequel and video game that came after has clearly not. While at times these Aliens books have weaved their own interconnected universe and established its own compelling mythology, it has also maintained a level of immediacy and readability that is friendly to a new or casual reader.
As much as I love the various licensed property comics that come out from certain other companies it is difficult if not impossible to pick up a random issue and have any clue what is going on unless you have been reading that franchise for years a. For your average Aliens book on the other hand I don’t think you necessarily need to have even seen any of the movies let alone read everything to date to immediately get drawn into the story.
Writer/artist Gabriel Hardman now continues that tradition with a visceral, explosive, pulse pounding and unnerving first issue to Aliens Dust to Dust. Hardman takes the idea of “in media res” seriously as we open the story with twelve year old Maxom and his mother as they are woken up in the middle of the night and are plunged into the nightmare of a complete xenomorph infestation of planet LV-871. With the entirety of the issue being their flight through a dying city to the spaceport in a frantic and desperate attempt to escape the xenomorphs.
While this first installment is little more than one single chase scene it is that simplicity that enables Hardman to have a laser tight focus on what he wants to do and to deliver a satisfying first issue. It’s rare to pick up a comic, any comic, and be confronted with the level of tension and dire feeling of hopelessness that this book does.
The art is often scratchy, jagged and borders on expressionistic. The xenomorphs shown to be a chaotic expression of malice and darkness as they emerge from shadows or when we can just vaguely see their silhouetted forms scurrying up a building. Even the streets and stairwells are drawn with such frenzied sharp edges that all the world seems ready to cut the characters to pieces. There is no overly complicated mental plot nor any heart wrenching drama – Hardman is hitting you right in the gut in both story and visuals, and it works.
Gabriel Hardman has an impressive comics resume – having worked on projects as wide ranging as Planet of the Apes to Agents of Atlas to Invisible Republic but it is seemingly his time spent as a story board artist in Hollywood where he worked on such films as Logan, Interstellar and Dark Knight Rises that Hardman is pulling from here. He seems to know the perfect moment to capture with his art and the entire book has a cinematic feel that even most other Aliens comics do not have.
Colorist Rain Beredo (X-Men Blue, Gold and Astonishing) knows just when to embellish Hardman’s art and uses exactly the right palette to convey the concrete and steel of a developed Weyland-Yutani colony as it goes up in flames, blood and xenomorph acid.
Michael Heisler’s lettering has a nice organic feel and seems hand drawn. Whether they actually are or not, its impossible to tell these days but I’m just going to assume they are. His sound effects are minimal yet expressive and always well placed. They never overpower a panel and come across as being a synchronous complete package with Hardman’s art. In one panel Heisler has to get across the simultaneous sounds of tires on a road as xenomorph acid is eating away the tires. That Heisler pulls it off with clarity is impressive.
Aliens Dust to Dust #1 is yet another strong addition to the Dark Horse Aliens universe and possibly one of the more intense horror comics we’ve seen in awhile. Exactly the kind of first issue that will appeal to both long time fans of the comics as well as casual fans of the films. It is brutal, spare, and leaves you on a moment that shows that this comic and the creative team is not messing around.