With Aliens Resistance #2, the Dark Horse Comics publication continues the adventure of the underdogs against the mass corporation. By drawing on aspects from all over the Aliens franchise, the creators have produced a comic that it instantly familiar and hauntingly uncomfortable.
Like the game Alien Isolation, where one of the central characters comes from, Resistance is not a war on the Xenomorphs directly, but a fight for survival against something larger, something in control of everything else. This is a tale about two women fighting greed and arrogance. As such there are political undertones throughout.
The essence of this comic is the individual standing up against the faceless corporation. In the opening of this issue Brian Wood gives the reader exactly that. As the mystery deepens around the activities at the Weyland-Yutani Blacksite Wood uses a small act of resistance to illustrate the seeming futility of putting up a fight.
This sequence is a larger reflection on the story as a whole but also on modern government and corporations. It is about who has control and how that control is used. The orange suits worn by the evacuees in Aliens Resistance purposefully conjures up images of prisoners, political and civilian.
This overshadows everything that follows with Amanda Ripley and Zula Hendricks. Although they are the heroes, and as a reader you are rooting for them from the very beginning, Wood has laid an element of doubt whether they can succeed. As the story unfolds the struggle becomes greater and greater as the tension, likewise, increases.
One of the most surprising choices Wood has made is in his approach to the Xenomorphs in this issue. They were hinted at in the first issue, creeping around the outside of spaceships but the villains in this comic are clearly the synthetics in employ of Weyland-Yutani. They are literally representative of a faceless corporation and their gold, reflective masks show no sign of humanity or individuality.
The atmosphere created in Aliens Resistance is a perfect match for the Alien Isolation game which this series is a sequel to. The design of the space vessels and the industrial Blacksite, clinging to a rock in orbit of a barren planet, match up with the aesthetic created for the original Alien movie. Robert Carey uses extremely thin lines during inking so that he can get as much detail as possible into the panels. His landscape and architecture work is outstanding and creates an ideal setting for Woods story.
Carey’s figure work is a lot more expressive that you would expect after the scene setting first page. He drops a lot of the detail and simplifies the human features. He then manipulates the few lines to relay the emotion of the character. This provides a stark contrast to the machine-like Synthetics and the industrial settings, helping to highlight the themes in Woods script.
The flow of the story is enhanced by Nate Piekos’ lettering as the positioning of the speech balloons and captions lead the reader across the page. Although the lettering itself lacks character distinction, the emphasis within the dialogue creates a rhythm that builds anticipation. The emotional aspects of the speech, especially the nervousness, is evident and this is important for building atmosphere.
As with Carey’s pencils and inks, the coloring for the locations by Dan Jackson is exceptional. It produces a cinematic appearance to the settings, drawing the reader in. The look captures the aesthetic of the original film so well you can almost hear Jerry Goldsmith’s haunting music playing over the top.
Unfortunately, after the opening sequence, the colors on the characters themselves lacks depth; the two central characters especially have a ghostly quality to them. If the intention was to show that they are emotionally ‘cold’ in the same way as the synthetics then this would work, however the rest of the comic is opposed to that concept.
Aliens Resistance is an atmospheric story that slowly builds up the tension. It also has a poignant element by showing that Weyland-Yutani has control over life and that the company is above law and reason. How this fits in with the Xenomorphs is still to be seen, however, I don’t think it is too difficult to work out. All will be revealed soon.
Wood’s script is full of banter between the central characters and this plays out well as the comic progresses. From an art point of view, the atmosphere and location work is wonderful all-round. However, some elements lack the definition required to raise the emotional level up that extra notch.
As a single issue, Aliens Resistance #2 works well but I think it will be in the collection where it all comes together.