For those of you disappointed by events in Alien 3 and who long to forget the complete and utter tragedy that was Alien 4, this graphic novel comes as a healthy antidote ~ providing an alternative sequel to the James Camerons Aliens film and set in a reality where Newt and Hicks from that film managed to survive.
Ten years after Aliens ended, Newt is now in a special facility; plagued as a young woman by nightmares and flashbacks about her experiences on Acheron and unable to forget or get past what happened there. Hicks is likewise affected by nightmares but has dealt with his trauma differently by becoming a violent alcoholic. Fear and paranoia that his scarred face means he has been contaminated in some way by the Alien keep his Marine colleagues distant and he has few (if any) friends.
And then a ship almost arrives on Earth carrying one of the Aliens and suddenly both their nightmares look like becoming real again!
Approached by a Goverment Agent, Hicks is given an offer he cannot afford to lose. To track the co-ordinates the ship came from and take a team back to the Aliens homeworld; the intention ~ to gather specimens. Hicks has his own, personal reasons for going but decides to break out Newt and take her with him hoping that the mission may just give her the catharsis that she needs to move past her previous traumatic experiences and give her a chance to move on with her life.
But things are further complicated when a Biological Weapons company learns of the cereatures and plans to utilise the Alien as a new breed of weaponry; seeing the Goverment mission as their competition.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, a new Religious Cult based around images of the Alien springs up; worshipping the Aliens as their new God and wishing nothing more than to serve them as sacrifice. They have their own motives for making contact with the Alien and trust me when I say THEIR intentions are even less than honourable than anybody elses....
This is a grim, gritty alternative sequel to the Alien films that provides a glimpse of a similar kind of future depicted in Bladerunner. Big Multi-Corporations now possess all the power and are obsessed with controlling the masses and keeping them in line. Also, all they are interested in is maintaining the status quo with little care for the individual or the consequences of their actions. Sound familiar?
This black and white trade paperback is an awesome, awesome tale that encaptures all of the claustrophobia, al of the terror and ALL of the fear of the original two Alien movies and offers a much better alternative take to future offerings from the franchise. It goes back to the roots behind the first two movies and as such can be better regarded as the true sequel to those films! I also like the way the writers have chosen here to eschew Ripley in favour of the two arguably stronger, supporting characters from the Aliens film. This is a brave move but also one that kind of works.....
As an aside, Dark Horse later re-edited this book after the release of Aliens 3 so that it better fit into the movie time-line. A paperback novel adaptation was also released, likewise edited to change the names of the two main characters so that they were no longer called Newt and Hicks but instead Wilkes and Billie. I can understand why they did this but it is this version that I prefer and the one that you can still obtain if you search hard enough on Amazon!
Aliens: Book One is a graphic novel by Mark Verheiden and Mark Nelson and was first published in comic form in 1988. The story is set ten years after the events of James Cameron's Aliens and is essentially a sequel to that film. As the comic was written well before Alien³ appeared, Hicks and Newt are central characters here with Ripley mentioned but not part of the story. When Alien³ killed off Hicks and Newt, Dark Horse Comics, in order to maintain continuity with the film series, ludicrously released a new version of this where Hicks and Newt had different names - and also coloured the atmospheric black and white art. The original b/w version here with Hicks and Newt is the book as it was intended to be and happily reads as if the awful Alien³ was never made. Aliens: Book One begins with a 'Ten Years Later...' blurb. Newt is now a young woman being held in some sort of high tech mental facility and plagued by nightmares about her encounter with the Alien creatures on Acheron - the bleak planet colony where everyone apart from her was wiped out. Corporal Hicks, one of only three survivors from Aliens with Newt and Ripley, is also having nightmares.
Hicks is in jail on drunk and disorderly charges and with his acid scarred face he's had a tough time since he got back from Acheron with everyone eager to keep him at arms length for fear of what he might have contracted from the Aliens. Hicks is released though by some high ranking government bods after a junked freighter brings back one of the Aliens before it is scuttled - the Alien still managing to kill some 'Coast Guard' employees who worked getting rid of derelict ships in orbit. A character called Orona tells Hicks that they have course trajectories from the destroyed ship and now know where the Alien homeworld is. 'You seek redemption,' Orona tells Hicks. 'I seek specimens.' Hicks is asked to lead a mission to the Alien homeworld and decides he will rescue Newt first and take her with him.
What Hicks doesn't know is that a ruthless and powerful company known as Bionational intends to be first to get hold of the Alien creatures for biological weapons purposes. Bionational secretly launches its own ship to stop Hicks and the government mission at all costs. The company has also got hold an officer from the freighter that brought an Alien back to Earth after intercepting his escape pod. He is now in a medical lab being monitored with one of the face huggers attached to him. As if all of this wasn't enough, a sinister cult group has somehow gained an image of the Alien creature and begun to worship it. They are also very eager to make contact with the Aliens at any cost.
Aliens: Book One is a good read on the whole. It's dark and complex, the black and white art is very effective and at over 157 pages it will keep you occupied for a few days. The story here is far more inventive and interesting than the one cobbled together for the dreadful Alien³ and it does make you wonder why they made that film with such a weak story when there were myriad ideas for the Alien series floating around. Ripley is not in this one for some reason (although she returned in later comics) but the story uses Hicks and Newt in a competent way, both fleshing the characters out and giving them the baggage of Cameron's Aliens. We get an ambitious complicated plot in Aliens: Book One where no one can be trusted - least of all governments and powerful companies. I really liked the way the book picks up on the first two Alien films and assumes you know them well with flashback scenes for Newt and Hicks and much more about the origin of the Aliens and how they may have been released from their natural environment to wreak havoc in the universe like a virus.
The book is quite gruesome at times and the Aliens are certainly well drawn and brought to life - with some great drawings of the Alien Queen in particular. The story contains some nice ideas and touches too like the way that television is now reduced to a ray that taps into your retina and automatically changes when you want to look at something new. With so many channels television became something new and uncontrollable dominated by nutcases and religious groups - like the cult group that worships the Alien. The story is about the redemption of Hicks and the general hubris of man in believing that he can somehow control the Alien creatures to use for profit. In Aliens: Book One humans believe technology has allowed them to evolve beyond hunter and prey but they are of course very wrong and all hell breaks loose in a variety of ways. The character of Newt is quite nicely developed too. Hicks rescues her when the asylum is about to wipe her memory because if she doesn't remember Acheron then the sacrifice of that mission will only reside in him.
In this story humans are just as bad as the Aliens and tend to deserve whatever comes around to them. I found it quite interesting that the book is just as concerned with political conspiracy and corporate ethics as Alien carnage and fleshes out the background themes that were present but never really dealt with in the first two Alien films. This is a strong graphic novel overall, if perhaps a little dense at times. Once or twice I did struggle slightly to remember exactly who was who. The black and white art is surprisingly effective, we get a trip to the Alien homeworld, much speculation on the Aliens origins and nature, plus the beginning of what might possibly be the end for planet Earth. Best of all though the story continues with Hicks and Newt as if Alien³ never existed at all.