Aliens Omnibus 3 is another Dark Horse compilation (in this case from 2008) of the limited issue nineties comics based on the famous 20th Century Fox film franchise. There are seven different stories here and while some are better than others most are more interesting than the film screenplays they used for the third and fourth entries. The enjoyable thing about these comics is the way that they do their own thing within the Alien universe created by Ridley Scott and James Cameron and so are continuation or alternate stories. I enjoyed this collection slightly more than the second omnibus although I still think the first collection is the best one. The first story here is called Rogue and was published in 1993 over four issues. It was written by Ian Edginton with the art primarily by Will Simpson. Rogue revolves around the secret Charon Base where a corporate spy called Kray is sent to investigate the work of research director Ernst Kleist. Kleist has been conducting experiments with the alien creatures and believes that with genetic science he can make these most fearsome and dangerous of predators obedient and even tame should we wish them to be. Somehow I don't think this is going to have a happy ending. We soon gather that Kleist might be a few nebula clusters short of a galaxy and his arrogance and single minded determination could lead to disaster. The Marines at the base are very unhappy about Kleist and Kray and his pilot Joyce Palmer become more and more uneasy as they unravel the scientist's dark secrets. Kleist's most dangerous scheme is his genetically engineered Alien King or "Rogue" Xenomorph. How will the captive Queen react if this monstrous duo of acid for blood alien terrors ever come face to face?
I liked Rogue and it seemed to have a few story elements that Alien Resurrection pilfered from. The mad scientist trying to tame the aliens is very Dr Logan Day of the Dead and a solid premise for the comic. What was maybe a bit grating at times though was some of the writing. Edginton sometimes feels as if he is trying too hard with the standard panel insert commentary. "A primal affirmation of life or survival... echoing noiselessly at the periphery of the senses!" The art is very of its time and even a little conveyer belt but I have some comics from this era and so enjoyed the Marvel meets Aliens aura it captures. The Aliens were never as scary as they should be though and one yearned for a bit more detail sometimes. The colour scheme is very weekly comic from a bygone decade. Yellow, red, purple and not always a huge amount of background. The Alien King McGuffin is not bad and although the last part of the story is unavoidably predictable it remains an entertaining and well thought out story with some nice flourishes. It riffs on Aliens a lot too which I quite liked - especially near the start. Sacrifice is from the same year as the previous story and was written by Peter Milligan with atmospheric art by Paul Johnson. The art here is painted rather than the conventional pencils and inks of the first story and much more ambitious and haunting. The story is a good one too. A woman named Ann McKay is stranded on a remote planet and finds a besieged village that has an alien roaming around the perimeter hunting in the jungle. The villagers hide a big secret which we uncover over the course of the story. This is awash with religious imagery and subtext and a genuinely interesting and spooky story with some well placed revelations. This is the least action oriented of the stories and works all the better for it but the art is the real star. This is shorter than most of the stories here but arguably the strongest.
Labyrinth was written by Jim Woodring and illustrated by Kilian Plunkett. This is another good story. On the space station Innominata, Dr Paul Church is conducting illegal behavioural experiments on the aliens to see if he can establish predictable patterns. Are they afraid of anything? What would make them retreat from an attack? What are their standard tactics when they hunt humans? How intelligent are they? Church believes the creatures work on a telekinetic hive mind wavelength and are rather like ants. But his experiments have cost the lives of humans on the station and he's about to be investigated by Colonel Doctor Anthony Crespi. Labyrinth is similar in construction to the first story but very good with nicely atmospheric art. It's quite creepy at times and I like the way it becomes a murder mystery too when Church comes under the radar of the authorities. There are some good flashback panels here when we get the extraordinary background of Church and once again the space station setting proves to be solid enough with some nice panels of the station interiors. Salvation was by Dave Gibbons with art by Mike Mignola and Kevin Nowlan. This is another solid story again with a religious theme. It reminded me somewhat of the film Pitch Black - which of course this comic predates by several years. This is a Xenomorph desert island tale and a scary one too with wonderful art that reminded me of an Alan Moore book. A ship crash lands on a strange planet that is rather One Million Years B.C but - unknown to them - something very nasty was in their cargo and is now at large on the planet surface as they try to survive. The whole story is constructed as a chaplain's plea to God as he tries to hold onto his strong sense of faith in the most testing circumstances.
This is a simple but absorbing tale and works well by being somewhat atypical of these comics. The writing is spare and lean without too many purple panel insertions and there are some good surreal interludes. Nice twist here (which Pitch Black might have ripped off) where one of the shipwrecked crew is bonkers and might be as big a threat as the alien. Advent/Terminus - by Anina Bennet with art by Paul Guinan - is not so strong as some of the previous stories and the art is certainly less memorable than the previous two. This was a short two part story and concerns a trip to an ancient pyramid where, as ever in the Alien universe, humans might get more than they bargained for. This is readable but feels perfunctory in terms of storytelling and also (and obviously this is not a great thing) reminded me of the films Galaxy of Terror and Alien vs Predator. Alien vs Predator was made many years after so I can only presume someone here had been watching Galaxy of Terror. Reapers is very brief (it was a short story in a 50th Anniversary special) and by John Arcudi with art by Simon Bisley. This is practically wordless and concerns another race of aliens - clad in green armour - on the alien homeworld hunting Xenomorphs. It all builds to an amusing little twist at the end and although very short and not something that sticks in the memory much it passes the time well enough while you are reading it and the art is not bad at all. The last story is called Horror Show and is probably the most confusing thing here. It was written by Sarah Byam and illustrated by David Roach and plays out in three parts.
This concerns at outpost on the Moon being haunted by dreams about the aliens. One man decides to turn this to his advantage. The art here is less interesting than some of the middle arcs in this collection and I felt the story was just too strange for its own good in the end. It does tie in with the theme of this collection though. The sense that the aliens have now woven themselves into the fabric of the memory of man and can never be forgotten. I enjoyed Aliens Omnibus 3 although it's a shame that the strike rate just started to dip a little towards the end. It you do have a weakness for old comics and all things Alien then you should enjoy this collection although you should probably make sure you start with the first and second Dark Horse compilations otherwise you probably won't have the faintest idea what is going on (there are some recurring characters from previous comics here). This is a bumper read at over 300 pages and at the time of writing can be picked up from about eight pounds.