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Aliens Vs Predator Omnibus Volume 1 is a 2007 compilation by Dark Horse of the comic series of the same name and collects issues that date back as far as the late eighties. The Alien and Predator film franchises may have petered out sooner than expected but the memorable creations of HR Giger and Stan Winston got a new lease of life in comics when someone had the clever idea of pitting them against one another in the most anticipated monster smackdown since King Kong fought Godzilla. I think the stories in the Aliens continuation comics were more interesting and inventive than the screenplays for the last couple of Alien films and the Aliens Vs Predator comic - on the evidence here - is also a lot better than the two very forgettable Aliens Vs Predator films we were served up a few years back. This was an obvious case of a decent comic not really working as a film for some reason and the main storyline in this graphic novel is far more engaging and compelling than the one used in the big screen incarnation. This is a fairly large book (over 400 pages) and made up of several different stories that are for the most part enjoyable and never dull. Some of these are only a couple of issues long and the most salient part of the collection is the title story at the start of the book. It begins on Ryushi, a far distant planet that has only just recently been colonised by humans. Ryushi is a sun baked desert planet with nineteen hours of daylight and run by the Chigusa Corporation (this comic derives from that period of history when America was paranoid that Japan was on the verge of becoming the greatest economic superpower in the world and would probably run just about everything in the future - including space). The smallish colony on the arid planet is made up mostly of ranchers and cowboy types who raise quadrupedal ungulates called rhynth (basically alien cows I suppose) for export. It's a lucrative business apparently and Ryushi looks a lot like a landscape in a Western film albeit one with two suns and mountains that have a strange pink hue.
What the Chigusa Corporation and the colonists on the planet don't know is though that Ryushi has been used by the Predators as a hunting ground for many centuries. We learn that the Predators have been traversing the galaxy and seeding planets with Alien eggs in order to give them lethal and challenging game reserves worthy of their legendary and ruthless hunting abilities. These Predators do need to find some new hobbies I think. They should try staying in one night with a cup of tea and relaxing. One of the planets they seed Alien eggs on (via a remote control shuttle of some sort that lands undetected by the colony sensors in the desert) is Ryushi. When the Alien eggs infect one of the rhynth (the alien cows in case you've forgotten already) it becomes a host for an Alien Queen. Carnage quickly ensues and the planet soon has a virtually unstoppable infestation of Aliens. The only sure defence against the Aliens is probably to be on a different planet. When the Predators show up to hunt the Aliens the human colonists are now caught in the middle of this vicious interstellar skirmish and a three way battle breaks out. But the Predators were unaware that an Alien Queen was left here by their shuttle and they might have bitten off more than they can chew just for once. They may even need some human assistance despite their natural inclination to hunt us for sport. The art in Aliens Vs Predator is not always spellbinding but this is an entertaining enough comic that fans of these famous cinematic characters and comics in general should enjoy. There are different artists and writers involved as you work your way through and so unfortunately the collection never really has the same atmosphere throughout and often feels quite different from one story to the next. Sometimes the art is slightly random in its structure and then elsewhere it will be very traditional like an old fashioned weekly comic. I thought the art in the Aliens individual comic titles was better to be honest but are some striking and enjoyable flourishes here.
The central character here (and essentially the Sigourney weaver of the comic) is Machiko Noguchi, the Chigusa Corporation's administrator. She begins the story as the corporate boss in a business suit, completely detached and aloof from the planet and workers she has been sent to preside over. Noguchi can't seem to put her stamp on Ryushi and make any connection to the ranchers but all of this changes when the Aliens and Predators arrive. Noguchi helps to save the life of a Predator named Broken Tusk and is given the mark of his clan out of respect. She becomes an action heroine. So the Predators now treat her with respect and she becomes like an adopted Predator, living with them and becoming a part of their hunting expeditions. Noguchi has a story arc that makes Halo Jones look like Thora Hird. Further story arcs involve the investigation of the loss of the colony on Ryushi by soldiers from Earth and a stand-off with the Predators results with Noguchi caught in the middle between her adopted race and her true species. The comic is not Alan Moore n terms of subtext and depth but it does quite a nice job of introducing some interesting themes about loyalty and what it means to be human. The art in the first part of the story seems very old fashioned (it becomes much glossier and more modern feeling in later arcs) but I never really disliked any of it. There is a nice splash page in particular of a desert scene on the colony, the two suns high in the sky and the skeleton of a rhynth sitting on rocks. Some of the architecture of the colony is a nice riff on James Cameron's Aliens. The Aliens vs Predator action - when it finally arrives - is a lot of fun.
The Predator shuttle making its ay through the atmosphere of the colony to deliver its deadly payload it is done in an entertaining three panel down the page format with splodgy yellow vapour trails adding a pleasantly psychedelic tint to the page. The sun baked location (in contrast to the cold metallic spaceships and dark corridors of the films) One of the things I actually liked most of all here was a black and white prologue of the Predators leaving Alien eggs on a planet (where the curious wildlife soons falls victim to the facehuggers) and then returning to hunt Aliens in what appears to be a giant swamp. They even have what looks to be a younger Predator with them being taught the rules of the hunt. The whole sequence (which lasts for several pages) is juxtaposed with bored computer programmers on Ryushi sitting in a control bored and pondering how their job is one that anyone could do. They don't really feel alive or do something that gets their heart pumping and go into something of a rant against technology. One of the most interesting things about this comic I think is the way that it provides more background to the Predators and their traditions. They might be intergalactic serial killers who live to kill things but the comic always makes them seem quite noble with their own codes and sense of honour. They are a warrior society where everything revolves around hunting prowess and being the strongest and most determined. One of the best stories here simply involves a Predator hunt and features little or no dialogue.
Aliens Vs Predator Omnibus Volume 1 is an entertaining read if you are a fan of the characters although it isn't something that sticks in the memory for too long and is something you just enjoy at the time rather than an essential book that you would return to again and again. This is not The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or The Dark Knight Returns. It isn't as gruesome as you might expect although the language is occasionally a little crude and might be unsuitable for younger readers. This is a decent read but nothing amazing. At the time of writing you can buy this for £16. I'd wait for a much better deal than that to surface.