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When the Sky Was Opened
Superman / Aliens - Dan Jurgens
Member Name: Jake Speed
Superman / Aliens - Dan Jurgens
Advantages: Decent fun
Disadvantages: Art is a bit iffy at the start
"He came to earth in a rocket, a strange visitor from another planet. Now, years later, signals from space could be the beginning of a trail to his home planet Krypton. Can anything stop a man of steel from discovering his long-lost heritage? How about the most feared and deadly species in the galaxy?" Superman/Aliens is a comic crossover series by Dan Jurgens with art by Kevin Nowlan. It's one of those comics that sounds so preposterous you can't resist taking a look and the end result is better than one would expect. The premise of course is that Superman meets the fearsome, drooling, acid for blood lethal "Alien" creatures created by HR Giger for Ridley Scott. This is a Dark Horse comic and they were at the forefront on a new crossover trend in the nineties that saw all manner of encounters between various properties that you wouldn't ordinarily have expected. Marvel Comic heroes met DC ones, the Aliens had a smackdown with the Predators, Batman battled a Predator, Robocop battled Terminators, Judge Dredd squared off with Roger De Courcey and Nookie the Bear etc. It probably got out of hand in the end and often felt a bit too alternative universe but some surprisingly good collections emerged. The plot has Lex Luthor's Space Division investigating the transmission of a probe. Assigned to the story is Clark Kent in his capacity as a reporter for the Daily Planet newspaper. Clark is astonished to discover that the transmission is a Kryptonian distress call - his home planet of Kyrpton had of course been destroyed and he assumed he was the only survivor. He makes telepathic contact and discovers that a city survived the destruction of a planet and has survivors that are now running out of life sustaining materials. As Superman, he takes a ship deep into space to investigate and discovers the city and the people who are still alive (he sends them back to the Lexcorp Satellite in his ship). Staying behind to investigate further, Superman runs into one of the terrifying Aliens and soon realises they have been responsible for the terror inflicted on these people.
You'd expect the all powerful Superman to swat these Xenomorphs away as if they were fluffy cuddly toy teddy bears but there is a problem. As he is so far away from the sun that makes him Superman in the first place his powers are fading and so he is growing weaker all the while he is out in space. In his diminished condition the Aliens can hurt and kill him. He receives welcome assistance in the form of a woman named Kara from Argo City. Could this be his cousin? All will be revealed. Meanwhile, the survivors taken back to the Lexcorp satellite have been impregnated by the Aliens and begin spewing chestbursters. Lois Lane and Dr Cheryl Kimble (head of Lexcorp's space division) face a desperate battle themselves although - as ever - the scientist wants to study and obtain specimens. This story here shouldn't really work but somehow it just about does and emerges as an entertaining fusion of the comic incarnations of these two famous extraterrestrial characters. One factor that goes in favour of the comic is the fact that it was written by Dan Jurgens. Jurgens worked on the weekly DC Superman comic in the nineties and while I'm not sure if I regard this as a part of the Superman continuity there is a notable effort here to link it into the canon and make it feel like a true Superman story. So we get references to some past events, including Superman's battle with the Doomsday monster. The device of making Superman much weaker so that the Aliens are a real threat is a sensible (it would have been a fairly boring comic if the Aliens were no match for Superman) and effective ploy and generates a surprising amount of tension.
Superman and Kara are impregnated by the Aliens but as Superman has an Alien Queen inside of him it eventually makes them wary of hurting him. He must still escape though and regain his powers before the Queen has a chance to burst out of his chest so therefore it becomes a race against time. Is is relatively novel to see Superman in such a desperate situation and as this is such a vicious fight for survival he must wrestle with his vow to never kill a sentient creature. This is kill or be killed though and the Aliens are not bunny rabbits so this rule of Superman will be put to the most severe test. While the story is formulaic at times and riffs on the Alien films it is certainly never boring. It does though unavoidably always seems slightly jarring to see Superman in the same story as the Aliens. One is never quite sure they belong together in the same universe. It's reminiscent of that Batman v Predator comic in this sense. It's fun to see Batman pitting his wits against a Predator but it never completely feels right. The device of using Kara from Argo City (fans of the film Supergirl will enjoy this reference) is a mildly interesting device to create a bit of intrigue and they do answer the question as to the true nature of her identity in the end. The art by Kevin Nowlan is a definite plus for the book with one or two reservations.
Once the story moves to the far reaches of space and the Aliens are introduced it becomes darker and more atmospheric with good detail and a sense of foreboding. There are some nice splash pages too alongside the main bulk of the story. The quibble would be the art during the more conventional panels at the beginning of the book. Clark Kent and Lois Lane are drawn to look more like dated catalogue models than their usual professional selves. Clark in particular is given a ridiculous oversized suit and a mullet hair cut that makes him look like some naff eighties pop star rather than a buttoned down journalist for a newspaper. I didn't really care much for the depiction of him early on but it improves when he dons his Superman clobber and ventures out into the galaxy to investigate the strange distress signal. Superman/Aliens is maybe a little predictable but it develops a fair amount of tension in the end as the plot becomes a race against time for the Man of Steel as he battles to reach safety and an environment where his powers will return before the Alien Queen hatches forth from his chest. Comics like this are obviously curiosities as much as anything but this one is more solid and entertaining than I had expected it to be and not bad at all. Fans of Superman and the Alien films and comics should certainly find it readable and of interest. This is a darker and more violent story than we are used to seeing Superman in and so always quite enjoyable for this reason alone. Nothing great but a fun undemanding read nonetheless. Superman/Aliens runs to over 100 pages and at the time of writing curious fans of both of these extraterrestrial icons can pick this up for about £6.
Summary: Undemanding nonsense
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