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Welcome back superhero enthusiasts, 1990s culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! Today we go back to the year 1990 to take a close look at one of the more significant non-superhero crossover comic books events ever published – Aliens vs. Predator!
For the newcomers reading this, the respective movie franchises of Aliens and Predator started many years before the comic book crossover event happened. By the year 1990, moviegoers had enjoyed Alien (1979), Aliens (1986), Predator (1987) and Predator 2 (late 1990). Cinematic between Arnold Schwarzenneger and the Predator in the jungle and that of Sigourney Weaver and the Queen Alien became unforgettable sequences for many millions of people. It should be noted that an Alien head was shown near the end of Predator 2 emphasizing a crossover.
With those details laid down, here is a look back at Aliens vs. Predator #1, published in 1990 by Dark Horse Comics with a story written by Randy Stradley and drawn by Phill Norwood.
The story begins in space when a fast-moving ship enters the atmosphere of Ryushi, a planet at the edge of the Chigusa Corporation’s holdings in the Beta Cygni System. On the planet is Prosperity Wells, a human outpost with a population of one hundred fifteen composed of freelance ranchers, their families and a staff of corporate overseers.
The ship’s presence gets detected by operators at Prosperity Wells and one of them speculated it to be a meteor that shows no signs of breaking up. Seeking Hiroki Shimura (no longer the head of the outpost), the operator instead contacts his replacement Michiko Noguchi and informs her about the perceived meteor. After talking with the operator, Noguchi tells her predecessor near her that even though she has been leading the outpost for nearly six months, people are still reporting to him as they treat her like a stranger. Shimura tells her that she’s been trying to adapt the job to her rather than adapting herself to it, and that she cannot just run an operation while hiding from it.
Meanwhile in the wilderness, a machine (connected with the ship that entered the planet’s atmosphere) starts to climb out of the pit and starts releasing Alien eggs…
I can say that this comic book is essentially one long build-up that intends to execute the conflict between the Aliens (also referred to as the Xenomorphs) and Predators later. While the two galactic species are indeed here, the narrative is told mainly through the humans whose operations – ranching, business administration, outpost activities – are emphasized with heavy and precise details. The result here is that by the end of the comic book, you will be fully immersed with the sci-fi concept, the characters and the related developments which ultimately will prepare you for the inevitable Aliens-Predator conflict. To put it clearly, Stradley crafted a script that efficiently introduces the characters (note: Noguchi is the clear protagonist), emphasize what has been going on while also moving the story forward in a well-paced manner without compromising the details.
That being said, don’t expect the Aliens and Predators to fight each other immediately here. This is one big build-up as a whole and very notably, there is nothing boring and there were no useless scenes portrayed. Everything told and shown in this comic book made sense, and if you are the kind of person who likes paying close attention to details of the story as well as the gradual development of the key characters, you will find this one an engaging read. The narrative moved at a medium pace and cleverly the suspense happens whenever the creative team gradually build-ups the tension for the inevitable Aliens-Predators fight.
As with many other entertainment tales across varied media forms, this story has a critical portrayal of the corporation slightly emphasizing greed while making the contractors (technically the laborers) look disadvantaged. It is not a one-sided portrayal against corporatism, however, as there were moments showing the contractors relying on deception (note: disregarding quality and the safety of consumers who will soon consume the products from the ranching operation) just to achieve their goals.
More on the protagonist Michiko Noguchi, she is not the typical corporate figure for readers to hate. In fact, she is somewhat sympathetic as she is has yet to earn the respect of others even though she had been working as the head of the outpost for months. The grudge against her is subtle yet clear. The comic book also made clear that she is destined for something significant in the upcoming fight between the two galactic species.
The art by Phill Norwood is very good. While the characters have that comic book aesthetic, the Aliens and Predators are easily recognizable and were drawn with sufficient visual details. What I find weird is the creative team’s approach on applying color on the Predators. Norwood also has a really nice approach on illustrating futuristic stuff (examples: the technologies, office equipment, clothes of the characters) while also emphasizing the wilderness of Ryuchi.
Aliens vs. Predator #1 (1990) is one very detailed build-up type of comic book that happens to be pretty engaging to read and the set-up for the expected conflict between the two species worked nicely. By the time I reached the end of this tale, I got immersed into its concept, the situations and characters. The build-up also came out with really interesting parts here and there which made the reading experience a very good one. Right now, I am eager to read the next issue.
Overall, Aliens vs. Predator #1 (1990) is highly recommended!
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