The darkness creeps through the city, transforming the shadows into something more, something deadly. We know what lurks in the shadows for the shadows do not obscure what is coming. You might think that makes the creatures less scary. You’d be wrong.
Written and Illustrated by Gabriel Hardman
Colored by Rain Beredo
Lettered by Michael Heisler
The Trono colony on LV-871 is under attack. Emergency evacuations are ordered. Evac shuttles are taking off. All twelve-year-old Maxon and his mom have to do is make it to the spaceport. Except between them and it are . . . Aliens!
A terrifying coming-of-age story by master storyteller Gabriel Hardman.
• Gabriel Hardman storyboarded the films Batman: The Dark Knight Rises, Logan, Dawn of Planet of the Apes, and many others!
• A reexamination of why we fear the Aliens!
• On sale in time for Alien Day (4/26)!
Welcome to the Trono Colony, home to Maxon, a twelve year old child who’s about to have the worst night of his life. “Aliens: Dust to Dust” #1 throws us right into the dark and dirty world of the Alien universe with nary an explanation. There are no returning characters, no familiar locations — only deep, industrial shadows and two very confused, very scared people. This choice reveals Hardman’s true purpose for this mini: to introduce new readers to the property without the need of an over complicated story for returning readers.
Aliens as a franchise has seeped its way into the popular culture enough that there are plenty of touchstones that can orient brand new readers while providing that link to the rest of the universe that older fans crave. If not, Hardman slowly teases out what the Xenomorphs can do, as well as what they look like, through the environmental and background details. No large-scale exposition yelled at unsuspecting characters but instead just small details. Attention may be brought to them through Hardman’s framing choices but they are presented in ways that feel natural to the camera angle, instead of as a forced insert shot.
Additionally, Hardman makes the excellent choice to balance the slow terror of the original Alien with the action of Aliens.
Case in point: the opening to the comic. We open on a close-up of an as-yet-unnamed child, asking for his mother. His face is partially covered in shadow, as are his surroundings, and he is staring directly at the camera. Isolated, this shot makes you believe he is looking at his mom and as any horror enthusiast can tell you, this usually means something bad is happening to the person on the other side of the camera.
Instead, we cut to behind the child, and, through the next couple panels, we are instantly oriented to his life. He lives in a cramped, lived-in space in some industrial, space future and something is wrong. A man is firing a gun into the distance and the window the child was looking out of shatters in his face. We know exactly as much about his situation as he does. That is to say, we know absolutely nothing. It is this mystery that propels us to the bottom of page 2 where we get our first tangible piece of evidence: a face hugger on the child’s mother. Here is where the narrative favors those who are familiar with the franchise, as they know what this means, but those who don’t are left with the sense of dread and confusion that the child does.
There is more to these opening pages I could go into, such as the use of panels in these first few pages reflecting the mental state of the child and its effects on the tension of the scene, but you’ve gotten the gist by now. This is an impeccably constructed comic, one that captures the corporate-controlled, lived-in future of the Alien universe. Every new page is a treat because of Hardman’s art. It is dark and gritty, covered in shadows and dust and dirt and because of this, the reality of this location is sold.
Earlier I said that this comic balances the action of Aliens with the horror of Alien but I only illustrated the latter. For the former, look no further than the half-page spread on page 14 where Maxon’s mother drives her car into another car that had two Xenomorphs onto it. Debris litter the panel as both cars are torn apart and shattered, a small orange explosion (or possibly a dust cloud) visible in the background. One of the Xenomorphs is flung into the top right, above the hand lettered KRAAA SFX.Continued below
In terms of story, this issue is fairly light on what might be considered narrative motion. A majority of the page count is following Maxon, the child, and his mother as they attempt to get onto a shuttle heading off-world. How the Xenomorphs got onto the planet is unimportant. Where Maxon and his mother are heading next or even what they were doing now is unimportant. This is a survival story, one told from the perspective of a child and their mother in a mining colony instead of the usual space marines and because of this, it is more intimate and much scarier.
This lack of a narrative thrust might turn some people off the comic. The same goes for the art style as I’ve talked about, which is scratchy and angular, with each panel being filled with the aforementioned dust. This should not stop you from picking up this comic. It is a masterclass in balancing action and horror as well as how to naturally introduce a new audience to a large and expansive universe. I may not have known much about the Alien franchise before this but now I’m hooked.
Final Verdict: 8.7 – An Aliens comic for fans new and old filled with atmosphere, horror, action, and truly cinematic pages. Hardman has proven he knows how to construct a page, now let’s see if he can construct a story.