Alien Legion: Dead and Buried is an immersive space opera with a cast of memorable and impressive characters. The art style is crisp and clean — large, rectangular panels with clear borders are set at right angles and colored with bright, primary shades. Characters are in constant motion: jumping, shooting, racing across weird landscapes, and everyone has a nearly unpronounceable name. The story is hokey— think Stephen Colbert’s Tek Jansen meets The Fantastic Four, but it’s so earnest that the reader can’t help but get swept up in the madcap galactic happenings.
While there are a number of positive things to say about this book, it is so front loaded with references to its own weird world that the reader should come prepared to dig in deep before the story begins to pay off. There are so many intersecting plots and occurrences — and on so many strange worlds full of cryptic alien knowledge— that it may be awhile before readers new to the series will feel at home in this universe. This, of course, is not necessarily a bad thing, as the fantasy experience is part of the package with a story like this. Just don’t expect to be able to rush out and tell all your friends about it without sounding like a lunatic.
It should also be noted that, with the exception of the recent Guardians of the Galaxy film, there are few examples in popular mass market science fiction of a largely non-human cast. Now, before you throw off your Slanket and wrestle on your boxing gloves — yes, of course . . . there are lots of great comics that fit that exact description. You’ll get no argument from me, Basement Wizard! But, if you’re a casual reader or someone new to science fiction, be warned that this book takes its science fiction-ness very seriously, and you may have some difficulty empathizing with all the Ape-ish things and Snake-ish things and Lion-ish things. And, their spaceship-ish things.
The collaborators who produced this work have done a good job balancing the prose. While it piles up in some panels, it’s generally not too dense and does not detract from the action. That said, dialogue is used to introduce a great deal of exposition, so it is often the case that the characters sound as if they are narrating their own lives. This tendency makes a number of moments and scenes feel extremely stiff. The writers are clearly trying to juggle a lot, though, and on the whole they succeed in their efforts.
However, and for many of the reasons noted above, this work feels much more like a book for fans already deeply invested in the series than for anyone else. The authors have tried to deal with this issue with a detailed list of the major characters in the opening pages. There is also a summary of the major events that have led up to the book’s opening action. While the effort is appreciated — and oddly Elizabethan! — I think anyone given a chance would look for the earlier installments first, as jumping with both feet into this is a little like starting Finnegan’s Wake near the end. But, of course, the choice is yours, and it’s really no fault of the writers or artists if that is the choice you make.
But, all of this leads me to wonder about the intended audience for Alien Legion: Dead and Buried. The book would probably be most attractive to collectors, as the world is so intricately structured that I can’t imagine that there is a large and diverse fan base. But, maybe there is — and if you are in that fan base, don’t bother to correct me. Just go and get this book. You will probably like it.