Brian Wood is a heck of a craftsman when it comes to comic book writing, so I was overjoyed to see his name on the cover of an Aliens comic nine months ago. I didn’t get around to reading it at the time, but was salivating at the mouth to dig into the first collection.
Aliens: Defiance follows the story of Private First Class Zula Hendricks. She took heavy spinal damage on her first mission as a colonial marine and, after some therapy, is being sent on what is supposed to be a quick mission. With her is a platoon of Weyland-Yutani Security Drones, advanced A.I. combat robots. When they arrive at their deep space destination, they quickly find that the cargo the space hauler holds is far more dangerous than they assumed: Xenomorphs, and plenty of them. Long story short, and not to give away unnecessary details, one of the synthetics saves her life and reprograms himself once he finds out that, of course, Weyland-Yutani wants a living specimen of the Xenomorph. Now, the Combat Synthetic known as Davis and Private Hendricks commit to playing offense and defense, going across the universe to kill every last one of the Xenomorphs and to stop Yutani-Wayland from getting a specimen to Earth.
It’s a fun premise, but it’s only a part of it. Wood digs into Zula and Davis’s relationship, he delves into Zula’s desire to be a warrior while struggling with her fragility as an injured human, he explores her loneliness, and he crafts a very human story within the world of the Xenomorphs and Synthetics.
And yet, while there is action within the story, while the Xenomorphs are a terror to behold thanks to the tremendous, cinematic art from Tristan Jones, Ricardo Burchielli, and Tony Brescini with colors by Dan Jackson, I don’t feel the full-on terror or dread of going up against the Xenomorphs yet. I think that’s because, thus far, the story has been told mostly in an episodic fashion. Our characters have truly felt cornered or out of options only once, and that moment injects some real fear into the proceedings, but it also feels to me like the story is just getting going.
Think of this first volume as a smartly crafted, wonderfully paced, action-packed introduction to the characters’ worlds and the stakes those few characters are facing. With the expanse of the universe full of Xenomorphs and the determination of the Yutani-Wayland Corporation, they are facing a mountain.
As a side note, Ripley’s daughter had a cameo in the series and a reference is made directly to the phenomenal video game, Alien: Isolation. So, turn on the Aliens score and buckle up for some awesome transmedia storytelling. If they continue down this path, creating a world that spans platforms, I will be very happy.