If you don’t remember exactly where the first volume of Brian Wood’s Aliens: Defiance left off, it doesn’t really matter. The first five pages is all you need to be 100% on board.
Private Zula Hendricks was a colonial marine for Wayland-Yutani, injured on her first mission, and now lives with constant, severe back pain. On a mission with a platoon of synthetics, she realized the company wanted a specimen of the dangerous Xenomorph to be brought back to Earth. This was something she could not do. She began actively working against the company’s desired goals and set out to destroy the alien race altogether, committing fratricide and many other things that she struggles with for what she believes is the greater good. She has done this with the help of Davis, a synthetic that is continually reprogramming itself to be more human, and Doctor Hollis. In my review of the first volume, I wrote that I hadn’t fully felt the terror of the Xenomorph yet. In volume two, that changes immediately. Dr. Hollis has been impregnated. Her solution to this dilemma is nerve wracking and gives us the forward thrust that makes this second volume a real page turner.
Zula Hendricks is the Ripley that the new film series needs. She lives with constant pain, externally and internally, yet is freaking tough as rocks. Wood continues to pile on conflicts into their world; he doesn’t let up! Not only are they at odds with the company and the marines, not only with the alien Xenomorph, but also their own constitution in the face of these seemingly impossible odds. Wood is, with nudges and baby steps, slowly expanding upon the world of the Xenomorph without collapsing the reality that we’ve come to love.
I have enjoyed the last two Ridely Scott ventures into this world (I’m one of the remaining few.), but if you’re looking for something that stays true to the roots of the original films while continuing to be its own thing, you really have to read this series. Maybe 20th Century Fox will be smart enough to adapt the other way around or at least take a measured note from what Wood and his band of incredible artists – Stephen Thompson, Tony Brescini, Eduardo Francisco, and the amazing colorist Dan Jackson (brilliantly tying it all together) – are doing.