In time for Alien Day (April 26), Dark Horse Comics has released a new xenomorph featuring miniseries Aliens Dust to Dust #1. Unlike the recent films, Gabriel Hardman and Rain Beredo’s story has no philosophical pretensions, convoluted backstories, or characters acting dumb for the sake of the plot. Like pair of mad alchemists, they bottle the pure terror of Alien with the explosive action of Aliens and craft a tight thriller about a mother and her son, Maxon, evacuating a planet that has been terraformed by some representatives of Weyland-Yutani, and of course, everything has gone terribly wrong. In a similar vein to the 2014 survival horror video game Alien Isolation, it makes an argument that the true spirit of Alien has been kept alive through ancillary media rather than the big budget, “canonical” movies.
Hardman frames his story through the POV of a child linging on full body shots of xenomorphs and chestbursters and then cutting to the wide eyed terror of a young boy, who is trying to process his surroundings as everything he knows is in jeopardy. In his plotting and dialogue, Hardman trims the fat right to his story’s primal core: family, home, survival. These are things that many people take for granted, but they are the forefront of his two protagonists’ minds as Maxon wakes up from a fitful slumber to gun fire and a facehugger. Beredo bathes the panel in shadow, and Hardman uses blotchy inking and sloping downward panels to represent how Maxon’s simple life has been uprooted. Some of the expressions that Hardman picks for his young lead character seem ripped from the unconscious of kids watching Alien or any classic horror movie and being frightened by iconic monsters. for the first time. Except he can’t hide behind the couch or shut off the TV, this is his new normal.
The tenseness of Aliens: Dust to Dust extends from Hardman’s layouts and use of shadow in conjunction with Beredo’s colors to his dialogue. Maxon is plain freaked out while his mother seems perpetually out of breath, and every reassuring word that comes out of her mouth is as much for her as him. Hopped up on adrenaline, she can shoot and drive like a badass, but her actions and reactions seem human, much like Ripley’s seemed to viewers of Alien when it was first released and before she was the Ur-sci fi horror heroine. But by focusing so much on Maxon’s responses to the horror thriller that he has unfortunately become a part of, Gabriel Hardman makes it clear that Aliens: Dust to Dust is his story, not his mother’s. And this is reinforced by some of the storytelling choices that he makes towards the end of the book culminating in a downright iconic cliffhanger.
One of the Alien franchise’s underlying themes is motherhood, and Alien Resurrection decided to beat viewers over the with that theme a few decades back. On the other hand, Gabriel Hardman’s Aliens Dust to Dust #1 uses the bond behind a mother and son to supercharge a suspense filled story and give it an emotional foundation like the relationship between John and Sarah Connor in Terminator 2. He doesn’t beat us over the head with extraneous facts about them, but uses touch, facial reactions, and pauses between quick spurts of dialogue to show that they’re in over their heads like any of us would be if H.R. Giger’s haunting designs made a rude entrance into our lives.
Story: Gabriel Hardman Art: Gabriel Hardman Colors: Rain Beredo
Story: 8.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy
Dark Horse provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review