To Pull or NOT to Pull - Aliens: Dead Orbit

Welcome back to another Comic post. I usually like putting these on Tuesdays, since new comic book day is Wednesday, but for "older" comics, I don't think it really matters when in the week they go up. I'm still playing with these comic posts and thinking of how best to organize them in terms of categories, titles, and posting days. So far though, they seem to be doing rather well and I've enjoyed writing them, so that is a major win.

The usual comic post title is Comic Crazy, which I think works best for titles that I have enjoyed and would like to feature as a way of spreading the love for them. Some comics, however, just aren't as fun. Series that you ask comic shops to order or hold for you when they come in go on a "Pull List". This post style is for comics that I want to discuss a bit more, to ultimately lead to my opinion on if it IS or SHOULD HAVE BEEN worth putting on a Pull List. So: To Pull or NOT to Pull? That is the question.

This week I want to talk about a comic series that I was excited about last year, which is when it came out. I didn't get to read it back then, but I've finally gotten around to it. Anyone who knows me pretty decently knows that I have enjoyed the Aliens and Predator franchises quite a bit. I'm not into gore, so its a bizarre match-up for me, and certain things I can barely stand, but the creatures and the different facets of story that are made possible by interactions with alien species are too good for me to pass up.

Aliens: Dead Orbit


Publisher: Dark Horse
Rating: T+ 
Writer, Artist, and Letterer: James Stokoe
Published: April 2017 - December 2017
Series Type: Miniseries with 4 issues

I was excited when I read online that there would be a new Alien comic series. My boyfriend had already lent me comic volumes Dark Horse put out that collected comics they had published from 1988-1998 involving xenomorphs, the alien in the Alien franchise. I can honestly say that I've read my fair share of Alien when it comes to comics and I have also recently taken the time to read a few novels in the Alien and AVP universe. I was really excited to have Prometheus released, as well as its sequel, and now to have a new comic to read. At least, I was until I actually read it all the way through. I'm not going to share every cover for the four issues here, because I don't feel like scarring my sister with non-youth friendly images, but anyone who reads an Alien or Predator comic or watches the movies usually knows what they are going to get. Issue #1 has the best cover of them all, in my opinion, so that's why I have it here.   

I loved the first cover of Dead Orbit in terms of style, but over the course of the series I can't say I absolutely loved the artwork in its entirety. At first it was interesting, but by issue #3, it started feeling overly cartoony when it came to some faces and not in a good way (the two Mondo series for Alien from 1994 and 1995 were more cartoony, but in a more fitting way and were much more enjoyable. I'm not against cartoony styles, it just has to actually fit what is going on and the overall tone of the story, which was not the case here). Also, I got sick of the color palette pretty quick. Not so much the blues, blacks and purples that are prominent and featured on the cover, but some of the reds and oranges. They just didn't work for me and my eyes were ready to move on pretty quick. I wish there had been more of just the black, pale blue, and purples. I could have done without a majority of the red. A different shade of red or different combinations with the red in terms of balance may also have helped in the long run. I was very intrigued by the first cover, because it captures a lot of classic Alien themes: being alone in space, evil seeming creatures lurking behind you, feeling tiny compared to everything around you, small glimmers of hope amidst tons of destruction. I saw all of these things in the cover with the coloring and placement of each major piece, even though there are only three: the human in the space suit, the xenomorph, and the ship/machinery bits. Its a beautiful nightmarish piece that tells a lot without throwing blunt gore in your face. Its subtle, but it only went so far as the first issue or two. After that, the art lost its charm and we will get into the story next. 

As far as the story goes, there's not much here. Granted, fans of the franchise, or any similar creature feature kind of movie, know that some characters are just there to be creature fodder. Odds are that at least 85% of the people you are introduced to probably won't survive in a standard horror creature feature such as Aliens. In something more like Jurassic Park, which has a generally broader target audience, they will, but definitely not here. I knew that from the start. However, there's also usually someone to root for, like Ripley. Here, there was no one worth cheering for, worth hoping for their survival. The story is basically this: a Weyland-Yutani station called the Sphacteria (I'm not making this up), comes across a ship in the middle of space. The crew boards it because they pick up some heat scans in cryogenic sleep pods and expect it to be crew. They pick up 3 people who are basically burned down to their muscle tissue because of a pod malfunction and taken back to the ship. In issue #2 chestbursters come out, they mature into full grown xenomorphs rapidly and terrorize the crew. That is basically the entire story. One picked up person off the floating ship is still alive to say that they were a dead colony and were infected which is why they were in cryo, but it is blown over very quickly and before I knew it, the entire series was over and I can't say I was satisfied. I wasn't sad it was over either though. 

Ultimately the story fell flat and there was nothing of great interest or intrigue compared to other entries in the Alien universe. The art became tiresome despite there only being four issues and I can honestly say it was more of a letdown than I expected it to be. There isn't even a full resolution by the time the story finishes and I couldn't tell you more than two crew members and I'm sure I will forget them by tomorrow. I enjoyed the first two issues and gave them a 3, but the next two fall short of what I would have liked to see in a new Alien series and end up being a 2. 

Overall, I have to give Aliens: Dead Orbit a Lone Star rating of ✯✯ and a half out of 5 stars. It was barely worth noticing and I'm glad I didn't bother rushing to pick them up when they first came out. I'd rather re-read some of the comics from the 80s and 90s a few times, because several of the stories were of a much higher quality and were more interesting to follow than this one. I've never read anything else by James Stokoe, but this series is not going to have me running to see any of his other work. Some of the art was really intriguing and well done (Cover of Issue #1), but the color selections long term were not.