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SBTU – Expanded Universe: Aliens and Predator

sbtu_expanded_universe_aliens_and_predator_header

It’s Super-Blog Team-Up time again!

This time around, the group is tackling the notion of the "Expanded Universe"–with many different topics, as always!

Please check out the list of links at the bottom of this piece for the other entries in this team-up of blog-posts…or skip on down their now, as my piece here is rather lengthy, rambly, and not exactly what I’d had in mind when I began!

With a big thanks to Chris Bailey (@Charlton_Hero) for the graphic below:

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In recent years, the terms "Extended Universe" and "Expanded Universe" have meant a couple different things to me. They also tie in to the term "Cinematic Universe," in terms of movies. Namely, the Marvel "Cinematic Universe" and the DC "Extended Universe." (Or "Expanded," I’m rarely clear on what’s (semi-)"official" with the "MCU" and "DCEU.") I’ve never liked the "EU" in reference to the DC movies when used alongside Marvel‘s "MCU," because to me it should be "DCU" same as we have the "DCAU" (DC Animated Universe) and such.

What? I’m getting critical and negative and that’s DC and Marvel when you’re expecting Aliens and Predators?

Ok.

Outside the aforementioned DC and Marvel movies, I see the terms Expanded Universe and Extended Universe as fairly interchangeable/synonymous and I don’t expect to be 100% consistent in my use throughout this piece. (So please take them as interchangeable and synonymous within my writing here.)

DEFINING "EXPANDED UNIVERSE"

To me, an EU is a property that begins in a fairly-specifically limited (if not one-off) format. For example: you have an original movie (singular)…it universe-builds, it sets a context, it tells you a story…and that’s that. Beginning, middle, end. In and out and done. Look at The Terminator, before any sequels. Or Highlander, before any sequels. And so on.

Perhaps we don’t start with a movie…perhaps we start with a novel. Emphasis on "a." Singular. You get this self-contained story, and that’s that. The whoooooole thing is that one book. It’s a good book, an enjoyable book, a memorable book…but still AAAAAAAA book. (For example: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay)

Where "EU" comes in is with that singular thing cropping up in another medium with new content sharing elements from the original…building on or (you guessed it!) expanding and extending what was found in the original. The Terminator got a movie sequel as well as comics. Then other comics, even a tv series, along with multiple sequels. Highlander had sequels, a tv series, original novels, an animated series, comics, etc. Kavalier and Clay had Escapist comics, and a comic sequel of sorts (The Escapists) where present-day creators got the rights to the old Escapist character and the story followed their journey. I’m not sure if there’s a tv show in the works, but it’d certainly be ripe for an HBO miniseries or such at the least, which would be further expanding.


In today’s case, I’d figured I’d look at Aliens. But that really necessitates bringing Predator into the conversation. Both properties started as singular films…got a sequel…were continued into comics, then video games, further sequels, novels and novelizations, more videogames, toys, and so on. Both universes expanded and intermingled, even sharing universes ahead of more famous and/or contrived attempts at cinematic shared universes that would follow.

As I’ve tried to figure out how I want to cover this, I finally decided that there are Wiki articles out there that’ll tell you plenty about the properties and the expanded stuff. (Alien, Predator, Prometheus, and so on.)

But this being a personal blog, maintained by me (just one random guy)…why not my personal journey into the franchises? After all…it’s what I know. Recounting stuff is from my own memory, my own experiences, and it’s ME. You want clinical facts about the properties? Use those Wikipedia links. If you’re willing to indulge my rambling on the topic, you’ll get my conscious experience, my conscious memories of Alien(s) and Predator that began with Alien3 and expanded to where I am today.

And if you’re still with me some 500+ words into this thing…here’s where we get more to the point.

PROLOGUE

As a kid, I loved to read, and read every chance I could, and would read pretty much anything I could get my hands on. So much so that I’d read many books within a day, and was constantly getting books from the library (and losing many, which is a topic for some other time). I especially remember stuff like The Boxcar Children and The Hardy Boys Casefiles (I’ve yet to read original Hardy Boys stuff…the Casefiles series had the characters a bit older and more action-oriented. Again, a topic for some other time). I’d read plenty of fiction–most I can’t even remember. I also read a fair bit of sci-fi from early-on before I truly knew what a "genre" was. I also read plenty of comic books and whatever comic-related prose I could get my hands on. I recently was fondly recalling high school and how much time I’d squeeze in for reading, especially freshman year–from reading on the bus to/from school to reading in homeroom, squeezing in a minute or two of reading between classes when able; reading at lunch, reading in study hall (preferring to read than work on homework).

Somewhere in the earliest days of middle school, perhaps, I’d read Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of Alien as just any other sci-fi novel and nothing about it really stuck out to me at the time. Separately, Dad had fallen asleep with the tv on and I’d wandered out–at this point I remember it as during the day, but could have been late at night; I’m not really sure. What matters is, I was curious about what was going on in whatever was on, and I wound up watching to its end, whatever it was. The horrors I saw included some monster ripping a guy in half (and he bled white instead of red!) as well as the lady fighting the monster and saving her daughter.

I wouldn’t make the connection on these–That they were Alien and Aliens–until I finally saw the films intentionally.

THE BEGINNING

alien3_bookSome time in 1993 or 1994, I ended up finding/reading the novelization of Alien3. Having read this book that was clearly based on a movie, I wanted to see said movie, and eventually convinced my parents to rent it/let me see it. Then, since that was the 3rd film, of course I "had to" see the others. I vaguely recall there being some delay to getting to see Alien and that I wound up seeing the films in reverse order, that Alien was the big finish for me.

It was in finally seeing Alien that I recognized the story–particularly the scene with Kane exploring the pit of eggs–and realized I’d read the book some time before.

I’m not sure if I have yet ever re-read that novelization; if I did, I know I haven’t in the last 20+ years! I just recently–June 2020–learned via a YouTube video purporting to reveal X # of "things you didn’t know about ALIEN" that the creature itself was apparently kept secret from all…including Foster, who wrote the novel of the film! So in possibly-faulty memory and that new "fact learned," I could see not immediately having linked that novel(ization) with the film by title and such…there probably was not a detailed enough description of the creature itself to lock in my memory initially. And, as said earlier in this piece, at the time I was a voracious reader and wouldn’t begin to be able to recall by title everything I’ve read. (It took me ages a few years ago to finally discover an old sci-fi novel I’d enjoyed as a kid, that I’d thought was called The Manhattan Project but turned out to be The Manhattan Transfer). hero_illustrated_002_predator_came_with_ashcanI have other "mini-memories" of "moments" from books I’d read that I’m certain I’d ONLY be able to positively link to their source by somehow managing to find AND re-read in near-entirety the same novel(s) again.

I very clearly remember a cover to a magazine–Hero Illustrated–that featured a Predator cover, the creature fighting a bunch of Aliens. The issue had come with an "ashcan" for a then-upcoming or recently-begun series involving both the Aliens and the Predator.

Somewhere around this time, I came across Aliens: Earth Hive by Steve Perry. I read it, and it fascinated me. I recall–among many other things–noticing some parallels in a couple of the main characters…particularly Billie and Wilks. Their story seemed similar to that of ALIENS. This eventually wound up making perfect sense when I learned that in the original comics, these WERE Hicks and Newt!

aliens_novels_trilogy

One of the key things I took away from the movie novelizations was that sense that if even ONE Alien made it to Earth, that was it. It could not be allowed to happen, or that’d be the end. And with no Ripley, the story of Earth Hive played out where that happened–the Aliens overran Earth.

A second novel picked up from there, following Wilks and Billie to a space station where some guy thought he was training Aliens to help him take back the Earth. By the third novel, Ripley had come back into the picture and led the characters to a distant world to catch a super-queen, possibly the source of the Aliens. They ultimately got it to Earth where they left it in a valley to draw the majority of Earth’s infestation to it at which point bombs put on a months-long timer would go off and eradicate the majority of the creatures. One of the subplots of The Female War involved us coming to find out that Ripley is herself a "synthetic," though she initially did not know that (Someone not knowing they were synthetic was established as possible in the first novel of the ‘trilogy’ in Bueller). As Ripley had died in Alien3 and yet appeared here, that seemed a reasonable explanation to me. As I think about it now, that was probably one of my earliest real experiences with a "retcon" or "retroactive continuity."

aliens_on_top_of_shelves

Somewhere in that mid-’90s time, I came across some Aliens toys at a store while out with Mom; if it was not Kmart, I have no conscious idea what store it was, as I know it was not Hills, and I don’t think Target or Walmart were in this part of Ohio yet. While possibly just deja-vu, I’d also swear I’d seen at least one commercial for these toys around then. Regardless, despite finding these toys, Mom was unwilling to let me get any of them; so it’d be a good 20-some years until I’d start my foray into Aliens toys. Despite not getting any of the toys as current things, I do recall noticing later that I’d seen them, and realizing there were several toy lines for kids that were based on "kid-ified" animated things, themselves based on hard R-rated films! (Several examples offhand including the likes of Terminator, Robocop, Highlander, Toxic Avenger, and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes…and I’m sure there are plenty of others I’m not thinking of!).

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I was vaguely aware that there were comic books with the Aliens as well as another creature–the Predator. There was that August-1993-cover-dated Hero Illustrated #2 (see earlier image) featuring a Predator on the cover and the issue having come bagged with a mini-comic featuring Aliens/Predator: The Deadliest of the Species–a then-new series beginning soon.

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Flipping through that issue and not finding any prominent article on either property–but a bit of info about the comics and an ad for the home version of an Aliens vs. Predator videogame–I suspect it was just a "given" to me that Aliens went with Predator. Add to that an arcade machine at the local skating rink and I just don’t think I really ever took the properties as being completely separate things. (Much likeStar Trek: Generations was my main intro into Star Trek and to me there’s never been an either/or on TOS vs. TNG–they’ve "always" been a single continuity).

I’m pretty sure my first experience with Aliens in comics was the Superman vs. Aliens prestige-format mini-series. I was already deeply into the Superman comics at the time, and loved that even as a random inter-company crossover, the miniseries seemed to have consequences on the Superman side at least, including giving us an in-continuity Argo City or such and a "Kara."

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Despite always simply accepting Predator and Alien(s) as existing in the same universe, I was never all that into the Predator side in and of itself. I have some memory of a friend describing a scene from Predator in which the titular character had skinned someone (and that you saw the skinned body on screen) from awhile before seeing the film myself. I’m pretty sure I saw the films–Predator and Predator 2–prior to college, but I’m not absolutely sure. They never stuck with me quite the same way (especially Predator 2 that I hardly remember except knowing that I saw it at least once). Predator came back a bit to me during grad school and has stuck with me since for some of the cheesey "Arnold stuff" (particularly the "Get to the CHOPPAH!" line).

By the time I saw the films, I’d read at least two Aliens vs. Predator novels. I was most interested in them for being Aliens stories; that they were Aliens vs. Predator/included Predators was incidental to me at the time.

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As pertains to our topic at hand…they continued to EXPAND the universe, to me.

SETTLING IN AND MOVING FORWARD

By the time Alien Resurrection came out in late 1997, I was pretty well steeped in stuff. I was very disappointed in the film, though, for jumping some 200(?) years into the future after Alien3 rather than using the Ripley-as-Synthetic plot point from the books. While I still didn’t take it as such at the time, I now (in 2020) realize that was my first real experience with the difference between "the films" and an "Expanded Universe." Great stories from the books that had expanded my knowledge and understanding and the appeal of the property to me…but they weren’t even acknowledged by the movies!

During college, much of my "main" reading of a "universe" had gone to Magic: The Gathering, as well as continuing with Dragonlance from the mid-’90s and Aliens had kind of fallen off for me.

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alien_novelizations_oldBut then in 2004 while I was working the overnight stocking shift at Meijer (think a Walmart/Target hybrid) when I was browsing the books section, I came across a novelization of AVP…there was a new movie, this time featuring the Aliens AND Predator(s) in one film! I bought the book immediately…though to this day, I don’t actually recall if I ever got around to reading it. Those few months working overnights were part of an interesting period of my life as I struggled to make sense of being out of college and yet still being absolutely clueless about what life was supposed to be. As with many things…a topic for some other time.

I remember the makers of Heroclix giving us a new game–Horrorclix–and the line included several things with Aliens and Predators with the AVP branding. Though interested–in particular to have Aliens in scale with Superman–I never got any (and a June 2020 internet search shows them as being well outside any reasonable price range for me now!)

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In 2005 or so, DH Press (DH for Dark Horse as in the comics publisher) began publishing new Aliens and Predator novels. I was thrilled to get new Aliens novels (though sadly, I passed on the Predator ones at the time, and those are absolutely stupid-ridiculous prices online now in 2020, which is highly frustrating). I suspect this was probably around the time that I finally made the connection or otherwise learned that Earth Hive, Nightmare Asylum, The Female War, Genocide, and so on–those novels I loved as a "kid" that really got me into the property(ies)–were novelIZATIONS. Of Dark Horse comics.

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In 2007 I learned that Dark Horse Comics would be publishing a collection of some of those original comics. A friend actually gifted that volume to me; and thus, I got to read the comics version of the stories I remembered reading as novels. That year also brought the second AVP film, Requiem.

2009 or so brought some new Aliens and Predator comics, led off by a shared Free Comic Book Day issue.

2010 brought AVP: Three World War which once again had the creatures in one series. That year also brought us a new Predator film that took a cue from Aliens and simply added the "s" to pluralize the title: Predators.

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2012 brought the film Prometheus. I recall seeing a movie poster for it, at the theater I frequented in Kent; as well as a couple different trailers for the film. Rumor had it that the film would somehow tie in with Alien or be a "prequel" or some such. It was also when I think I consciously began to recognize Ridley Scott as a specific name, as well. That said, once I saw the film myself, I was NOT particularly impressed by it the first time through…but it’s grown on me on repeat viewings.

In 2014, Dark Horse gave us a huge "event" of sorts…a massive-seeming story involving four different 4-issue mini-series that linked into an overall story: Fire and Stone. This encompassed a Prometheus series, a Predator series, an AVP series, and an Aliens series. Each 4-issue mini-series was technically its own thing, but with a larger story to be gleaned by reading all the minis and a one-shot that followed.

There were also new novels from Titan; though they were branded on the Alien (singular) name rather than Aliens plural…which has always felt a bit "odd" to me, though admittedly distinctive, if only to be separate from the plural branding of the Dark Horse stuff. Alien: Out of the Shadows, Alien: Sea of Sorrows, and Alien: River of Pain kicked things off.

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2015 brought us Aliens/Vampirella which marked the first time I’d ever bought anything Vampirella.

2016 brought a lot of new material. Predator vs. Judge Dredd vs. Aliens; another 4-series event in Life and Death (Prometheus/Predator/Aliens/AVP); The Rage War (new novels, each branded under Predator, Alien, and Alien vs. Predator, respectively, from Titan). Along with the multi-series Life and Death event, we also got the start of one of the largest series for the Aliens comics in Defiance; matched in length (I believe) only by the 13-issue Colonial Marines story in the ’90s and the 12-issue Aliens/Predator: The Deadliest of the Species by Christopher Claremont in 1993-1995).

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2017 gave us the first new "solo" Alien film in 20 years with Alien: Covenant as a follow-up to Prometheus and again by Ridley Scott

2018 gave us a new Predator film with The Predator.

There were also a couple of anthologies of short stories published–Bug Hunt for the Alien franchise, If It Bleeds for the Predator franchise.

There have also been several more comics mini-series for both franchises over the last couple years.

IN THE END

What started out as just another sci-fi/random book for me in the early 1990s "expanded" as I discovered the expandING universe of Aliens/Predator. One novelization…(actually three novelizations in the end). Multiple original novels. More movies. Comics. Toys. Videogames. Audiobooks.

Alien and Predator seem to be things that originally "ought" to have begun and ended with their original singular-titled films. But they expanded into larger universes with books, toys, videogames expanding stuff. They blended, further expanding both franchises’ scope.

Both of the "shared universe" films AVP and AVP: Requiem were out before Iron Man–the first film of Marvel’s "Cinematic Universe"–saw release.

Even though this post took on a different shape than what I think I must’ve thought or planned it to…my own personal collection has expanded quite a bit in the last few weeks as I’ve made a point of tracking down other collected volumes I didn’t have, and a definite focus on single issues.

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I’m learning of comics I didn’t even know existed for either property, both singularly and as crossovers.

I look forward to some imminent expanding of my firsthand knowledge of Predator comics in reading single issues as well as a couple of collected volumes of recent minis. I plan to finally read the original Aliens vs. Predator mini-series…and several weeks ago spent a lot of time finally reading Aliens/Predator: The Deadliest of the Species. I’d known THAT was a 12-issue series begun in 1993. Though I did not realize it took two years to get all 12 issues out and that it wrapped in 1995. I remember the initial marketing for the first issue in 1993, but not much beyond that.

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I also neglected to get into much about the toys other than their existence in the ’90s. THOSE were the Kenner toys and included a bunch of different types of aliens, based on various hosts. A gorilla alien, a rhino alien, a snake alien, a scorpion alien, etc. In recent years, NECA has been producing a bunch of high-quality "adult collectible" figures based on the Aliens stuff–movies, comics, etc–and same for Predator.

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Lanard has even gotten in on the toys with some basic figures for kids. I was very pleasantly surprised to discover these back at the beginning of 2020!

My personal Aliens library is one of the more significant subcollections of my overall collection, particularly as toys, graphic novels, and novels.

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As it stands now, the Aliens and Predator comics have become a key "focus" for me, boosting my collection and pulling various comics together from the scattered abyss that is the bulk of my comics collection at present. With this eventual post in mind, and amidst boosting the collection, I acquired and read Aliens/Predator: The Deadliest of the Species as well as re-reading the original trilogy of Aliens mini-series; I have a collected volume of the original mini, and single issues for the 2nd and third. I also decided somewhere amidst it all that I’m interested in the various books, even in multiple editions…where I’d once thought to merely "upgrade" or keep to a single edition.

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I also have several volumes set to come eventually but they haven’t been shipped…apparently being held up (as of this writing) by Archie vs. Predator and Archie vs. Predator II.

Though I’d already long realized this stuff was important to me, it’s been interesting recalling just how much so that is, as well as how much more I’ve yet to track down and actually read!

THE END (FOR NOW)

I’m never good at ending these huge, lengthy posts. And even in this final typing, I keep thinking of stuff to add or that I forgot to get into/go over…and eventually a writing project like this just has to be put to bed.

I welcome any comments, thoughts, shared stories, etc. relating to what I’ve shared above. It’s possible that I’ll do some posts in the future covering individual issues or minis as I get to reading them…but I’ve got some other projects that’ve been on the back burner for awhile that are ahead in the queue, so who knows.

If you’ve made it this far, I do thank you for your patience and indulgence.

And I encourage you to check out the rest of the Super-Blog Team-Up by considering any of the links below!


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Super-Blog Team-Up: Expanded Universe

Super-Hero Satellite: M.A.S.K.: The Road To Revolution

Between The Pages Blog: Fantastic Forgotten Star Wars Characters
Comics Comics Comics – The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones
Comic Reviews By Walt: SBTU – Expanded Universe: Aliens and Predator
Dave’s Comic Heroes Blog: Logan’s Run Marvel Movie Adaptation
The Telltale Mind: Archie Andrews – Superstar
Radulich In Broadcasting: Flash Gordon Universe
The Source Material Comics Podcast: TMNT/Ghostbusters
Unspoken Issues: Mad-Dog (Marvel Comics, 1992)
Bronze Age Babies: Seven Decades of Apes-mania, and We’re Afflicted!
Echoes from the Satellite – Tales from the Forbidden Zone – The Pacing Place
Black & White and Bronze Comics – Beast on the Planet of the Apes Review
The Daily Rios – Little Shop of Horrors
Lost N Comics Youtube – Expanding the Medium: Motion/Audio Comics
Pop Culture Retrorama: The Phantom Universe
Cavalcade of Awesome – Jumper Universe
MichaelMay.Online: Treasure Island Universe
DC In The 80s: The TSR Universe

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The ‘90s Revisited: Magic the Gathering: Gerrard’s Quest #1

90s_revisited

magic_the_gathering_gerrards_quest_001Gerrard’s Quest Part 1: Initiation

Written by: Mike Grell
Pencils by: Pop Mhan
Inks by: Norman Lee
Letters by: Michael Taylor
Colors by: Dave Stewart
Separations by: Lisa Stamp, Stu Hiner, Brian Gregory, Harold MacKinnon
Cover by: Mark Harrison
Editors: Peet Janes and Ian Stude
Cover Date: March 1998
Cover Price: $2.95
Published by: Dark Horse Comics

I’ve been “aware of” this series for over 20 years. The original MTG comics were published by Acclaim, under their Armada imprint. Those lasted a couple years with a number of mini-series and specials. This, too, is a mini-series…but by late-1997/early-1998, the license had moved to Dark Horse. Also by this point there was a move toward a unified “whole” in the MTG continuity/story, rather than everything being a mash up of fantasy tropes and generic fantasy-style stories.

Here we begin “Gerrard’s Quest.” Despite that being the story title (even in the indicia!) it is NOWHERE on the cover of the issue. While the “issue’s chapter” IS “Initiation” that is what’s on the cover…where usually it would be interior-only, or in addition to the series’ subtitle. This is solely billed (cover-wise) as Magic the Gathering #1 of 4. Nothing to indicate anything came before…nothing to indicate (now long after the fact) that this is the first chapter of Gerrard’s Quest (as the long-outta-print collected volume is titled and the story referred to in general).

Without even looking back, I’m quite sure that even the Armada books had subtitles on the covers and/or the subtitle logos of whatever set the issue(s) contained stories for. So that’s a huge dislike of this to me from the start. Having only the MTG logo and the title “Initiation” at the bottom of the cover, it suggests to me that the issue is ABOUT some initiation. Into what, though? Is it the reader being initiated into the “I-read-Magic-the-Gathering-comics” portion of the comics audience? Is it about someone joining some group of planeswalkers banding together to save the multiverse? By the cover alone, the ONLY thing really of interest to me would be the MTG logo. The rest of the cover just looks like some generic fantasy-ish thing and even knowing the broad strokes (having read loads of the novels and re-read a bunch of the novels in the last 17 months or so) I’m not immediately sure who any of the characters/entities on the cover are supposed to be, outside of Gerrard.

The story in the issue is choppy and all over the place. It’s rather loose, and really seems little more than hitting bullet points. I’d have to practically re-write the issue to give it a proper summary here. Suffice it to say that it picks up with Gerrard lamenting others dying for him, and the burden of the artifacts that are his birthright, the “Legacy.” The ship he’s on gets to Rath, a lotta fighting happens, someone he apparently knew dies, other stuff happens and…yeah. Having read the anthology/novel Rath and Storm at least twice now (once back in 1999 or 2000, once back in late 2018 or early 2019) I have a vague idea from memories of THAT as to who THESE characters are and what’s going on.

Early in the issue I get the sense that the crew is on their way to Rath and the Stronghold to save Sisay. And then there’s some scene with people related to Crovax and then suddenly the Weatherlight and its crew are there…and after Rofellos dies, Sisay is with them.

What the heck did I miss?!?

This feels like little more than a generic visual review/overview of a prose story. And sure, it ends on a cliffhanger-like note with a to-be-continued promise…but strictly in terms of this issue, I’m not invested in any of these characters. I don’t KNOW who any of these characters ARE from this issue. (I only know the characters because I’ve read the prose novels!) Other than the clear sense that Gerrard’s upset about involvement with his “Legacy,” it’s just…pictures and dialogue.

I like the art well enough despite my clumsy attempt to describe it ahead: the layouts get sorta interesting and creative. The inks and colors work well. The overall visual experience seems a bit rough and angular and almost “gritty,” if that’s the word I’m looking for. It’s not awful, but it doesn’t have the smoother, sleeker sense of shiny wonder and just SOMETHING I can’t find the words for.

I finally tracked this mini-series down recently via a site I didn’t realize I COULD order comics from. Pulling this issue to read, I had visions of covering this whole mini-series…but assuming the subsequent 3 issues are on par with this one…I’m gonna be floundering for words and repeating myself and it’ll generally be a mess! The only REAL reason I would even suggest anyone track this issue/series down is if you’re a COMPLETIST on MTG comics.

Seriously.

In place of this, I would recommend tracking down the book or ebook of Rath and Storm, edited by Peter Archer, and read that instead. And that’s disappointing enough to say, given this is written by Mike Grell. But if you like his writing in general…find something else he’s written and read or re-read that and you’ll probably appreciate it more. I may yet read the rest of this mini, and maybe I’ll change my mind. But as of just this issue alone…it’s a disappointment and far more in the vein of “early MTG” than the far more epic, storied stuff that would come not long after in the novels and such.

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Weekend Acquisitions: Weekend of September 6-8 2019

Over the weekend, I wound up with a lot of "extra" purchasing that’s a bit beyond "normal." In addition to weekend comic shop visits, I had an InStockTrades order come in, as well as having gone to Cleveland Comic Con 2019 (that’ll be detailed in another post).

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I jumped on the chance to get Savage Sword of Conan #1. As this was a "regular-priced back-issue" (and not a 25-cent/50-cent/$1 bargain-bin issue) I had no qualms with "just" getting #1 since it was available. Plus, it’s from a time when #1 MEANT something and was "special"–in this case kicking off an over 200-issue series! (Whereas modern Marvel seems to MOSTLY max-out at 50 issues before a new #1, if not multiple #1s for the same title (renumbered/new volume) within a single year (or 12-month span).

I also snagged Deathmate: Black, having seen something recently noting it as the first appearance of Gen13. And then at another shop, snagged 2 copies of Gen13 #1. These are for the ongoing series, and not the original mini-series of the same title…but still, for the novelty of it, I was happy to spend the $1.25 (total!) for the 3 issues (again).

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Being on an Aliens kick recently, I’d ordered some recent-ish collected volumes. Though I have the single issues for all but Aliens: Resistance, I was willing to pay the discounted online price, where the full price was not worth it to me. I’ve also been a bit resistant to these "skinny" paperback volumes in light of the various omnibus volumes and library-edition oversized hardbacks and such.

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I was, however, quite willing to pay full price for Spawn: Origins vol. 1 as it was already one of the "Image $9.99 vol. 1s" and so a bargain at cover price.

And Classic G.I.Joe vol. 15, which I believe is TECHNICALLY out-of-print and unavailable online except for massively over-jacked-up third-party scalper prices. This still leaves me missing vols. 10-14.

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The Weekly Haul: Week of February 13, 2019

This week proved to be rather huge for new comics…at least for me, by my own standards! One might even say it was a Giant-Size week!

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Double dose Batman this week with Detective Comics and the Flash crossover. We also have the debut issue of Wonder Twins, which I opted to check out as I’m pretty much giving this whole Wonder Comics thing a chance.

Then there’s the newest issue of Superman as well as the newest Supergirl. And TMNT is into the "final countdown" to issue #100, as #91 hits!

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Marvel actually got me on MULTIPLE issues this week! The usual with Mr. & Mrs. X #8. I "gave in" on Savage Sword of Conan #1…though I’ve no conscious intention of getting #2 and onward. There’s a nostalgia factor here, and I’m willing to "sample" the thing and get the #1 because it IS Conan, and I want to at least have "tried" one issue if I’m gonna be down on Marvel with it. If I’ve never bought so much as one issue, where do I have any authenticity to criticize?

I didn’t even know about Marvels Annotated until the last second. I’m a sucker for this sorta thing…and as a "key" series from my youth, I’m more than willing to "double-dip" with getting this series again, with notes from the creators. Given the story AND visual quality–and this issue has both the original first issue AND the later-published #0 issue–along with the notes, it feels to me like an EXCELLENT (by Marvel standards) value!

Criminal is back and I realize I have yet to read #1. Though I have all the TPBs (I believe) of the series thus far, with this new iteration, I figured I’d give it a few issues as single issues to see if/how it grabs me, AND see what any collected volume may look like, if it’ll be in line with the others, and so on.

And Alien 3 (the William Gibson adaptation) comes to a close. Unless Tristan Jones is doing further covers of the newest Aliens mini, I’m pretty much done with the property as single issues and will opt for the collected volumes.

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And then DC and/or the vendor that handles these at Walmart opted to drop ALL SIX of their MONTHLY 100-Page Comic Giant issues in the SAME WEEK. Even though these are a solid value at only $5 apiece for their size (these’d be $10 through Diamond to regular comic shops)…SIX of them at $5/each still stacks up to a whopping $30!

A mere 8 months into the "experiment" and we already have TWO re-titled/re-numbered books with the Teen Titans book switching to the Titans title, presumably to capitalize on the DC Universe app/service show but other than the logo on the front and a #1 instead of #8, I believe it’s otherwise exactly what we’ve BEEN getting. The same thing with Justice League being retitled to Wonder Woman.

Then we have the new additions of The Flash and Swamp Thing, after "experiment" issues in a Swamp Thing issue last October and a holiday special in December.

Of the original four, only Superman and Batman continue on with their title and numbering.


I’ve a bit of mental "sticker shock" as I look all these over and tally up the costs–seven $5 issues, an $8 issue, and everything else $3.99. At least the Walmart issues don’t have six out every week; and the Conan and Alien3 issues are one-offs at this point. I’m only getting a couple issues of The Flash for this particular crossover with Batman. I jumped back onto Detective Comics for the run-up to #1000, but have yet to decide if or how far beyond #1000 I’m going to go. At the least, I am NOT impressed with the "Decades Variants" and so expect to simply get a single copy of the regular cover edition and let that be that. (Where last year, I got the standard cover, decades variants AND a couple other retailer covers for Action Comics‘ 1000th issue).

Though I’ve been "mid-life crisis-ing" with some purchasing recently…that cannot and will not extend to comics, at least NOT long-term. Huge weeks like this remind me just what a poor value comics truly are, and will push me to all the more drastic decisions regarding what I’ll buy regularly.

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The Complete Life and Death

I’ve been waiting for this book for a long time. It’s been well over a YEAR since the individual comics finished and it seems like forever that the individual skinny paperbacks have been out…and even a paperback edition collecting the entire series has been out for awhile.

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But this oversized hardcover "library edition" version of The Complete Life and Death is finally out.

This collects the entire Life and Death mega-arc, that spanned four mini-series, each touching on a brand: Prometheus, Aliens, AvP, and Predator.

Even the first issue of the story had comparison to/reference of the previous such mega-arc Fire and Stone…and it’s great to finally have this volume to add to my growing library of these beautiful hardcovers!

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Here’s the book with the other hardcovers and paired with Fire and Stone.

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…and here’s my entire Aliens shelf. Assuming I discovered the Aliens vs. Predator novels in 1995 (I don’t recall for sure as of this typing nor do I feel like looking up copyright dates), that’s less than a decade after the first Predator FILM. And it’s been 23 years SINCE then…so for the majority of the time I’ve even been aware of either property, they’ve been a "shared universe," particularly in the comics.

For me, they just go together.

This shelf is the comics/graphic novels shelf…I have several shelves of novels (I believe I most recently showed those off back in April for Aliens Day 2018.)

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1990s Aliens Toys: Bishop

I remember, as a kid, seeing some Aliens toys while out at some store with my Mom. I’d thought they were kinda cool, but she had zero interest in buying any of them for me.

I think I’d associated them with an arcade game that was at the local skating rink…it’s also possible that I associated them with a bit of a movie I’d seen when Dad fell asleep watching tv; it’s also likely that–this being Kenner–I may have seen commercials for the toys. At the same time–the more I do think about it–I may have already read the novelization of Alien3, and perhaps had already seen the movies, which may have further explained my noticing/taking an interest in these…possibly prior to my getting into the books based on the Dark Horse Comics series.

I recently came across a couple of the figures at a local The Exchange and for the price, went ahead and bought them…though disappointingly, they did not have any of the actual Alien creatures…just a couple of the soldiers.

I was also particularly interested in the "free comic" that was included, quite interested in what that was content-wise. I did not bargain for it to be a rolled up pamphlet with no real story that simply serves as a guide to playtime and/or other toys to get!

Anyway…here’s stuff with the first figure–Bishop!

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The character looks like a "cool" android here, but not much like the film character. Considering these toys were (as I recall) marketed to kids, and (also as I recall in coming across them as a kid) found in the toy aisle with other kids’ toys…it’s just as well that there were differences as I doubt most kids that would’ve been wanting these toys would have been old enough to (responsibly) be shown such a violent R-rated film.

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The back of the card gives a tidbit of information about the character, and shows off the other toys in the line–something that (in this quantity) I wish more toy lines would do to this day. Seeing/knowing what’s out there does a lot more than having to (or happening to) "research" a toy line and whatnot. Show off the other cool stuff and prompt the person with this toy to also want those toys!

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While these were just into the early 1990s, they tried to (somewhat) follow the "clip and collect" thing (something I personally most associate with GI Joe and TMNT figures).

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Also good to have some basic info about the figure without having to "guess" or "not know until purchase" and getting the figure out of the package!

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"Space Marines," huh? "Space ______" sounds cool, I guess. Aliens "attacking," but no significant details. "heavy metal," yeah, ok, sign of the times. Generic text/"tagline"/"elevator pitch" for the line…rather sanitized, but hey…these were for kids!

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The aliens look a bit blocky here…but still cool. I’d be most interested in the Alien Queen and the Scorpion Alien, though wouldn’t mind getting the other two!

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The rest of the "Space Marines"–though I notice at least one prominent character missing. Ripley had to be included, obviously…but otherwise, apparently who actually wanted any females? I’m not sure who "Atax" is with the "disguise" suit; but otherwise, looks to me like a good mix on the characters generically: A woman, "only" a couple white guys, a black guy, and robot.

And perhaps that was one of the things for the film–quite the good ensemble cast.

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And as with any ’80s or ’90s toy line…of course you had to have "vehicles" to go with the figures! Of these, I’d sorta be interested in Ripley’s power loader…though ultimately I’m not all that interested in any of these.

As for the line itself, I’d love to find the Aliens themselves cheaply, even "loose," though I’d be quite interested in seeing what sort of "story" one gets across all the included "comics" inserts.

And speaking of said inserts…here’s the Bishop one, numbered as "No 1" and apparently starting off the adventure!

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The Weekly Haul – Week of May 3rd, 2017

This ended up being a "decent’ week of new comics–not horrendously expensive, but not all that small or cheap, either! But a bit of a spread on stuff I’ve been looking forward to, stuff I continue with, and some new stuff. Though it would have included Youngblood #1…except–thanks to all the variant covers–the "advertised" cover on the Image website was NOT available. Since I couldn’t get the advertised (and thus assumed to be "standard" or "basic" or "CVR A" or "regular") I did not buy the issue at all…and they lose any chance of my buying into nostalgia and trying any further issues. For screwing around with variants, they lose me entirely.

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This week sees part 3 of the Batman/Flash crossover The Button. A new Superman issue. Though I don’t plan to follow all 12 issues offhand, curious about the Bane: Conquest series, and the cover having a familiar-ish font for the logo and iconic look in itself as an image. New Captain Atom…and a couple new Ninja Turtles!

I am ESPECIALLY happy to see the return of the "classic" ’80s TMNT logo on the Funko Universe issue. E, after even the "classic" toys line adopted a "corrupted" form to make it look more like the newer branding!

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Having just last weekend "caught up" on the Life and Death mega-arc through the AvP properties, I’m rather keen for more all around, so definitely welcome this new Predator series.

I missed the Kamandi Challenge issue last week. And as to Swordquest….twenty-five cents. Not about to pass up that one…all the more with my nostalgia-factor kicked into high gear lately on stuff after listening to the unabridged audiobook of Ready Player One (and presently being "on the hunt" for War Games to watch for myself!).

No bargain/back-issues this Wednesday, no collected volumes.

We’ll see what’s waiting at week’s end…and Free Comic Book Day…and of course, the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie premieres tonight/Friday.

Latest Aliens and Predators Shelf Configuration – September 12, 2016

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aliens_shelf_sept12bWe’re into September, which means a couple of new Aliens related books due out.

I believe this week will see the release of The Complete Aliens Omnibus volume two, collecting two of the Dark Horse novels after the initial trilogy.

And the end of the month will see the release of Alien vs. Predator: Armageddon (Book 3 of a "crossover trilogy" called The Rage War by Tim Lebbon.

We also have the current Dark Horse Comics series Aliens: Defiance in progress, as well as a new Judge Dredd/Aliens/Predator series with an upcoming Aliens: Life and Death (though after 2014’s Aliens/Predator/AvP/Prometheus event and subsequent one-volume collection, I’m just waiting for the one-volume collection this time around, most likely).

There was also a recent collection of general DC Comics/Dark Horse Aliens stuff put out, and more recently a volume of DC Comics/Dark Horse Superman stuff (of primary interest to me, the Superman/Aliens and Superman/Aliens 2 material) published.

Along with the various books and comics, there’s the new Aliens Queen 6" Funko Pop figure that just came out (at least according to a months-old Amazon pre-order that just arrived). While I’ve had the "regular" Alien, this Queen is one of the larger oversized figures… and I quite like it, all things considered.

A couple weeks ago, I found one of the mid-2000s Dark Horse Press Predator novels at a used book shop*. Rather crummy condition, but at half cover price and to have it, I won’t complain much for the moment.

(* not Half-Price Books. I figure it could be missing the cover and they’d mark it up to at least $50 just because it’s out of print and not necessarily due to any great demand beyond myself…)

I believe there are only 3 or so Predator novels I’m missing, now to have all of those; certainly still missing a bunch of comic/collected volumes, but I’ve found the novels a lot more satisfying for both Aliens and Predator, and certainly more "history" with the novels.

And as seen in the photos above, also some cool toys for them–primarily Funko product, with a couple Minimates creatures and a Neca figure thrown in for my kinda bookshelves…

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Aliens: Defiance #1 [Review]

aliensdefiance0001Episode One: Derelict

Script: Brian Wood
Art: Tristan Jones
Colors: Dan Jackson
Lettering: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Cover: Massimon Carnevale
Publisher: Mike Richardson
Editor: Spencer Cushing
Designer: Cindy Calcerez-Sprague
Digital Art Technitian: Conley Smith
Published by: Dark Horse Comics
Cover Date: April 2016
Cover Price: $3.99

My earliest exposure to Aliens was the final battle with the Queen at the end of the 1986 film, that I saw accidentally, wandering out one time to where Dad had fallen asleep watching it or whatever preceded it. Several years later, I came across and read the novelization of Alien3, which led to me seeing that film (my first-ever R-rated film sought out!), and in turn led to “backtracking” to the others. I also recall at some point realizing I had read the novelization of the first film at some point without ever realizing when I read it that it had anything to do with any movie. I also came across the novels that expanded the Aliens universe, and which I eventually came to learn were themselves based on comics. It would be a few more years before I ever got around to getting to read those original comics–particularly the first ‘trilogy’. While I’ve “lapsed” over the years, the last few years I have been quite interested to learn of any Aliens comic series, and occasionally lament that it’s not a truly ongoing property (while realizing that it works better with finite stories). As a gamer, I’m pretty lax, and have not played the recent game with Ripley’s daughter, though I’ve been told a fair bit of the story (sadly, not consciously retained). But hey…comics, right?

So here I am…brand new long-form Aliens story kicking off, its cover putting me a bit in mind of a/the video game, and intrigued at what I BELIEVE to be at least a 12-issue saga–perhaps the longest single Aliens story I’ve been a part of as a fan (not getting into the comics until about a decade ago). I know Brian Wood‘s name from some prior stuff I’ve read/sampled–Northlanders, DMZ, The Massive–and been aware of his name on stuff like Star Wars more recently…so that’s a welcome factor for a new Aliens series. Icing on the cake is art by Tristan Jones, who I became aware of with his work on the Tales of the TMNT title from original TMNT publisher Mirage a few years back, and have loved seeing his work on various other projects since…and whose visual style seems a perfect fit to me for the Aliens property.

This issue is a first issue, giving us basically a brief paragraph of context/setup before we’re launched into the thick of things. We meet Zula Hendricks, a private involved in a mission to a derelict spacecraft. She and her fellow marines encounter Xenomorphs, and the situation does not go well. She and a synthetic survive, though she quickly learns that the synthetic is acting against programming, and her own world is changing as a result.

The story is good, for what it is. Which is not meant to be a negative statement…but this is only the first chapter of a multi-issue arc, that I believe is a year-long, so this is hardly going to be a full story in and of itself, nor is it giving everything away. And a single issue isn’t really enough space to re-introduce readers to a property, introduce new characters and detail their history, recent past, and present while also showing the scope of the property and of space and the horrors of the Xenomorphs. But we do get a fair bit packed into this, with Zula’s introduction and some flashbacks, a cameo of Amanda Ripley (which I believe thusly situates this time-wise somewhere between the first and second films), the synthetic Davis, some context for Zula and her place in things, and the final-page reveal of what seems to be the “mission” of this particular series…piquing my interest such that I almost wish this was a weekly series, because waiting another month for the next tidbit seems far too long. It’s not a cliffhanger in and of itself, but more a concept that promises a lot of great stuff, and I want to see it developed and played out, and be along for the ride.

Jones’ visuals are a great fit for this story, providing a great overall feel for this issue. His style is–as said above–very well suited for this property, and gives a gritty, dark, creepy look to the Xenomorphs and their brand of violence. The humans/humanoids come across as I would expect, while exuding whatever it is that just FEELS like they’re in an Aliens story. The linework and layouts are impressive, giving a sort of cinematic flow to the issue…and I’m pleased at the lack of full or double-page spreads, which often feel like cheats and wastes of space when they’re the bulk of an issue. Only one page is a single/full-page image, and that’s the ending of the issue, where after all those pages crammed full of panels, it provides a stark contrast, and really drives home the importance of the “moment” that it conveys.

The cover is also a fantastic piece of art, and for me quite iconic and recognizeable. It’s also all the more impressive to me as it’s the only cover image I’ve seen for this, allowing it to stand as itself and not be just one in a sea of variant covers diluting the thing. While there may be a variant or two out there specific to someone, I don’t believe there are any alternate covers from Dark Horse in and of itself as a push.

Plenty of questions are opened up here, and the apparent premise of this series now holds a great deal of potential. I look forward to learning more of Zula as well as Davis, and seeing what sort of interactions the two have. I’m interested in how their ‘mission’ will play out, and play into the larger scope of the Aliens universe. While we get the cameo of Amanda Ripley, I believe her story is told in the videogame, and more of an “Easter egg” tossed in for fans as well as being an indicator of the time this is set in. I look forward to seeing and learning more about the Aliens, and seeing these characters grow in their own knowledge and understanding of same.

It will be interesting to see how this is paced, overall as a series…but I almost wish this was already a completed work. As a first issue, this works well overall. I don’t know that this is something that in and of itself right now as a singular issue will pull anyone “new” into Aliens or be necessarily the greatest introduction to the property…but whether long-time fan of the Aliens comics or just now checking them out being familiar with the films and/or video game, I think this is a great start into the comics side of things.

I’m not particularly enamored with the cover price, but will suck it up, given this is Aliens . I’m definitely on board for this series, and definitely recommend checking it out if you’ve any interest already in the property.

Vampirella/Aliens #1 [Review]

aliensvampirella001Writer: Corinna Bechko
Artist: Javier Garcia-Miranda
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Colorist: InLight Studios
Cover Artist: Gabriel Hardman
Cover Colorist: Jordan Boyd
Published by: Dynamite Entertainment
Cover Date: N/A (September 2015)
Cover Price: $3.99

In twenty-seven years, throughout the entirety of the ’90s and the ‘bad girl’ craze and all that…I never bought even one single issue of Vampirella. That impressive run has now come to an end, thanks to a cover and crossover…with Aliens.

Some cloaked/hooded figures in some sort of underground temple on Mars are attacked by Aliens, and quickly revealed to be vampires. Even their enhanced abilities are no match, and they’re wiped out. Some time later, a ship arrives at the station on the surface, carrying an individual with special expertise…Vampirella. She and the station crew investigate stuff and–of course–encounter the Aliens. They also learn that vampires are not the cause of the strangeness but victims. After fending off an attack that left most of the group unconscious with creatures having attached themselves to faces…we see that even Vampirella isn’t immune to Aliens and their larval Facehugger forms.

I don’t honestly know what I expected from this. I’d known the series was coming up, probably even knew this first issue was due out, but I forgot about it all the same, until I saw it on the shelf.

Despite the presence of Vampirella…the cover looks like an Aliens comic. Aside from the ridiculously unnatural near-lack-of clothing on the female, this could be any Aliens comic, by the looks of it. And that suits me just fine, simply being interested in something new with Aliens. I also like the way the two publishers’ logos are…neither one seems out of place, and the way they appear with the issue number and creator names, if one didn’t know better it’d be quite possible to think that one’s an imprint of the other rather than two “competitors.”

I’m not familiar with the creative team, so nothing prior to compare this to in that regard. But in terms of being “an Aliens story,” this is pretty formulaic and familiar…which I actually appreciate and enjoyed as I read this. (That’s what Aliens crossovers ARE, too, to me: something entertaining despite formula…because it’s Aliens vs. ______ [insert character/property]!) So there’s not much story-wise, to me. I’m aware OF Vampirella but know basically nothing about the character or her past stories/continuity. Ok, so she’s a vampire? Cool…that means she’s at least “tougher” than “regular humans” (as we see in this issue). I don’t really “need” anything else…I’m entertained at “Aliens vs. Vampires” here.

Visually…I like the art. This looks and ‘feels’ like an Aliens comic. And that’s more than good enough for me. I’m especially impressed with the cover, though. Different artists, but the styles work well together–the interior art isn’t a match to the cover, but it’s not a jarring difference or anything. And surprisingly–almost shockingly–despite one particular glimpse of a “classic” look to Vampirella herself, we’re treated mostly to a far more feasibly-dressed female figure that doesn’t make me feel dirty for buying an issue with Vampirella in the title.

I’m not sure if this is 4 or 6 issues for the mini-series, but right now (particularly given the issue’s cliffhanger) I’m very interested in the next issue, and will be keeping an eye out for it next month, whether or not I stick with the single issues for the entirety.

Not being entirely familiar with Vampirella, I don’t know if fans specifically of the character will enjoy this (at least for this issue alone), though I can’t imagine (so far) that it particularly contradicts basic stuff with the character. As an Aliens fan, coming to this because of that side? I really enjoyed this.

The $3.99 for one story chunk is off-putting as ever, put I’ve been pretty much beaten into submission on the fact that all the comics I buy are basically $3.99. While this is certainly an issue worth picking up to try the series, to get to read the story now and as it unfolds, and whatever other usual motivations are present for buyiing a $4 single issue.

Based on this first issue alone, I suspect the eventual collected edition will be of definite interest to Aliens fans, and as we get further into the mini, I won’t be surprised if there’s more material with what will appear to be a distinctly Vampirella tone, for those fans.

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