Private First Class Zula Hendricks thinks she is aboard a ship full of Weyland-Yutani Corporate Security Drones (combat synthetics) solely as a mater of protocol. Weyland-Yutani has claimed salvage rights to a mass hauler adrift in space with no functioning transponder or communication. Because of the ship’s location, a Colonial Marine must board the craft with Weyland-Yutani’s androids to enter a code and transfer the craft’s flight recorder data.
In the first pages of Aliens: Defiance, Episode 1: Derelict, we see that PFC Hendricks was severely wounded in the line of duty and required intensive reconstructive surgery to her spine, nanotherapy, and rehab to be able to even walk. The fact that she is still serving on active duty is a testament to her grit and determination. This mission is the Colonial Marines’ version of light duty until she makes a full recovery.
The story sets up in much the way you would expect: Upon boarding the hauler, Zula discovers the ship isn’t completely devoid of life. There are no live humans aboard. There are…wait for it…Xenomorphs! As formulaic as this sounds for the franchise, with Weyland-Yutani wanting to capture and weaponize Xenomorphs and sending an unwitting crew into almost certain demise, there’s actually a very interesting and unexpected twist that sets this series apart from its predecessors.
Brian Wood gives us honest, whole characters that make sense. PFC Zula Hendricks comes across as a very proud and determined soldier who is reticent to show any weakness at all, making her all the more determined during her lengthy recovery period. Synthetic Davis shows a range of emotion and actions that are wholly unexpected from a Weyland-Yutani synthetic.
The art by Tristan Jones is remarkable. The set pieces are tight and claustrophobic when the crew is battling Xenomorphs, and the reader is reminded that there really is nowhere to run in open space. A hole in a suit or a crack in a helmet can be a death sentence.
Dan Jackson gives us great filters of light and dark. The scenes on board Colonial and Weyland-Yutani ships are light, well lit, airy. The scenes aboard the doomed hauler are dark, spooky, lit in reds and yellows. I don’t think colorists get nearly enough credit for their contributions to great comics, but at least half of the setting is the color. If it isn’t right, there’s nothing scary about the best written script or the most brilliantly drawn panel.
Aliens: Defiance #1, Dark Horse Comics, released April 27, 2016, script by Brian Wood, art by Tristan Jones, colors by Dan Jackson, lettering by Nate Piekos of Blambot, cover by Massimo Carnivale, 30th Anniversary variant cover art by Mark A. Nelson, $3.59
Review by Brendan Allen.