Review: Father-Daughter Bonding During An Alien Invasion In ‘Lifeformed’

by James Ferguson

Cleo is your average girl, dealing with life’s troubles as best she can. Her happy-go-lucky father tries to cheer her up when she’s down and the two have a nice, warm home…then alien invade. Her dad dies right in front of her and a renegade alien assumes his form. With her world turned upside down and everything she knew and loved gone, Cleo begins a journey that will change her life forever.

Lifeformed has a pretty crazy premise that hits you from almost the very beginning. It’s a strange way to set up this unlikely pairing and it’s sure to cause all kinds of psychological trauma in Cleo. It’s not just that this alien looks like her dad; it also has his memories so it has most of the same feelings…it’s just not him. This forces Cleo to grow up pretty quickly, pushing past her insecurities and anxiety to stand tall. It’s empowering for her in a way, but at what cost?
Cleo can be rebellious at times which can have its own dangers in a normal world, but that’s even more dangerous in times of alien invasion. Over the course of two volumes, you see her transform from an unsure child to a strong, capable young woman. Under other circumstances, this might have happened with her playing sports through school or learning how to play an instrument. In this case, it comes from tactically killing large aliens with explosions and scavenging supplies from abandoned stores. Writer Matt Mair Lowery provides an interesting character study with this character.

Lifeformed doesn’t just follow Cleo and her new alien dad. We also get a look at the villains of the story, as well as how they prepared to handle the human race. This tied into Cleo’s new father’s origins, but fell a little flat as it didn’t do a lot to humanize him further. That was done with his adventures on earth. We could have gotten some of that in conversation there instead of killing momentum with flashbacks.
These scenes also dealt with another human character, imprisoned by the aliens that helped him see the light in all this, but she feels like an add-on that doesn’t entirely tie in. I wondered if she could have been Cleo’s actual mother as she’s not in the picture on Earth. It would be an interesting twist.

The aliens are these towering, yet faceless figures. They resemble clay, barely formed into a human-like form, but lacking any and all emotion. Artist Cassie Anderson adds a bit of horror with this. This is amplified when we head to the alien spaceships and see the strange features there. It’s otherworldly in the truest sense of the word.
This aspect, along with the dystopian nature of the story, doesn’t entirely jive with Anderson’s art style. The artwork has a lighter feel to it that stops just short of cartoonish. For example, Cleo almost always has a humorous expression on her face, even in the most dire of circumstances. Picture Jim from The Office fighting aliens and occasionally mugging for the camera.

Lifeformed is an unlikely father / daughter road trip story. You might come for the alien invasion, but stay for the character development as both Cleo and her new dad discover quite a lot about themselves and their relationship with one another.
Lifeformed from Dark Horse Comics is currently available through two volumes at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.

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