When COVID-19 brought the comics industry to a screeching halt, my colleague Tony Thornley and I decided to dive deep into our longboxes and collections to bring you a new Comicon feature called New To You Comics.
Comics are on their way back, but we had so much fun with this thing, we decided to keep going.
Tony and I have very different tastes in comics. Tony loves his shiny tights, super powers, and sci-fi. I tend to stick to horror, noir, and weird indies. Occasionally, our paths cross, but we, like most readers, tend to stay in our lanes.
We’re here to break up that pattern a little. Tony’s throwing some of his favorites my way, and I’m sending him some of mine. Every title we cover is brand new to one of us, and every stinking one of them is available on digital and mail order platforms, in case your local shop is still closed.
In keeping with our October horror theme, this week we’ll be taking a look at Dark Horse Comics’ Aliens: Dust to Dust by Gabriel Hardman and Rain Beredo. Here’s what Dark Horse tells us about the book:
In deep space, the Trono colony on the planet LV-871 finds itself under attack by mysterious and deadly creatures of unknown origin. Emergency evacuations are ordered and shuttles are taking off as the massacre sweeps the colony.
All that stands between 12-year-old Maxon and his mom making it to the safety of the spaceport… is a horde of Aliens! You’ll be gripping the edge of your seat as a mother and son fight for their lives against the deadliest monsters in the galaxy.
Brendan Allen: Aliens: Dust to Dust opens with twelve year old Maxon woken abruptly as all hell breaks loose around him. Takes all of six panels before we see our first facehugger. Five pages in, we get our first full grown xenomorph. Running and gunfire, explosions and bodies. We’re on planet, and shit just went sideways.
Most Aliens stories have a kind of honeymoon phase through the first chapter. At the very least, through a few pages. Crew on some exotic planet or in a space hauler. We get to know them a little. Some are huge assholes and we can’t wait for them to get their comeuppance. Others kind of grow on us and we hope they at least make it past the opening act. None of that nonsense here. Cover, title page, klaxon horns, mayhem.
Man, I love this franchise. Where you at on this one, Tony?
Tony Thornley: I don’t do scary movies, so I’ve never seen any of the Alien films. However, I have always loved the comics. Some of my earliest comic-reading memories are of sitting down with some of my uncle’s early Alien miniseries. I even remember reading the original Alien Versus Predator! They were some great sci-fi action comics, and I didn’t even understand that they were supposed to be scary until I was a teenager.
In short, this is just a trip down memory lane for me.
Brendan: Ha. That’s interesting. I didn’t get to see a lot of films when I was a kid. My first experience with the Aliens franchise probably came from a MAD Magazine parody. I don’t think I saw any of the films until I was in junior high, but once I did, I was hooked. I love the films. Love the comics. This is one franchise where I’ll read or watch just about anything that gets put out.
This is one of the better entries in the franchise. Gabriel Hardman drags this kid and his ma through LV-871 at a breakneck pace, but the action is easy to follow. There’s a strong sense of space, and the desperation is real. The tension is palpable. This mama is fully willing to throw herself between a Xenomorph and her baby to get him onto one of the escape vessels.
Tony: I also really like that Hardman goes out of his way to make this different than the normal Alien books. This isn’t set in a claustrophobic space ship, or the tight corridors of a research facility. The opening issue is in the middle of a facility that’s more city than it is research lab. The second issue is largely in the middle of an inky black sandstorm. It’s so outside the norm that it’s instantly engaging to a longtime fan.
Using Maxon as a protagonist is another thing that I think set it apart. He’s significantly older than Newt, but still young enough that he’s set apart from other protagonists that have faced Xenomorphs. He’s just a kid trying to make it, and that makes him important.
Brendan: The thing that really makes this one stand out for me is a question that Hardman brings up that, as far as I know, has never been addressed. Do Xenomorphs take on any of the characteristics of their embryonic hosts? Do they absorb any DNA from their hosts, and if so, is there any implicit memory there? Do they pick up psychic wavelengths or something while they’re cooking that might influence them at a later point?
Tony: Oh, I liked that too. The one-armed Xenomorph that hatched from Max’s mother? It’s both an interesting antagonist and semi-protagonist. I really dug that it remained a presence the entire series, and gave us some answers to those questions.
Brendan: The art itself is frenetic and dirty. The panels get stretched and torqued as the action cranks up, and there’s a dusty, banged up quality to these images that lean into both the horror and science fiction genres. Xenomorph design is on point. These look a lot like the xenomorphs Tristan Jones brought in Aliens: Defiance, which, in my opinion, is the bar for the entire franchise to date.
Everything appropriately looks like it’s being lit by emergency egress lighting. Colors by Rain Beredo add to the tension and emphasize the claustrophobia that every great Aliens story needs.
Tony: I think Hardman is one of the best at both sci-fi and horror in the industry right now. To get him doing both in this book is a real treat. This series could have been published entirely wordless, and it would have been an excellent read. His storytelling is remarkably clear, but it’s also moody and atmospheric. Beredo’s work just adds tension and atmosphere. It’s incredibly well done.
Brendan: That’s a good point about Hardman’s storytelling. This is a big story, and he only needed the four chapters to tell it. Didn’t waste any time on the stuff we already know. Jumped straight into the story, and told the thing.
Tony: Could it have used a little space to build up the characters more? Sure. But it didn’t NEED it. It’s a great example of economy of storytelling.
Brendan: Fair. What’s your final verdict?
Tony: I’d read this again in a heartbeat. Every time I pick up something by Hardman, I like it. I need to make sure I read more of his stories.
Brendan: What’s up next in your queue?
Tony: We’re going to continue out all horror October with one of the more unusual horror books of the past decade. We’re going to take a look at Archie Horror’s Vampironica by Greg & Megan Smallwood. You’re going to like it!
Brendan: Sweet. I love Archie Horror. Strangely enough, Vampironica is the one series I haven’t touched.
Aliens: Dust to Dust TP, Dark Horse Comics, 14 May 2019. Written and drawn by Gabriel Hardman, color by Rain Beredo, letters by Michael Heisler,
Some of your local shops have re-opened. As always, we’d like to ask that you first try to get these books at your local shop. This is a very uncertain time for owners, employees, and their families. Show some love for your community and friends by buying from your regular shop when possible and safe.
If your local comic store is still closed, not offering safe curbside pick up or mail order, or is out of stock on this title, you can find a digital copy at Dark Horse Digital or Comixology for eleven bucks.