While the cinematic fate of Alien is currently in a state of undetermined limbo (Neill Blomkamp having moved onto RoboCop and Ridley Scott having moved into motion picture purgatory), it’s been a good year for Alien fans in terms of EU. Last April, Titan Books published Alex White’s critically lauded Cold Forge , and this November will see the much anticipated comic book adaptation of William Gibbon’s original Alien 3 script. In the interim, fans feverish for more Alien fodder can revisit the 2016 Dark Horse cross-title event, Life and Death.
Much akin to the Fire and Stone arc, Life and Death is a crossover story that takes place across Dark Horse’s Predator, Prometheus, Aliens and AvP titles. Aside from simply pitting the classic xenomorph against the galaxy’s deadliest sports hunter, the Predator (two creatures that first locked corrugated claws back in issue 36 of Dark Horse Presents), Life and Death also includes disparate elements from Prometheus such as the engineers and the infamous vases of black goo. All issues of this miniseries can now be obtained in a collectible hardcover, but is this heavyweight mashup truly worth you time?
Taking place some 43 years after Aliens and about a year after the events of Fire and Stone, Life and Death‘s story begins with the United States Colonial Marines (USCM) setting down on the jungle-laden planetoid of LV-797. Assigned as security detail to Weyland-Yutani exec Lorimer, who suspects unlicensed asset stripping on the notorious company’s future terraforming endeavor, Captain Pager and our troupe of colorful interplanetary jarheads come face to face with a threat far more sinister than pirate prospectors, they face off against a hunting party of Predators. Escaping LV-797 on a derelict spacecraft, our marines find themselves out of the frying pan and into the fire as they involuntarily land on Prometheus planet LV-223 wherein engineers, xenomorphs and more Predators lay in wait.
Andrea Mutti (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Moritat (Elephantmen) and Brian Albert Thies (Star Wars: Legacy) compromise the team of contributing artists on the book, and they do a more than serviceable job of fleshing out this xenocentric world. As with most Dark Horse comics centered around the xenomorph, the book utilizes much of the costuming and aesthetics of James Cameron’s Aliens (Colonial Marines, pulse rifles, an APC, Vietnam tailored drop ships, etc.). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing — however, one of the reasons the comic Dead Orbit and the game Alien: Isolation were so refreshing was that they avoided this in favor of an aesthetic more closely related to Ridley Scott’s original film.
While the story, courtesy of Marvel scribe Dan Abnett, pales in comparison to other, more streamlined Dark Horse/Aliens titles such as Dead Orbit or the currently running Dust to Dust, Abnett’s ambitions appear to lie elsewhere. The story’s appeal derives from sandboxing all these disparate characters the way a child of the 90s would do with their Kenner Aliens/Predator action figures (or adults of today, for that matter, via NECA). If you’re looking to see the Predator take on colonial marines, it’s here. If you want to see an engineer go toe to toe with an alien queen, it’s here. Xenomorph hybrids? All here in the pages. The book even goes on to feature a Predator/engineer grudge match which, while fun, does showcase the overlapping similarities between these two, tech-based titans licensed by 20th Century Fox.
The book’s by no means a must read; however, if you’ve enjoyed Fire and Stone, Life and Death delivers much of the same. Considering the story’s multitude of characters, the comic avoids being overly convoluted. Hell, if nothing else, it’s certainly a vast improvement over both AvP films.