Review: Aliens Dead Orbit HC
Updated: Nov 19, 2020
Let me say this first; I did like this book. Now, I'm going to nitpick the shit out of it for being a bland as hell Alien comic that looks great.
I really enjoy James Stokoe's work, so no matter what I am glad I got this and I'm glad I got the oversized hardcover because the art looks great in this format. If we're grading this as an oversized art book then it's well worth the $35 price tag and I highly recommend it. Just look at this image and imagine it as a glorious double splash page spread in a handsome 8.25x12.5 HC package with glossy pages.
Here's my problem though, and it's not necessarily the books fault; it's a tediously basic Alien story. It follows all the traditional beats of an Alien story, mostly because Stokoe was going for the tone of the first movie. Which is a fine thing to do, but I'm coming from the perspective that we've had over 30 years of Aliens comics. We've had so many basic stories and so many interesting permutations that I find it a little baffling that someone like Stokoe (who's done some weird shit man) would play it by the numbers.
The core story is that there's a group of six people on a space station and they encounter a scavenger ship that doesn't respond to their hails. They explore the ship, find survivors, get them out of stasis, and whoops we got us some aliens.
The story bounces back and forth with a series of flashbacks, so it's sort of a puzzle as we see things unfold. There's also a ticking time bomb element at work to create some level of suspense, but in the end it didn't hold any power for me because there was a complete lack of characterization. I think the only characterizations were that we got someone who likes coffee and someone was prone to panic? Otherwise there weren't really any stakes for me as people were being picked off, and some elements of the flashbacks actually muddled the narrative waters with a few scenes just coming off as confusing.
This would be akin to finding out that Sam Raimi was doing an Aliens movie, but then he just decided to completely mime the original movie. Sure, he did a good job, it looks great, the content is good. But like.....I was hoping for more of a unique flavor besides it being in a particular visual style.
This is very much a me problem though. After reading and watching so much Alien media, I always have the hope that someone's going to get a little weird with it and do something completely new and interesting. Seeing as Disney now owns the franchise I'm not hoping too hard along those lines anymore, so I think I'm just generally bummed when it comes to Aliens comics and I may have some unfair expectations.
If you're an Aliens fan, this is a fine addition to the collection. If you're a Stokoe fan, yes buy this edition, it's well worth it for the art. And if you're James Stokoe, maybe just take the old Grant Morrison approach and do some extra drugs next time and just go crazy.