Wednesday, 15 October 2014

New Beginnings - Alien Versus Predator: Fire and Stone #1

by Matt Puddy

And so another piece of the Fire and Stone puzzle to slot into the bigger picture. Born originally from a crossover of two strong franchises, Alien vs Predator was a geeky marriage in heaven which went on to spawn films, books, comics and video games.

Dark Horse has once again included it in the various threads of a bigger Alien story arc. But - and here is a slightly tricky aspect - its inclusion in the Fire and Stone continuity is not from the start of all hell breaking loose. Much like the weird aunt and uncle at a family wedding, it arrives late to the main event but well before the evening reception. Placed after issue #4 of Prometheus: Fire and Stone (and subsequently Aliens: Fire and Stone as a result) but completely before Predator: Fire and Stone  #1, this issue suffers quite a bit from leaving the reader in an occasional state of “what exactly has happened here?”

Now I do understand and appreciate that this style of storytelling can pique interest in readers, as it promotes so many questions about what has gone on in the parallel stories, but for me, on this occasion the leap made is too big. 

Loosely speaking the situation in the story is such that we can identify with the characters physically but their personalities in some cases are compromised to such a degree that they are different entirely. Francis is now a captive with an almost subservient manner to him, and Eldon is a completely different entity to how we first met him. Don’t get me wrong, I want to know how he got to be what he is now - with the new growths, protrusions and aliens in tow - but I can’t see him as the artificial human that started the trip in the first place. I also have no clue as to why he is so desperate to retrieve and reunite with Francis as well. (Some of that journey begins in this week's Prometheus #2 which Matt has yet to read due to a business trip, BF.)

The plot is primarily an aftermath explanation that goes out of control. While trying to escape with both Francis and an alien weapon in their custody, the inhabitants of the ship find themselves at the mercy of Eldon. He controls the Helios which in turn has power over their ship. However, as we are dealing with mercenaries here the options are simple. Stay alive by handing over Francis.

This would have all gone smoothly (and made for an awfully short comic!), had this simply happened but unbeknownst to everyone, sci-fi’s favourite hunters had also set their eyes on the ship as a hunt. The Predator's breach of the hull didn’t go unnoticed and the subsequent alarm sets everyone on edge, spinning matters out of control. A deranged android leading a group of xenomorphs on a hide and seek raid of the ship quickly ensues.

With the xenomorphs running amok on the ship, it’s easy for the stealth suited hunting party to make their advances as well. Everything culminates in a variety of face offs and preambles to fighting with poor Francis just hiding for his life. The apparent prize of it all.

Ariel Olivetti has done a cracking job of bringing Christopher Sebela’s writing to life. I really like the artwork. It has energy conveyed through the clean lines and sharp shapes, with the colouring adding more depth. There is even the odd frame that, conversely, does a lot with zero background or using a silhouette, instead of flooding the frame with details letting the readers mind fill in the rest.

Putting aside the continuity I really liked this comic and can envisage that I will like it more when I’ve collected them all and re-read them in a more structured fashion. Fire and Stone is shaping up to be a superb event series.

Matt Puddy had a tough decision between the first episode of Gotham and the start of the new series of The Walking Dead earlier this week.

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