In Comics, No One Can Hear You Scream


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“Aliens” revolutionized film sci-fi and its comic book adaptations put Dark Horse Comics on the map. Now, Dark Horse is bringing Aliens back to stores this week.

There have been movies that mixed science-fiction and horror before Alien hit theaters in 1979. The B-Movies of the 1950s made it a staple. But Alien applied a 1970s sensibility to the partnership and created one of the most influential films of the decade. It spawned many imitators, three sequels and jump started the careers of Ridley Scott and Sigourney Weaver.

It introduced us to a whole new kind of alien. It was humanoid yet not human. It spit acid, had a second mouth, and used humans as incubators. It is a relentless hunter and a remorseless killer. It hunted the crew and picked them off one by one. Right up until the last frame, you weren’t sure that any of the cast would make it out alive.
With a debut like that, there is no wonder why the franchise became an international sensation. The Alien brand was further enhanced by 1986’s Aliens. Terminator director James Cameron brought a dose of action to the sci-fi/horror concept with great success. Cameron’s film was called a sequel that was even better than the original, and grossed the highest of any film in the franchise.

Debuting the same year Aliens hit theaters was a small independent comic publisher based out of Oregon called Dark Horse Comics. That first year, the company put out an anthology called Dark Horse Presents and a funny animal parody book spun off from it called Boris the Bear. The next year brought more spinoffs such as The American, The Mark, and the now-legendary Concrete. Dark Horse showed the potential to become a highly regarded independent publisher along the lines of popular indies at the time like First, Comico, and Eclipse.

Of course, today, First, Comico, and Eclipse are no longer around and Dark Horse is one of the top three independent publishers. As a matter of fact, a number of the creators and properties that were once housed at First, Comico, and Eclipse have made their way to Dark Horse. Why has Dark Horse succeeded where almost all its contemporaries have failed? And what does the Alien film franchise have to do with it?

Well, in 1988 Dark Horse published its first Aliens miniseries. It wasn’t the company’s first licensed property—that honor goes to Godzilla, who had a miniseries the year before—but it was arguably its most successful. It paved the way for Dark Horse to pick up the Predator and Terminator licenses, which the company shrewdly paired up with Aliens in a series of best-selling miniseries.   The success of these efforts allowed them to grow in the market place, allowed them the freedom to provide a home to creator owned properties such as Frank Miller’s Sin City and 300, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and Eric Powell’s Goon. Their success with creating quality adaptations of famous film licenses opened the way to them to pick up such prestige licenses as Star Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Conan.

Without its marriage to the Aliens franchise, we might be speaking of Dark Horse in the past tense. But the partnership gave Dark Horse a strong leg to stand on and a solid base to build on. It might not be fair to say Aliens made Dark Horse Comics, but it certainly helped to make it.

Now, it is fitting that the license returns to Dark Horse in a brand new miniseries. John Arcudi, no stranger to writing an Aliens comic book, returns and is joined by up and coming artist Zach Howard. The plot involves a bunch of prospectors staking claim to what they think is an uninhabited planet, only to find members of their crew picked off one by one. Something is stalking these settlers, something…Alien.
Aliens plays a vital part of Dark Horse’s history. Without it, the company would be very different today, if it would exist at all. If you are picking up this new Aliens miniseries, think of it not only as a form of entertainment, but also a link to the past.

Also out this week

Dark Reign: Hood #1

You have to hand it to Brian Michael Bendis, he’s an expert at reclamation projects. He’s skilled at taking great characters created by superstar creators that other people were wary to touch and turns them into major players in the Marvel Universe. He did it with Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee’s Sentry, he did it with David Mack’s Echo, and, most recently, with Brian K. Vaughan and Kyle Hotz’s The Hood.

The Hood has become a major player in the Dark Reign event, hobnobbing with classic baddies such as Dr. Doom and Norman Osborn. But what about the supporting cast from his debut miniseries?  What happened to them during The Hood’s rise in power? That is what this series will answer as Jeff Parker joins Hood co-creator Kyle Hotz on examining the true cost of ambition.

Jeff Parker (W), Kyle Hotz (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

Last Days of Animal Man #1

As a man gets older, things on his body start to fail. He finds he needs glasses all the time, not just to read. He finds it more difficult to remember names and dates. And then there are other things.

For Buddy Baker, the “other things” are him losing the powers that make him Animal Man. For an ordinary man, getting older can be difficult. For Buddy, it’s going to be fatal.
Comic legend Gerry Conway returns to the four-color medium after years working in TV (like NBC’s Law and Order? Thank Gerry—he wrote and produced it) to write the final chapter in Animal Man’s life. Don’t worry Animal Man fans. The series is set a decade and a half in the future, So your favorite will still be around for another couple years.

Gerry Conway (W), Chris Batista (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

Rapture #1

The superhumans have gone and left the world in shambles. An epic battle between good “Powers” and bad “Powers” has destroyed cities, separated families and caused great chaos. Dealing with this are two star-crossed lovers named Evelyn and Gil who are valiantly trying to reunite after the catastrophic war.

Just when their goal is in sight, a being of unimaginable power call “The Word” intercedes. He grants Evelyn a flaming spear with angelic powers. Gil and Evelyn’s love was the one solid thing in a crumbling world. But her newfound powers might create a distance that neither one can span. Break-ups are usually nasty, but this one will be cataclysmic.

Michael Avon Oeming & Taki Soma (W), Michael Avon Oeming (A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

Trinity #52

It’s a race against time. If the Dark Trinity of Morgaine Le Fey, Enigma and Despero manage to seal all the world shifting rifts on Earth, they will have the ultimate power to recreate the world as they see fit.

Hawkman and the group of heroes that compose his JSI are trying to counteract the Dark Trinity’s plans and preserve life as they know it. Of course, life as they know it is without Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman. Is the return of the Good Trinity the key to defeating Morgaine and company? Or will the heroes be forever lost no matter what happens?

DC’s third weekly series is an epic, if somewhat confusing, story which pulls on decades of DC continuity. Kurt Busiek draws not only from his run on Superman and the JLA/Avengers crossover to flesh out his plot, but also events such as the death of Jason Todd to the very first meeting of the Justice League. Now, the complex tale is at an end.

Kurt Busiek & Fabian Nicieza (W), Mark Bagley & Tom Derenick (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Final Issue.

Wolverine #72

We here at Guiding Lines are providing, because we care about you, a guide to the confusing new pattern of Wolverine numbering. No need to thank us, it is a service we are happy to provide.

Several weeks ago we had Wolverine #73, which started a brand new pair of arcs and not a continuation of the “Old Man Logan” storyline, as you would expect. The continuation of said storyline appears here, in issue #72, which, yes, was released out of order. “Old Man Logan” does not conclude in the next issue, which, for those keeping score, is issue #74. Issue #74 features the continuation of the arcs started in #73.

“Old Man Logan” doesn’t conclude in #75 either, which will be when the title becomes Dark Wolverine and is handed over to Logan’s son, Daken. “Old Man Logan” will conclude some time in the future in something called Giant-Size Old Man Logan, which makes me wonder why they didn’t put the contents of this issue in that issue, make it Extra Giant-Size or something, and avoid the confusion altogether.
We hope this helps.

Mark Millar (W), Steve McNiven (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Muppet Robin Hood #1

An interesting field of anthropology would be studying the arc of parody in all things Muppet. They started out doing broad, genre-based parody on The Muppet Show with sketches such as the sci-fi aping “Pigs in Space” and the cooking show mocking skits with the Swedish Chef. But, eventually, the parodies got narrower, as they made the Muppet cast replacements in such stories as the Wizard of Oz and Treasure Island.

The BOOM! Studios Muppet comics continue this trend with this series which transports the cast to Sherwood Forest and cast Kermit as Robin Hood, Miss Piggy as Maid Marian, and Fozzy as Friar Tuck. Since you can only read a comic and not listen to it, we have no way of knowing if Kermit’s British accent would be better than Kevin Costner’s (although I’m guessing it would be).

Tim Beedle (W), Armand Villavert Jr. (A), BOOM! Studios, $2.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Power Up

If you have never played a video game in your life, you might be a bit confused about the title of this graphic novel. In video games, a power up is anything that gives your character a boost. It could be a mushroom that allows you to throw fire, a glowing triangle that turns you invulnerable, or a coin that gives you superspeed.

Hugh Randolph is a man in need of a real life power up. Stuck in a dead end job that barely allows him to support his family, he could use all the help he can get. Luckily, help arrives in the form of a magical video game console that allows him to manipulate reality. Can it be real, and, if it is, what hidden price does it involve?

This book is done by a man who knows a little bit about video games: Doug TenNapel created the legendary video game character Earthworm Jim.

Doug TenNapel (W/A), Image Comics, $12.99. Original Graphic Novel.

Dellec #0

Aspen is known for its relatively bright and airy fantasy characters such as Soulfire and Fathom, but its latest star is a bit grittier. Dellec operates in the realm of fantasy, but in a blue collar, working class vein. He is a man dedicated to hunting down and removing evil, but it could be at the price of his own existence.

The company is previewing its latest offering with its cheapest #0 issue yet. Inside, you will get a look at the upcoming series, a look at what went into designing the characters, and more than your fair share of concept sketches. It’s everything you need to get ready for the series at the very reasonable price of $1.99. Aspen fans should be on the look out for this one.

Frank Mastromauro & Vince Hernandez (W), Micah Gunnell (A), Aspen Comics, $1.99. Ongoing Series.

Justice Society of America #27

For me, there are three names I associate with DC’s modern age examination of their Golden Age characters—Geoff Johns, Roy Thomas and Jerry Ordway.  I first discovered Ordway’s art during his partnership with Thomas on All-Star Squadron and he quickly became one of my favorite artists. He has gone on since then to become a great writer in his own right, putting in solid stints on Superman and The Power of Shazam!

Now, Ordway is putting his writing chops to good use on some of the characters that made him famous, and, as a special treat, he’ll be doing the art as well. He’s taking the reigns for a special arc before a new creative team takes over as the senior JSA-ers face off against a menace from their past.

Jerry Ordway (W/A), DC Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Amazing Spider-Man #595

Six hundred issues is a momentous anniversary and one that takes a fair amount of preparation if you want to celebrate it properly. And since this is Marvel’s biggest icon hitting that sexcentennial, you bet they are going to plan accordingly. The build up to Amazing Spider-Man #600 begins here.
Spider-Man is having Osborn problems.

Norman Osborn has become a very powerful man in the United States, and Spidey, knowing that Norman is really his arch-enemy Green Goblin, simply won’t stand for it. He’s decided that he must bring Norman Osborn down once and for all. But Norman’s son Harry is causing Spidey’s alter ego, Peter Parker problems of his own. See, Harry has become engaged and a wedding is in the works. But the bride is someone that Peter desperately doesn’t want Harry to marry. Will Spidey/Peter ruin two Osborn lives at the same time?

Joe Kelly (W), Phil Jimenez (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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  • Kris Bather

    Kris Bather May 26, 2009 at 7:55am

    I just finished working my way through the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set. Man, they're good films. It's great to see them back at Dark Horse and Zack Howard's art looks pretty impressive.

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