Aliens Omnibus Volume 1 Review

Posted by Corporal Hicks on July 14, 2007 (Updated: 23-Jun-2015)

“Dark Horse Comics took the industry by storm with its release of Aliens, a comics series that for the first time captured the power of film source material and expanded its universe in a way that fans applauded worldwide. Now, the first three Dark Horse Aliens series – Outbreak, Nightmare Asylum and Female War – are collected in a value-priced, quality-format omnibus, featuring nearly 400 story pages in full color. Written by screen and television scribe Mark Verheiden (The Mask, Battlsestar Gallactica) and illustrated with consummate skill by Mark A. Nelson, Den Beauvais and Sam Kieth, Aliens Omnibus Volume 1 is an essential piece of the Aliens mythos and a great entry point into the storied Dark Horse Aliens library.”

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Outbreak

“Wilks was a space marine with a near-fatal flaw: he had a heart. Billie was a child, the only survivor of a far-flung colony outpost. Thrown together in the last hellish night of an Alien invasion, Billie and Wilks helped each other get out alive. Thirteen years later, Wilks is in prison and Billie lives in a mental institution, the nightmare memories of the massacre at Rim seared into her mind. Now the pair get a chance to be reunited. To go back to that outpost where it all happened, to finally end the business between themselves . . . and the Aliens.”

Outbreak is the remastered version of the original Aliens Series 1 (later Book 1) released in 1989 after the success of Aliens. Series 1 was the black and white tale of Hicks and Newt after the events of Aliens. However, Alien 3’s release saw the death of Hicks and Newt and continuity as set in Series 1, 2 and Earth War was null and void. As such Dark Horse re-released the story with Wilks and Billie in the place of Hicks and Newt and Hadley’s Hope became Rim.

Outbreak is set 13 years after the events of Rim which left an orphaned Billie institutionalized and Wilks a damaged soldier with a burning revenge against the Aliens that slaughtered his squad and ruined his life. With the discovery of the co-ordinates for the Aliens “homeworld”, a squad of marines is assembled to retrieve specimens for the government to use as bio-weapons.

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Wilks is recruited to head up the mission. Desperate to exact his vengeance upon the Aliens he goes, smuggling Billie along with him. Unbeknownst to everyone else, Bionational (aka the corporation), has secured a specimen of its own back on Earth. As could be expected, pretty much everything goes wrong for everyone.

Outbreak sets the stage for all Alien stories after it in which the Earth is devastated and infested by the Xenomorphs. While Alien Resurrection (arguably for some) destroys most of the continuity established in the comics, Outbreak is a must read in terms of establishing the state of play in all the future stories to be published.

It’s hard to pin where the main story of the series lies. Scribe, Mark Verheiden of Battlestar Galactica fame, switches focus between several different events and characters that ultimately culminate in the Earth shattering events of the conclusion of the series. The business of the book brings its problem in the form of characters being brought in, used and gotten rid of. Not all of them have the opportunity to shine and it becomes quite clear that for the most part, Outbreak is a story-driven venture.

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That’s not to say Verheiden doesn’t give us some interesting characters. The heroes of the story are easily identified as Wilks, Billie and Bueller with Billie taking the forefront of development. Verheiden has fun with the dynamic he introduces between Billie and Bueller. While I imagine the majority of you will be aware of the reveal surrounding the couple, I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who don’t.

Verheiden adds a layer of depth to the story with the exploration of their dynamic and introvertive speculation between them. He contemplates the appropriateness of their relationship as Billie explores this aspect of adult life she’s never had chance to explore before.

For Wilks the focus lies on accomplishing his goal: revenge against the Aliens. But as the story ends, as his goal is achieved, what then?

Outbreak also introduces us to the idea of religious fanaticism that revolves around the Aliens. In the terms of this story, it’s about Salvajes who believes the Xenomorphs to be a new messiah. His sect is eventually the reason the Aliens are able to escape captivity on Earth and spread around the planet. This religious story idea becomes a recurring story device throughout other Alien series.

Verheiden also attempts to add more depth to the Aliens world through some minor exploration of the Alien “homeworld” (later reconned in further stories to be one of many hiveworlds) and to introduce an element of an ecosystem that the Xenomorphs are a part of. Outbreak also established that the Aliens communicate via telepathy.

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Visually the comic looks like many released during the 90s. Coloured by Dark Horse Digital, Outbreak uses plenty of dark tones and colours to create a visual style consistent with the movies and is artistically reminiscent of the period it was released.

The biggest issue I had with the artwork was just how inconsistent it is with the visuals established in Aliens. At the time Aliens may not have been the staple of cinematic and science fiction history as it is now so the designs wont have been iconic but the inconsistency with the films is noticeable.

Where are the pulse rifles?! What’s with that dropship design? Why does the ship look like that? It looks wrong to the eyes.

If you want to get into the Expanded Universe of Aliens, Outbreak is a must read. Whether you like the elements introduced in it or not, it is an essential read.

Nightmare Asylum

“Wilks, Billie, and Bueller were the last survivors of a devastating assault on the aliens’ home planet. But their return to the solar system made them refugees once more, fleeing earth and its alien infestation in a desperate attempt to stay alive. Now, in an otherwise unmanned military transport, they hurtle through space, destination: unknown, while in the cargo hold they carry with them a legacy of death they thought they’d left behind!”

This story is worth the price-tag alone. Nightmare Asylum is my favourite Aliens comic and is definitely popular amongst many fans and for good reason! Den Beauvis brings a visual style rarely seen again in an Alien comic and never again in this length. His colours and brushwork brings a motion and tone to the artwork that just suits the Aliens franchise down to a tee.

Add to that detail that recreates the look of the environments we’ve seen before in Alien and Aliens and we’ve got a comic that feels like its creators did actually watch the movies. Small liberties are taken in some aspects – such as weapons – but they carry the look that seems as if they’re a development on the weaponry used by the Colonial Marines and now we actually have a comic that is actually developing an established universe.

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Whilst I realize that obviously the stories had to re-conned to fit in with Alien 3, you can really see the likeness to Michael Beihn in Wilks.

Mark Verhedien picks up the story after the end of Outbreak with Wilks, Billie and Bueller helpless aboard an automated drone ship, their final destination unknown. Eventually they find out they’re heading to a military outpost carrying a cargo of Xenomorph-infected humans. Of course, the Xenomorphs birth and the tired survivors are forced to deal with it.

We eventually find ourselves on the military outpost run by a crazed military general, Thomas Spears, performing experiments on Aliens, trying to weaponize them. I won’t get into too much detail but as we can expect it all goes to pot.

Like Outbreak before it, Nightmare Asylum established other archetypes for future Alien stories (*cough* Alien Resurrection *cough*) in the form of the military characters and situations surrounding weaponizing the Aliens. At the time, when we hadn’t read numerous variations of the story, I can imagine this having been a rather thrilling story as at times it looks like Spears has genuinely succeeded.

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I don’t think the story is quite as deep as Outbreak was at times but Nightmare Asylum is definitely a thrill-ride, much in the way Aliens was. It deals with the wider picture of the consequences of the Aliens infestation of Earth but still retrains a smaller focus on Billie as this is where the story of the trilogy starts to become more about her.

We watch as she starts to develop a connection to a little girl she is watching over the transmissions from Earth. Some people on Earth are still transmitting videos of what is happening on Earth and Billie becomes fascinated with one small group and a little girl in that group, seeing herself in that girl.

The aftermath of her relationship with Bueller isn’t a primary focus of the story but it is dealt with and that storyline and character arc is wrapped up by the end of Nightmare Asylum.

It’s a fantastic comic and this alone is worth picking up Volume 1.

Female War

“Billie only wanted what all children want — the warmth and security of family, the human connectedness that comes from belonging. What she got was a nightmare without end. Dark Horse is proud to present the third volume in the remastered Aliens series, Aliens: Female War. Written by The Mask screenplay writer Mark Verheiden and illustrated by The Maxx artist/creator Sam Kieth, Female War is a revised edition of what was previously titled Aliens: Earth War.”

Female War is not a comic I have good memories of. It’s the end of the Mark Verheiden trilogy that set off the Aliens expanded continuity and my memories of it are bad because of how much I disliked Sam Keith’s artwork for it but let’s talk about the story first.

Nightmare Asylum ended up a huge shock ending with Ripley showing up – evidently knowing Billie and Wilks. Female War continues with Ripley leading an excursion to the Aliens true homeworld where the Queen Mother resides, the Queen of Queens. Ripley has a plan to lure all the Aliens on Earth to a single point using the Queen Mother and then destroy them once and for all.

Ripley’s appearance in Female War starts to pull the reconning apart. The way she talks to Wilks and Billie would fit far more if they were still Hicks and Newt and it seems a little strange for her to have this closeness to these pair of complete strangers. There is even one section where they missed all the original names and Billie is referred to as Newt. It just doesn’t work as well as the previous entries.

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Verheiden continues Billie’s story, focusing on her maternal instincts as is setup in Nightmare Asylum. It’s not the primary element of the comic’s story but I feel it the is one that makes the most impact, taking Billie’s character arc and taking her from the psychological mess that she is introduced to us as and having her risk her life to save a child she has never met, only watched.

Female War also introduces us to an element of the Expanded Universe that has been repeatedly used and has now become a staple of the gaming universe, the Praetorians. Whilst they aren’t referred to as such in the narrative of the comic, we’re introduced to special Royal Guards that protect the Queen Mother. They’re shown to be a larger, more armoured variant of the Aliens.

As I mentioned earlier, my memories of this story comes from the awful artwork of Sam Keith. I disliked the artwork when I read the comic when I was but a wee youngster and I still dislike it now. While there are certain panels that look good (silhouetted shots of the Queen, for example), his style is dirty and undetailed.

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Ripley shares no likeness with Sigourney Weaver and the characters in general seem unemotional and poorly drawn.

His Aliens aren’t much better. They seem like a generic black monster that vaguely resembles our lovable, acid-bleeding, marine slaughtering extra-terrestrial. They’ve lost the terrifying beauty of their design and it seems to degrade their inclusion.

All in all, the artwork is just dark, dank and plain. It’s a boring mess and contributes nothing to the story. I think it’s a weak end to an otherwise fantastic starting trilogy to the Aliens expanded universe. I think Sam Keith’s artwork pulls Verheiden’s story down that much.

The end of the comic sees the return of the Space Jockey’s (Engineers) who showed up at the end of Earth Hive.  Now that the Aliens have been mostly dealt with on Earth – a plan possibly set in motion by the Space Jockeys – the other extra-terrestrials are returning to Earth…but for what purpose? Verheiden starts to setup a potential storyline which would see the Jockey’s taking over as another malevolent entity in the Aliens fiction.

But this is swiftly dealt with in the last comic in Volume 1, The Alien.

Theory of Alien Propagation

This short is the first of two that bring up the end of Volume 1. Written again by Mark Verheiden, Mark Nelson returns to do the artwork with Chris Chalenor doing colours.. Theory of Alien Propagation details Dr Orona’s theory on…guess what? Alien propagation.

It’s a nice little story that brings up some interesting notions that still fit somewhat within the continuity of the series. Steve Perry included it in his adaptation of Earth Hive  as a film script that Orona had prepared.

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Visually it looks like it’s a lost issue of Earth hive and retains that suitable style that helps it fit within the Aliens universe. I think Chalenor’s colours are an improvement over Dark Horse Digital’s colours in Outbreak. Over all I think this short was a fun little read.

The Alien

The Alien isn’t a story I’ve read many times. In fact, I think I’ve only read it the once when I first read Volume 1 back in 2007. It was written by John Arcudi, a name that has some importance in the Aliens literacy world and has written some fantastic stories for Dark Horse – but The Alien just doesn’t have any particular impact.

It’s a short that acts as an epilogue to Aliens – Female War and a prologue to Aliens – Genocide. Verheiden and Female War left us with an Earth that was going to be unhabitable for some time and the looming threat of the Space Jockeys/Engineers (or the Pilot are they are referred to in The Alien).

The Alien completely turns us away from that direction. The Pilot was allowing the Aliens to destroy all life on Earth so he could return to terraform it and take Earth as his new home. He’s done a pretty good job of it too, returning the Earth to habitable conditions now we’ve just got that small problem of the Pilot being a little bit of a bad guy.

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So queue a small setup for the Pilot and his kind becoming a badass recurring villain, adding some complexity and depth for the Alien expanded universe? Nah – let’s just the kill the guy off.

I’m not sure where the decision came from to the end this particular direction but The Alien completely destroys that potential storyline and brings an explosive end to the Pilot. It’s not a particularly satisfying story with pointless, unimpactful characters but it was nessacerry to return the Aliens universe to a point where it could continue as Dark Horse took it.

On one hand, I’m pretty disappointed that we missed out but as Alien 3 did, Prometheus would have made this direction completely null and void.

The coloured version as printed in Volume #1 is unattractive and plain but The Alien finishes off the otherwise, brilliant book, with a bit of a dull short.

Conclusion

Volume #1 is a fantastic and essential start for any Alien fan interested in getting involved in the expanded universe. The core trilogy of stories in this are key in the establishment of the Alien expanded universe and while that universe is somewhat null and voided by the Alien Resurrection, the stories within that universe can be pretty interesting.

And to be perfectly honest, Den Beauvis artwork in Nightmare Asylum is worth any retail price on the book. With Volume #1 having been in print around 6 years now, I’d imagine it being relitively cheap and easy to pick up.

From Aaron Percival, here at AvPGalaxy.net, I award Aliens – Volume #1 with a 4 out of 5.

Rating: 4 Stars (4 / 5)
Post Comment

Comments: 2
  1. “Ripley shares no likeness with Sigourney Weaver”…Yeah so true, this alone almost condemns the Female War to the junk pile. The other characters are, as well, competely out of touch, as their countances and facia/emotionall expressions are seriously degraded by the pathetic art work of someone’s.


  2. Hello!!

    I’m reading the comic book now, The omnibus 1 and I’m looking for about the change of Billie and Wilks in Female War… have been redrawn and they don’t seems the same characters.

    Although I agree with you in this book is essential for the Alien fans.

    I love Ripley and I’d like her to be more important in the story.

    Congratulations for this website, it’s cool!

    Bye!


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