“Since time immemorial, the aliens known as Predators have come to Earth to hunt us. Now a group of survivors of those visits have begun a hunt of their own. This is the year that humanity turns the tables on the Predators!”
Predator: Hunters is a five issue series that began on May the 3rd and finished on September the 6th of 2017. Written by Dark Horse veteran Chris Warner (he actually illustrated the very first Predator comic!) and illustrated by Francisco Ruiz Velasco, Predator: Hunters is the first Predator series for some time that hasn’t been tied into a major crossover event or the release of a new movie.
So let’s take a look at where the original Predator comic writer has taken the new series! The basic premise of Predator: Hunters follows a specialist team that has all survived previous encounters with the Predator and now they’re on the offensive, investigating and putting a stop to Predator activity on Earth. The story shares some similarities with Predator: Xenogenesis (released in 1999) but unlike Xenogenesis, Hunters finds itself set within modern times and is grounded much more in previous Predator continuity.
Something I really loved with Predator: Hunters was that a good chunk of its protagonists had ties to previous Predator lore. While Xenogenesis’ characters had previous encounters with the Predators, they were original for the series. Predator: Hunters’ team leader, Jaya Soames is the great great granddaughter of Captain Soames from Predator: Nemesis. The other returning characters are Mandy Graves from Predator: Bad Blood and Enoch Nakai from Predator: Big Game.
Connecting to previous stories isn’t something that Predator does very often and serves as nice world building. While Predator: Hunters does give us a couple of pages of recap, not a lot of time needs to be spent on setting up all its character’s histories. That allows Warner more page time to setup the narrative driving the series.
In addition to Graves and Enoch, we’re also introduced to several new characters who have had past run-ins with the Predators – Tyler Swain and Raphael Herrera – both of whom also receive a couple of pages of flashbacks and both of whom are interesting in their own rights. Unlike our typical heroes Herrera comes from a more shady past where he was something of a drug baron and despite what he may claim, Swain isn’t quite the hero he would lead to you believe.
Predator: Hunters has a nicely sized cast of characters where everyone gets to do something and there are some nice moments for all of them. Swain has something of a Hudson-esque arc which I think works pretty well. Through Graves we get to see the after-effects of surviving an encounter with the Predator and how that gave her survivors guilt which is something that isn’t really touched on much in the expanded universe and quite welcome here. There is also a really lovely burgeoning relationship developing between Graves and Nakai that was fun to see.
Once our ensemble has assembled, they head off to investigate their latest intelligence pointing to Predator activity which leads them to some remote islands, the Bunting Islands. It would appear the Predator activity is isolated to one island (Kehua) and on a neighbouring island (Amelia) is a group of people who follow Dr Henry Bunting who have gone for a more simplistic approach to life.
As the story unfolds, we eventually discover that there’s actually several Predators on Kehua and they crashed a long time ago. The big reveal (skip ahead a few paragraphs if you don’t want this spoiled) is that the citizens of Amelia fought a bloody conflict with the Predators and soon found themselves galvanised by the more primal aspects of mankind they found themselves embracing to defeat the Predators.
Several surviving Predators are captured and starved to near death by the islanders and transported to the Kehua where the islanders now throw all unwelcome guests. The islanders also take to mimicking the Predators hunting philosophy and go so far as to wear wooden armour and masks replicating those of the Predators.
Thankfully though, this doesn’t form the main focus of the story and works well for it. Had it been revealed that they weren’t any Predators I would have been really disappointing but the reveal throws a nice kink in the works that help to keep it fresh. I would have liked to have seen a little more of the dynamic between the islanders and the Predators and some more details of their interactions over the years.
Speaking of wooden masks, the Predators in Predator: Hunters are devoid of any of their technology which was something I found myself quite liking too. While it may have given this specialized team of Predator hunters a slight upper hand, it also really showcased just how threatening the Predators are. It’s not just their technology that makes them effective.
This is something that also really comes across in the artwork. The interior artwork is provided by Francisco Ruiz Velasco (whose previous work in the Alien and Predator universe includes Aliens vs. Predator: Deadspace) and he imbues the Predators with this really amazing primal look that compliments just how ferocious they are within the narrative.
Velasco also manages to differentiate the Predator’s with subtle differences between their armour and their helmets. There’s also a great moment of personality where all the surviving Predator’s except one run off to fight the intruders and the remaining one takes a moment to pause over his fallen brother. And there’s also a great moment in the last issue between the main Predator and Soames. I wont spoilt it but it was just such a cool sequence!
It’s not just the Predator’s that look great. Velasco does a fantastic job with the artwork for the entire series (including some awesome variant cover artwork). The returning characters are all recognizable and everyone comes off as quite distinctive. I could not pick fault with any of the series’ visuals.
It’s also great to see Doug Wheatley doing artwork for Alien and Predator again. He should be familiar to readers of Alien and Predator comics for his work as the interior artist of Aliens: Apocalypse – The Destroying Angels (one of my favourite series). He recently returned to do a variant cover for the first issue of Predator: Life and Death and also provided the artwork for all the covers of Predator: Hunters.
At times I did think that Predator: Hunters would have benefited from a better expansion on the team’s backstory. We get flashbacks regarding the individual team members own encounters but I think the series missed a larger sense of team-building. Enoch serves as the new comer and an in for the information but I had no real sense of how much the rest of this team had been through together. Had they fought together before?
We have a small moment where Soames shows Enoch all the various Predator goodies they’ve amassed but we have things like Swain’s arc that makes me think he’d never been out with the rest of the team. Whether that was the intention, I don’t know, but it did make me wish that’d have been laid out a bit better. It would have been nice to see some flashbacks showing the group as a unit fighting the Predators.
I also feel like Predator: Hunters would also really benefit from a novelization. There’s a lot of elements that I think would really be brought out by digging under the surface a little more and expanding on. This would include things such as the backstory of the team as a whole, the past encounters of the new characters and even things such as Graves’ survivor’s guilt.
As a standalone story Predator: Hunters is a very solid Predator comic. It doesn’t break the mould but it really felt like the start of something. It felt like a pilot episode, establishing a team and showing some growth. I’d love to see these characters return and see more of their exploits. Or even explore more of the elements I mentioned above. I think there’s real potential in the prospect of a regular return to these characters.
Chris Warner and Francisco Ruiz Velasco made a great team and Predator: Hunters is a welcome addition to the Predator universe. I just loved Velasco’s raw primal look to the Predator’s and Chris’ strengthening of the Predator lore. From Corporal Hicks here at Alien vs. Predator Galaxy, I award Predator: Hunters with a 7 out 10.