The world’s attention is focused painfully on a brutal third world Civil War, a merciless sectarian conflict sparing neither soldier nor civilian, grandmother nor child. But amidst the terror and carnage, where great nations and powerful interests jockey for position and advantage, another blood feud rages in the shadows, one no more humane but decidedly less human. Two warring tribes from the stars have chosen Earth’s killing fields as their arena, with each clan sworn to eradicate the other . . . and all who stand between them. Each is the other’s prey, each the other’s Predator.
Following a month on from the release of the first issue of Aliens, Dark Horse introduced Predator. Also penned by John Arcudi, Predator featured the artwork of Javier Saltares and introduced us to the exceptional talent that is Raymond Swanland.
Dark Horse’s last Predator series, Xenogenesis, was absolutely terrible. With incredibly cheesy designs and a Marvel look to it, Xenogenesis failed to breath fresh air into the franchise. It was set in future, featured super-soldiers in Iron-Man like suits hunting down Predators. It wasn’t right. Predator brings us back to a more traditional locale: The war torn streets of South Africa.
In the first issue, we’re introduced to Thorpe and Briggs, our protagonists. And let me tell you, they’re not happy to see each other. Thorpe leads a small security for hire firm while Briggs is an army liaison. From the brief insight we have into their pasts, some encounters between the army and Thorpe has made him less than co-operative with anyone from the army. It looked like we’d be in for some fun character drama.
Predator’s biggest issue is that despite all the pages filled with explosions and gunfire, nothing actually happens. It just a lot of running, finding the Predators, shooting and running some more. Rinse and repeat for the next issue.
It turns out Thorpe knows about the Predators but his backstory explaining how is a page and a half long. Briggs finds comfort in a hip flask. We learn nothing more of their histories and who they are. From the cryptic clues Thorpe gave it seemed like he knew much about the Predators but it just isn’t elaborated upon. None of the other characters receives any attention either. Some are lucky just to get names.
Another problem I have with the series is the lack of actual Predator conflict. The cover arts depict Predators going at it, the series description was “two warring tribes”. The series features only one “normal” Predator and over the course of the series, he takes out two of the Killer Predators, as the opposing clan will come to be known as in AvP: Three World War.
To say the Predators are supposed to be completely different to each other, these new Predators aren’t shown to operate in a different manner from the originals Predator’s we know and love. They’re supposed to just take pleasure in the kill. Throughout the series, we see them kill two unarmed business men. If we’d have seen them slaughter a crowd of unarmed men, that would have been a more effective way to establish these cultural differences between the clans.
The lack of any conclusions also drags the series down. It is left completely open-ended. We don’t know what happened to Thorpe or Briggs. The normal Predator makes a fun for it early into the fourth issue and we never see from him again. The Killer Predators also disappear. The lack of any conclusion leaves the reader feeling extremely unsatisfied.
The artwork is a plus though. Saltares’ style is a huge improvement over Xenogenesis and over most of the Predator comics in general. Like Howard and Irwin’s work on Aliens, Saltares brings an updated look to the Predator. His Predators are well drawn, the different between the traditional and “new” clans being very minimal but enough to be able to tell them apart.
But the star of Predator is easily Raymond Swanland. His work on the covers is phenomenal, easily comparable to the work of Dave Dorman. He has quickly become a favorite among the fanbase and with Dark Horse. Following his debut with Predator #1, Swanland also did two covers for Aliens and has since gone on to do the covers for Three World War. I seriously hope to be seeing an artwork book from Swanland soon.
Over all I found the series to be a disappointment. Arcudi managed to write an excellent character story in Aliens that was well concluded but also leave the mystery open. How he spent four issues on Predator and filled it with absolutely nothing, I don’t know. Maybe he didn’t feel he had enough issues to tell his story. I hope future series’ are given more issues so their writers can go somewhere.
From Corporal Hicks at AvPGalaxy, award Predator with a 3 out of 5 (Swanland and Saltares’ art saved it from a 2). For those interested, the Free Comic Book Day preview and issues one to four are due to be collected for trade back publication on the 16th of May under the title of Prey To The Heavens.