REVIEW: ‘Aliens vs. Predator: The Essential Comics,’ Volume 1

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Aliens vs. Predator: The Essential Comics Volume 1

Published by Dark Horse Comics, Aliens vs Predator: The Essential Comics Volume 1 collects three of the most iconic Aliens versus Predator storylines in one beautiful volume. Consisting of Aliens Vs Predator, Aliens vs Predator: War, and Aliens vs Predator: Three World War, this book tells the complete saga of Machiko Noguchi and the great war between Predator clans.

The series that started it all, Aliens vs Predator is written by Randy Stradley with pencils by Phil Norwood and Chris Warner, inking by Karl Story, Robert Campanella, and Phil Norwood, coloring by Incolor, and lettering by Pat Brosseau. First published in 1990, AvP tells the story of Machiko Noguchi and the ranch planet Ryushi. Seeking the thrill of the hunt, the alien hunters known as Predators release an army of vicious Xenomorphs across the planet. With war at their front doors, the last human remnants of Ryushi must find a way off-planet if they hope to survive.

Originally published in 1995, Aliens vs Predator: War Part 1 is written by Richard Stradley with art by Chris Warner, colors by James Sinclair, and lettering by Steve Dutro. Aliens vs Predator War Part 2 is written by Randy Stradley with pencils by Mike Manley, Jim Hall, and Mark Heike, inks by Ricardo Villagran, colors by Chris Chalenor, and lettering by Steve Dutro. In this thrilling follow up, Ryushi survivor Machiko Noguchi hunts alongside the Predators as a member of their clan. When the battle between xenomorphs and predators threatens humanity once more, Machiko must choose whose side she’s on.

Published in 2010 and written by Randy Stradley with pencils by Rick Leonardi, inks by Mark Pennington, colors by Wes Dzioba, and lettering by Nate Piekos of Blambot, Aliens versus Predator: Three World War completes the saga of Machiko Noguchi. When a new type of Predator harnesses Xenomorphs as a weapon, Machiko Noguchi must return to the front line one last time. 

One of the challenges of reviewing a mega-sized omnibus like Aliens vs Predator: The Essential Comics Volume 1 lies in its sheer size. With three different series published over 30 years, this book features a host of different artists, each leaving their own mark on the series. You can tell the first entries were made in the 90s. Phil Norwood and Chris Warner’s pencils are crisp, full of beautifully cross-hatched futurescapes in the style of the day. The Xenomorphs in particular look fantastic, clearly drawn by artists who clearly know their way around an exoskeleton.

Of course, not every 90s style aged as gracefully. From AvP through Aliens vs Predator: The Essential Comics Volume 1 color pallet is all over the place. Bright purples, intense oranges, and every shade of blue show up on every page. Now, I like vibrant colors just fine, but the colorists for this series set those bright colors against a flood of washed-out, unsaturated midtones. The resulting color clash has its charm, sure. But, it’s the same charm as the brightly colored superhero toys that also marked the 90s with their unrecognizable costume designs and technicolor accessories.

With that said, Aliens vs Predator: The Essential Comics Volume 1 more dated coloring still leaves a great impression. Comic book style changed drastically in the 30 years between the first AvP and AvP: Three World War. The final chapter in the Noguchi Saga, AvP: Three World War ‘s is rendered in a drastically different style. While Leonardi, Pennington, and Dzioba do a fine job, you can’t help but find the jump to a cross-hatch-less contemporary art style jarring.

The one constant of the series is Randy Stradley’s scripts. Each bears his signature, within which you’ll find consistent strengths and weaknesses. Neither aliens nor predators talk in any language we understand. As this is a series all about those creatures, Stradley’s scripts have pages of alien warfare completely devoid of traditional dialogue. Instead, Stradley writes the dialogues and narrations of other characters.

This volume gets a lot of mileage out of this mashup, revving up the irony every time an off-panel character says something that means something else thanks to scary alien fights. In a few instances, Stradley over-narrates when silence would be golden. Stradley writes some fantastic action sequences that would fit right in with either franchise. But many of his narrators share a certain level of clinical detachment. It can be jarring when the ruthless energy of the battles on the page pairs with cool and collected narration. But otherwise, Stradley’s storytelling makes for fine entertainment. 

Take a step back into sci-fi history with Aliens vs Predator: The Essential Comics Volume 1. Collecting the entire Noguchi trilogy, it’s easy to see why the AvP series captivates fans to this day. Randy Stradley created a monster mashup for a generation. This volume builds compelling mythology for some of our favorite monsters. No matter which alien nightmare beats the other, we win.

Aliens vs Predator: The Essential Comics Volume 1 is available now wherever comics are sold.


Aliens vs. Predator: The Essential Comics Volume 1
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TL;DR

Aliens vs. Predator: The Essential Comics Vol. #1 builds a compelling mythology for some of our favorite monsters.