Alien Vs. Predator: Life and Death (#1 – 4) – Dan Abnett

4 out of 5

At this stage in Life and Death, the successes of the series are relative.  Which sounds like a huge knock against it (and writer Dan Abnett), but I more mean that when you’re dealing with these franchises – aliens, predator – which feature nigh unstoppable foes, the majority of your stories end up falling into a similar structure of stalk-and-escape thrills.  There’s not much many have been able to do beyond that.  So how well you can do that becomes the quality mark, and that Abnett has kept me interested to see how this plays out for 16 issues now is a pretty good deal, even if the story still doesn’t break that mold.

And although our big bookending conclusion is still to come, AVP feels like a big chunk of what we’ve been building toward: the payoff of the somewhat middling two preceding arcs after a good foot forward with character and environment in the initial mini.  Maybe part of it is that we have our original art team back as well…?  Brian Thies’ panels are a bit rough, and when we’re swarmed with action, the loss of detail in favor of creating a sense of motion is frustrating, but by the same token: he nails the mood the series needs, his camera and energy giving off the right mix of oppressive horror and desperation.  Big moments feel big; quieter moments feel tense.  Coupled with Rain Beredo’s gorgeously muddy color palette, AVP is much more pleasing to the eye than Andrea Mutti‘s or Moritat‘s arcs.

As per the subtitle, Abnett brings both races together in a two issue feud, the humans hanging out on the sidelines while trying to figure out how to handle Chris’ alien baby and, y’know, getting home.  The latter gets a tckingi clock out on it which should make the final Life and Death book fun, and the former takes a predictable turn, but it’s well handled through dialogue – name-dropping the series’ title and effectively summarizing the books’ theme – and the aforementioned approach to the art.

 As a standalone aliens or predator book, the dynamic presented here isn’t a new one, but held alongside the other Life and Death books, this is definitely the most satisfactory of the series thus far.