Aliens: Life and Death (#1 – 4) – Dan Abnett

2 out of 5

Words and art, y’all.

Life and Death, like most aliens / predator tales, has struggled to find a new angle buried amidst an existing property.  The difficulty with the franchise is how one-dimensional the antagonists are – they’re strictly hunters, not much else – and how you end up having to wait for the “canon” of the films to really advance things, i.e. the engineers Abnett is allowed to rope into his tale.

And so most stories end up digging in on the human front, and Life and Death is no different on that point, scattering its Hasdrubal crew across several mini-series with each featuring, moreso, a particular baddie.  We’re thus relying on Dan’s ability to tell a fun tale to keep us here, not really expecting much in the way of A/P lore otherwise.

And so far, he’s been doing his job.  The separation between the series is a bit weak, but that’s fine: They’re coming out in quick enough succession to read as one whole story anyway.  The aliens mini continues where we left off, with some crew Alien-napped, some crew isolated on a separate ship, and the remainder crew trying to book it off the planet.  Alas, the alien-napped are still alive, and so back we go for a rescue mission.

There’s a fair share of sudden deaths, last-minute reversals, and tense squabbles, sprinkled with workman-like downtime wherein we re-establish character types (the strong ones, the one-liner ones, the calculating ones, etc.); all well and good.  There’s even a couple of nice plot shifts toward the end.

But it’s all incredibly hard to process in terms of effectiveness because artist Moritat is a horrible match for the book, focusing on a few key splash pages (the greater credit for which should go to colorist Rain Beredo for adding entire layers of mood) but otherwise delivering overly simplistic – and occasionally cartoony! – panels in which framing is wrong, and there’s zero sense of space or pacing.  Action sequences look almost humorous at points, and it’s near impossible to tell some characters apart.  Transitions are also lacking;  we seem to switch scenes without any consideration for the reader.  While the first assumption would be that that’s a scripting problem, the fact that it hasn’t been a notable issue in the previous two installments suggests it’s more on Moritat.

The Aliens section of our Life and Death epic follows, storywise, in the same vein of acceptable quality as its lead-ins.  Unfortunately, a mismatched artist in Moritat sucks out a lot of the momentum.