By Dan Abett, Brian Thies and Rain Beredo
Quick recap! Dark Horse’s Life and Death is the crossover series sequel to 2014/2015’s Fire and Stone. In this latest series, also comprised of 4 individual titles — which debuted March 2016 — Aliens, Predators, Engineers and humans continue to battle it out. It began with Predator, then Prometheus and then Alien, which just wrapped in early December. This latest installment, Alien Vs. Predator: Life and Death is the grand finale to what has been a tremendous bunch of comics all written by mastermind Dan Abnett.
Since the late 80s, Dark Horse has been producing these sorts of crossover comics and the appeal just doesn’t seem to wear off. Popularity around the Alien franchise is greater than ever and, with yet another film on it’s way to theaters — the sequel to Prometheus (2012), Alien: Covenant, — it’s almost always the perfect time for a new comic even if it does count as extended, or expanded universe. No matter how official or unofficial it may be, the comics feel perfectly appropriate, which any faithful reader can tell you. Life and Death, like it’s predecessor Fire and Stone, is a must read series that is as entertaining as it is informative.
“Battle Lines Are Drawn!” And with the arrival of the Predators on LV-223 — the mysterious planet introduced in the afore mentioned movie, Prometheus — it’s unclear whether the hunter-species will team up with the Colonial Marines, fight them or perhaps join forces. One thing is for sure, the stakes are higher and the mayhem is reaching a climax. One Predator in particular, Ahab, serves as the connection between Fire and Stone and Life and Death, so be sure to check out as much of these titles as you can for a fuller and well-rounded story. Although, this first issue in the latter series’ conclusion is such an action-packed and intriguing storyline that you’ll be perfectly happy jumping in at this point. Not everything will make perfect sense, but it may not need to. Writer Dan Abnett has done a nice job keeping everything straight and creating a legible story that fans and new readers alike can enjoy. Well-written characters should always feel like they have backstories we’re largely unaware of, so that they are that much more realized. That’s certainly true of this first issue, and whether you’ve been following along or not, you can grab this book without skipping a beat.
Despite being dropped directly in the middle of the story ongoing, readers are treated to fast paced fight scenes without the usual first issue exposition or foundation laying. The excitement begins early on and doesn’t let up until the end when, believe it or not, things seem to get even crazier.
Artist Brian Thies uses a painterly effect with heavy black inks creating bold and dynamic brush strokes. Sharp edges and rough shadowing lend to the overall sense of violent doom awaiting the characters. Thies draws the Predators as intimidating warriors, while the Aliens are depicted as purely savage cyphers of chaotic destruction. But they way Thies draws them together in one book, they both represent nothing short of death. Through multiple splash pages, Thies uses the single panel approach to showcasing just how remarkable the scene becomes when Predators and Aliens clash. Basically, there isn’t as much fighting, as there is killing with one deathblow after another. The art style creates a book that would be equally impressive in black and white as it is in color. But, thanks to Colorist Rain Beredo, we get the complete package here. Beredo renders Thies’ style perfectly with equally rough textures while also providing a new level of intensity. Fire, explosions, acid-blood and laser blasts help demonstrate the madness here while also giving us more to admire. The stark, grey landscape of LV-223 is both beautiful and bleak. But, no matter how bleak things seem, especially for the Colonial Maries, there is seemingly no limit to the amount of fantastic content these artists are tasked with illustrating. Yeah, sure, you’ve seen some of this before, but it’s the kind of stuff you’re dying to witness again.
Alien Vs.Predator: Life and Death #1 is everything regular readers can expect, while remaining as entertaining as ever. For the new readers, familiar with the various properties at play here or not, you’ll no doubt find a deep level of appreciation for this kind of bold and courageous storytelling. Whereas there are likely plenty of places where the creators could’ve stumbled along the way, the series has been strong and only getting stronger as the end approaches. Fortunately there’re still a few months worth of comics left to go so you’ll want to make sure and grab this one before it’s all over.