By Brian Wood, Tristan Jones and Dan Jackson

The second issue of Aliens: Defiance is an explosive book and exactly what fans of xenomorph-rampaging-chaos have come to love about Aliens. Writer Brian Wood (Rebels) gives readers a heart pounding thrill ride without sacrificing a strong storyline and solid character development. Even though the majority of action in this issue may be contained to a few pages, it’s the anticipation and the possibility that aliens could be right around the corner at any moment that makes for a tension filled page-turner. Meanwhile, Wood fleshes out protagonist Zula Hendricks’ backstory. She’s a Colonial Marine who has overcome issues of race and gender only to be smacked down by a near crippling injury. On top of that, Hendricks is in the company of not just one, but an entire crew of Weyland-Yutani synthetics, all under the name Davis. The difficulty of assessing the true nature of any one synthetic is challenging enough, so the stakes for Hendricks are much higher than normal. It’ll be interesting to see how that subplot pans out in subsequent issues, and whether their trust is ultimately gained or if their doubts in Hendricks’ abilities are confirmed…or if the Davis synthetics even wait that long.

Instead of trying to predict the outcome, let’s instead focus on the current issue and whether or not there is an equivalent term for having a green thumb when it comes to drawing science fiction? Well, artist and “rising star” Tristan Jones proves that perhaps there should be. Whether illustrating the architecture of futuristic space ships, or the organic madness of alien monsters, Jones gives us a realistic depiction that keeps readers engaged from panel to panel. The trick with Aliens has always been creating a contrast between the vast and hopeless emptiness of space, with the claustrophobic confines of a spacecraft, or in this case a space station. When there’s nowhere to run, all you can do is fight, but without Tristan Jones’ believable environments it just wouldn’t work.

Expertly assisting in establishing that tone of dread is colorist Dan Jackson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) who takes us from sickly shades of green and depressing grays to alarming and violent flashes of red and yellow. It’s a compliment that his colors leave you with an upset stomach because that is what brings readers closer to the story. His colors create a wonderful composition when combined with gunfire and explosions on the same or facing pages. Those same uneasy feelings created by his colors, are dramatically enhanced by panels of volatile action that keep your eye moving at a pace equal to the story itself.

As an aside, anyone collecting comic books based purely on cover art should not hesitate to seek out the work of Aliens: Defiance cover artist Massimo Carnevale (Conan the Barbarian). Part of what makes him so great – besides having a very cool name – is the way his dynamic cover designs perfectly forecast what’s in store for readers and beg you to pick up the book for a closer look. Everything Massimo has done so far has been consistently beautiful and one can only assume it’s going to stay that way if not get better. His first two covers for Aliens: Defiance make for genuine visual branding by use of iconic imagery and bold colors that let this book really stand out on the shelf.

Issues like this one make you wish the series was already collected in one trade paperback, because you can’t help but wonder what’s next. The creative team is enough of a reason to keep reading, but it’s the story of Zula Hendricks and her rogue mission to cleanse one infected space station after another that keeps your attention. After all, every successful mission leads to a new potential for disaster.

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About The Author Matthew Strackbein

Matt Strackbein was born and raised in Maryland but has called Colorado home for the last 17 years where he lives happily in Longmont with his wife. He began reading comic books at the age of seven after discovering a silver age stash in his grandparents’ attic. Comic books inspired Matt to start drawing, which lead to a successful career as a commercial artist. He has worked in the apparel industry for many years as a production artist and designer. His accomplishments include designing backcountry skiwear for world-class athletes as well as downhill ski race suit designs for the 2014 Winter Olympics for the United States and Canadian national ski teams. Matt currently works as a freelance textile-print designer, but still dedicates time to his first love – comics. With over 200 letters to the editor published, Matt is a known letterhack. He self-publishes autobiographical comics about his struggles to break into the industry, which finally paid off when Dark Horse asked him to produce 2-page back up stories in recent issues of B.P.R.D. Besides his own comics, Matt collaborates on independent books as a colorist and letterer. He also teaches the art of making comics to students of all ages.