“Alien Vs. Predator: Fire and Stone” #1 is quite well-done, but its place in the crossover event makes it a less satisfying read. Christopher Sebela’s script builds the suspense succinctly, and Ariel Olivetti’s work on the primary antagonist, Elden, is grotesque. The book moves quickly and inevitably, and it would have been a real success if I’d just been able to understand why it was all happening.
I should start off by admitting that this is a tricky issue to grade. It clearly takes places after the events of “Prometheus: Fire and Stone,” but it was released before that miniseries finished. As a result, the reader has to guess as to what exactly occurred on LV-223. This might work if those events were tangential to the plot, but they are clearly the catalyst for everything that’s happening. The result is that the events feel more like a puzzle than an inevitable, horrible crescendo. Writer Christopher Sebela’s script almost succeeds in making the gaps tantalizing rather than frustrating, but it’s still problematic.
It’s a shame, because otherwise the issue is quite good. Sebela lets the four-way conflict — aliens, predators, Elden and the humans — escalate in a rapid-fire way. That sort of battle is a convoluted scenario to ask any writer to handle, but Sebela makes it feel natural by having things come to a head so quickly. He resists the urge to over-explain and over-justify, instead dropping all the pieces fall into place in the heat of a two-page confrontation.
Dialogue-wise, Sebela injects the clunkier creation themes of “Prometheus” with a more believable mean streak. Elden repeatedly gets Biblical with his vengeance; his Old-Testament-style decrees make the many panels where he’s merely walking through the spaceship feel eerie rather than interminable. However, lines like “I warned you, Francis. Now everyone pays for your sins. Again.” would have much more impact if I knew what the sin was. Sebela also includes a brilliant call back to the content of “Prometheus: Fire and Stone.” Elden repeats his line from issue #1 of that series: “Hello, Francis. It’s Elden. Can you hear me?” This time, the intent is radically different.
Artist Ariel Olivetti makes the aliens and predators look very much like their movie counterparts, and their movements — even the Predators’ tricky teleportation — read easily. I don’t love his coloring on the human faces, as they can feel somewhat insubstantial, but they are expressive enough to make the scenes work.
Olivetti’s stand-out here, though, is with Elden. The robot turned monster-thing has liquid black eyes and a rigid, macabre smile that’s undeniably creepy. Olivetti also seems to recognize that Elden’s face is the focal point of his horror. He zeroes in repeatedly on that maniacal grin, and it makes even throwaway lines like “Fine” feel foreboding.
Still, though it isn’t necessarily the fault of the creators, I really wouldn’t recommend picking up “Alien Vs. Predator: Fire and Stone” #1 just yet. Once “Prometheus: Fire and Stone” has concluded, this will be much more worth the reader’s time.