With the release of the first trailer for “Alien: Covenant,” fans are finally getting to see Ridley Scott truly return to the classic franchise he helped create. When it was released, “Alien” launched a multimedia saga that included movies, books, toys, video games and of course, comics.
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A lot of people look at licensed titles as if they’re inferior to “true” comic books. They’re often unfairly judged as cheap cash-ins, meant to be created as quickly as possible with little regard for the quality of the product. This couldn’t be further from the truth with the Xenomorph. These famous monsters have attracted some great writers and artists throughout their time in the medium, and a wide variety of content has been created under the “Alien” banner. With that pedigree in mind, here are the 15 best “Aliens” comics.
While it wasn’t the first Alien comic book series, “Genocide” is one of the most recognizable series due to the introduction of the red aliens. Written by Mike Richardson and John Arcudi, with art from Damon Willis, Karl Story and Arthur Suydam, “Genocide” is set after the events of the movies, when the aliens have become common knowledge among humans. It’s also been discovered that the queens secrete a jelly, which acts like a super steroid when ingested by humans, so a team of marines is sent to what is believed to be the Xenomorph homeworld to capture a queen and her precious jelly.
When they get there, however, they find two different warring species of aliens: the traditional aliens and a new red-skinned alien. This leads to beautifully drawn scenes of battles between thousands of monsters, with the marines caught right in the middle. Aside from the art, this series is remembered for being the first comic to really step away from the movies and start to develop the aliens as their own species, with derivatives therein. Many of the concepts introduced, such as the royal jelly, became mainstays in “Alien” comics for years to come.
Before the release of “Alien 3,” a trilogy of comic book series was written that told the further adventures of Hicks and Newt, two of the surviving characters from “Aliens.” Set several years after they encountered the Xenomorphs on Acheron (aka, LV-426), the series tells two stories. The first deals with Hicks leading a new team of marines to destroy a newly discovered alien hive on yet another distant planet. He brings along Newt, who has been left mentally scarred from her experience and living in an asylum. The second story deals with a cult that worships that Xenomorphs and reveals that the morally-bankrupt Weyland-Yutani Corporation has one of the creatures on Earth.
While Hicks and Newt have to survive another alien nightmare and Weyland-Yutani schemes, an alien infestation may be spreading across Earth. Written by Mark Verheiden with art from Mark A. Nelson and Ron Randall, the comic is very good, but perhaps more importantly to fans, it is also memorable for continuing the adventures of Hicks and Newt, who were killed off during the opening credits of “Alien 3.” After the release of that movie, the comics changed the characters to Wilks and Billie, but to fans they’ll always be Hicks and Newt.
13. NIGHTMARE ASYLUM
The sequel to “Outbreak” — also written by Verheiden, with art from Den Beauvais and Roger Casselman — this series shows what happens to humanity when Earth falls to the Xenomorphs. Wilks and Billie (really Hicks and Newt) end up fleeing the planet on a cargo ship that is carrying Xenomorphs to a military outpost, because these two just have the worst luck possible. When they arrive at the outpost, they discover the unhinged General Spears, who believes that he can train the aliens and use them to clear Earth of the wild aliens. Of course, Spears finds out that the aliens are much harder to domesticate than it appears.
As part of the “Earth Hive” trilogy, this is another must-read Aliens adventure. Once again, this story was written before “Alien 3,” so it shows what could have happened had the movies gone in a different direction. Just like “Outbreak,” the comics eventually had to go back and be fixed to line up with the continuity of “Alien 3.” Even in their altered forms, though, they’re still a nice look at what could have been.
12. FEMALE WAR
Earth has been evacuated and is controlled by the Xenomorphs. Wilks and Billie (once again, really Hicks and Newt) have survived multiple encounters with the deadly species, along with killer robots and crazed Generals, but their adventures aren’t done yet. This is especially true, now that they’ve teamed up with an old friend: Ellen Ripley. The three hatch a plan to save the Earth, but it requires going out into deep space and recovering one of the largest alien queens ever, and then bringing her back to the planet.
With art by the inimitable Sam Kieth to complement Verheiden’s writing this time, “Female War” was the last story using characters from “Aliens” to be printed before “Alien 3” killed off all of the series’ major players. Unlike Hicks and Newt, Ripley’s inclusion in this story wasn’t fixed with a simple name swap. In the novelizations, extra content was added to reveal that the Ripley who appears is actually a robot duplicate. Unfortunately, this solution was too complicated to include in the comics, so Ripley was just left in and the continuity error was ignored. For fans unhappy with the ending of “Alien 3,” this series gives them much better closure.
11. ALIEN VS. PREDATOR
Dark Horse Comics decided to see what would happen if they pitted two of the deadliest alien species against each other; unsurprisingly, the result was a monster hit (pun intended). Set during the timeline of the “Alien” movies, the story takes place on the planet Ryushi, home to a colony of ranchers working for The Company. Unfortunately, it’s also the site of a Predator hunt, and the Predators have seeded the planet with Xenomorph eggs. When the hunt doesn’t go as smoothly as the Predators anticipated, the human settlers find themselves caught between two of the deadliest species in the galaxy.
Written by Randy Stradley, with art from Phill Norwood, Chris Warner and a host of other talents, this crossover would inspire sequels that continue to this day in toys, video games, and two popular (if critically-dubious) movies. The match-up might seem obvious today, but at the time, it was downright revolutionary. The success of the comic led to an alien skull appearing in the predator’s trophy case in the oft-maligned “Predator 2.” Of course, it would take over a decade for a full-length movie to be released. While the quality of the movies is debatable, fans generally agree that the original comic that kicked it all off — itself beginning as a serialized tale in “Dark Horse Presents” — is an absolute classic.
10. GREEN LANTERN VERSUS ALIENS
Crossovers between the aliens and other superhero comic book characters are very hit or miss. Luckily, this book — written by Ron Marz, with art from Rick Leonardi and Mike Perkins — is mostly a hit, telling a fun, albeit simple story. Set during two different time periods, the story starts off with Hal Jordan encountering the aliens before becoming Parallax. Jordan decides that the aliens aren’t evil, and instead of killing them, deposits them on Mogo, the living planet, where they can’t hurt anyone. A decade later, Kyle Rayner has become the last Green Lantern and must rescue a ship that has crashed on the no-longer-conscious Mogo. Raynor must launch a rescue to the planet’s surface, where he encounters the perennially ill-tempered Xenomorphs.
This story doesn’t fit into continuity, but that actually works in its favor. It’s made abundantly clear pretty early on that characters can be killed off, and several of the Green Lanterns involved don’t survive their encounters with the titular aliens. As far as Alien appearances in the DC universe, this is one of their better showings. At least there’s no appearance by the Joker/Alien hybrid from “Batman/Aliens 2.”
9. MUSIC OF THE SPEARS
Written by Chet Williamson with art from Tim Hamilton and Timothy Bradstreet, “Aliens: Music of the Spears” has a bonkers premise. Struggling musician Damon Eddington has a crazy new idea for his next project: he wants to record the sounds of a Xenomorph and use it to create a symphony of hate. After getting the project approved by Synsound, the company that controls all music, a team of ninjas (we repeat: a team of ninjas) is able to obtain an egg. One of Eddington’s old musician pals volunteers to be the host for the facehugger, because he’s fallen on hard times and is addicted to a drug created by alien jelly. Eddington gets his alien, and eventually begins bringing it live humans in order to capture the sounds he needs. He eventually gets too bold, and is not surprisingly killed when he gets too close to his alien/musical instrument.
That story sounds insane, but of course that’s the point. In his quest to create the perfect art, Eddington slowly loses his humanity. He’s initially unsure about subjecting a volunteer to the facehugger, but soon finds himself sacrificing kidnapped victims to the alien. He starts off as a desperate and failing musician, but his willingness to do anything for his art ultimately destroys him.
8. NEWT’S TALE
One of the most surprising moments from James Cameron’s “Aliens” is when it’s revealed that the sole survivor of the infestation of Hadley’s Hope is a little girl named Newt. The movie never reveals how she survived, only showing that she’s been traveling through the vents and avoiding the main areas. This comic fills in the blanks, showing her family discovering the derelict spacecraft from the first “Alien” film, her father getting attacked by a facehugger and eventually being implanted with a chestburster.
It only takes a few days for things to fall apart, as more people keep disappearing from the colony and those pesky aliens keep showing up. Eventually, the colonists attempt a last stand, but that only leads the Xenomorphs to where the families had barricaded themselves. The series ends by recounting the events of “Aliens,” bringing everything full circle. Newt is one of the most heartbreaking characters from the franchise, and “Newt’s Tale,” brought to life on the page by Mike Richardson and Jim Somerville, really helps flesh out her character.
7. ALIEN VS. PREDATOR: ETERNAL
Written by Ian Edginton, “AvP: Eternal” follows Gideon Suhn Lee, who is known as one of the richest technology developers in the world, but is actually a 700-year-old villager from Japan, who once came across a crashed Predator ship. Using a combination of the technology inside and body parts from the dead Predators, Lee unnaturally prolonged his life. He built his fortune by reverse-engineering the ship’s technology, and for many hundreds of years, everything seemed to be going fine. That is, it did… until he uncovers some mysterious eggs in the ship’s cargo hold. When he accidentally unleashes Xenomorphs in Tokyo’s sewers, Lee attracts a new batch of Predators to clean up the mess.
The story is told from the perspective of a reporter, Becka McBride, who is investigating a massacre that was committed using Lee’s stolen technology. This story is definitely one of the stranger entries in the “Alien vs Predator” series, but the beautiful art by Alex Maleev gives everything an otherworldly quality that really nails the tone. It also perfectly balances the Xenomorphs against the predators, making both species feel like equal threats.
“Aliens: Labyrinth,” by writer Jim Woodring and artist Kilian Plunkett, starts off with a mystery. After a research assistant dies of a strange heart attack on the space station Innominata, the marine corps sends Dr. Crespi to investigate. Posing as a new assistant, his job is to check on the methods of the station’s head researcher, Dr. Paul Church, who is studying Xenomorphs. Also, marine lieutenant Sharon McGuinness has just arrived on the station, and seems to have her own personal agenda. When Crespi discovers how many people have disappeared on the station, he begins to uncover a horrifying secret.
As the mystery of the station unfolds, each of the main character’s backstories is revealed. Crespi is the lone survivor of a squad of marines that was testing out new weapons against the aliens. Church is also a lone survivor, only he was a colonist who escaped an alien hive. McGuinness’ backstory is at the center of the mystery, and her quest for answers leads to one of the most grotesque discoveries ever, which includes amputation, alien experimentation and of course, revenge.
5. ALIENS: APOCALYPSE – THE DESTROYING ANGELS
In the original “Alien” movie, the crew of the Nostromo comes across a derelict spaceship which contains a fossilized alien corpse and a cargo hold full of Xenomorph eggs. While the rest of the movie focused on the Xenomorph, nothing is revealed about the mysterious pilot of the ship (that is, until “Prometheus” was released several decades later). These mysterious space jockeys have made several appearances in the alien comics, most notably in this series, written by Mark Schultz and drawn by Doug Wheatley.
In the story, Alecto Throop is hired to find a missing scientist, who she finds on an abandoned planet. While studying the aliens, he had come across the ruins of what may be an ancient space jockey city, and even finds a living one. While not all of their secrets are revealed, fans got to find out what happens when a facehugger impregnates one of these space jockeys. It turns out, an even more horrifying alien is the result.
If there’s a queen alien, wouldn’t there be a king alien? Well, no, that’s not necessarily how biology works, but this series decided to introduce a king anyway because, well… why the hell not, right? In the story, it’s called The Rogue: a synthetic Alien male hybrid created by scientist Ernst Kleist to, in his words, “claim his birthright.” The result of an in-depth study on Xenomorphs, his research and his passion (not to mention the furious nature of the Aliens themselves), all drive Kleist crazy. The rest will all sound familiar: his colleagues on the base go missing and it turns out that they’re being used as hosts for facehuggers to build his better Alien.
It turns out that the mad scientist gave up on trying to domesticate a Queen and created a seemingly controllable rogue alien. Once again, the humans learn that trying to tame the aliens is impossible. To be honest, this isn’t the most creative story from the “Aliens” universe, but it is a lot of fun to watch two giant aliens rampage around a space station, trying to kill each other and anything else that stands in their way.
3. ALIEN: THE ILLUSTRATED STORY
Typically, comic book adaptations of movies are easily avoidable, but “Alien: The Illustrated Story” is a must-read for any fan of the films. The book was written by Archie Goodwin and illustrated by Walt Simonson, two uncontested industry giants. Goodwin created characters like Luke Cage and Spider-Woman, while Simonson is famous for his legendary run on “Thor” that introduced characters like Beta Ray Bill. With those two on board, it’s no surprise their “Alien” adaptation turned out as well as it did.
What’s so surprising about this is how true it stays to the original film. It doesn’t necessarily add any new scenes, but what it does do is show scenes from a different perspective. For example, the moment where Ripley comes across the aftermath of the attack on Lambert and Parker reveals grisly details that were left out of the movie. Seeing what exactly the alien did to Parker is an especially shocking addition.
2. ALIENS: SALVATION
Before launching “Hellboy,” Mike Mignola teamed up with Dave Gibbons to create “Aliens: Salvation,” one of the most surreal Alien comics ever. It tells the story of a devout Christian cook named Selkirk working on a space freighter. When a mysterious containment breach occurs, the captain of the freighter forces Selkirk (at gunpoint) to abandon ship with him, after which they land on a nearby jungle planet. When the freighter crashes on the planet, it comes as no surprise — given the title — that the cargo was a Xenomorph. On top of their clearly perilous situation, the captain seems to be going crazier and crazier with each passing moment, which is never a good sign, historically speaking.
The exploration of faith in the sci-fi world of “Alien” is the perfect playground for Mignola, whose introspective look at the outer space hell-scape is fascinating (and darkly beautiful). The pious Selkirk sees the world and dangers he’s facing through a religious veil, such that angels and demons appear throughout the story (at least from his point of view), making the implications and symbolism of the Xenomorphs all the more powerful. The combination of Gibbons’ writing and Mignola’s art makes this story stand out simply for the way that it’s told.
1. FIRE AND STONE
Taking place roughly during the same time period as “Aliens,” this series connected the concepts and settings introduced in “Prometheus” and did a better job of connecting them to the “Alien” mythos than the actual movie did. During the infestation of Hadley’s Hope (the colony from “Aliens”), a group of colonists attempts to evacuate to a nearby moon, LV-233, the setting of “Prometheus.” Since the events of the movie, however, LV-233 is no longer a barren wasteland, but is now covered with plant and animal life. Unfortunately, several Xenomorphs tagged along for the ride, and the life on LV-233 evolved from the black ooze in the Engineer’s ship.
This series connected with several other miniseries, all under the “Fire and Stone” banner. The overarching story brought the Predators to LV-233, along with more humans and even another Engineer. It explored the mutating black ooze from the “Prometheus” movie and how it would interact with the Xenomorphs. All in all, this event series actually succeeded in making “Prometheus” feel like it belonged in the “Alien” universe, which is something that was desperately needed for the franchise.
What is your favorite Aliens-based comic book, either original work or adaptation? Let us know in the comments!
“Alien: Covenant” will be released to theaters on May 19, 2017.
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