Like many “Aliens” stories, Brian Wood and Tristan Jones’ “Aliens: Defiance” #1 relies on several of the franchise’s usual tropes, like a team of Colonial Marines investigating a deserted site, only to find a hive of xenomorphs that the Weyland-Yutani Corporation has some interest in. This time, though, Wood turns things around a little bit; the malfunctioning synthetic is again the plot twist, but it’s a different and more altruistic kind of twist that freshens up many of these oft-used premises. Jones and colorist Nate Piekos give the horror an especially ghastly twist, and collectively the team manages to wring out a tense and thrilling introduction.
In fact, Wood and Jones almost take a back-to-basics approach in parts of their story; the combatants’ desperate battle with a horde of aliens is largely silent, taking place within the claustrophobic confines of a lost ship bereft of any livable environment. The technique evokes the “in space, no one can hear you scream” tagline that accompanied the promotion of Ridley Scott’s original “Alien” film, an understated element of the franchise often forgotten in the wake of its subsequent (and louder) sequels and tie-ins. The feeling of remote desolation is always at the forefront, and Wood captures that with his script, even in the silence, while Jones conveys it with his moody, darkened panels.
Between the derelict ship and the populated lunar base, Jones gives all the environments the cold, grimy, worn-in look one would expect from such remote and unfriendly locations. The brighter confines of a medical bay still evoke a sterile kind of coldness, while the much darker quarters where the aliens hide are likewise frigid, but for reasons rooted in fear and isolation. Likewise, Jackson keeps the colors cool and sedate, although his usage of red during an especially deadly battle efficiently symbolizes the dangerous and violent situation and makes the sequence stand out from the rest of the issue. Jones’ xenomorphs — and the human destruction they leave in their wake — are especially horrifying.
After a brief prologue that introduces readers to the series’ main protagonist, Wood and Jones structure the opening sequence with a series of horizontal panels that gradually unveil the creator credits but are otherwise wordless, further evoking the opening of the first film. There’s also a connection to that film and the franchise’s best known heroine, although the relevance of that cameo isn’t established in this issue. “Aliens: Defiance” #1 is a slight cut above the usual “Aliens” comic thanks to Wood and Jones, who know when to use what’s been seen before and when to change it up.