Most of the action in Chris Roberson and Patric Reynolds’ “Aliens: Fire and Stone” #2 involves the survivors of a wrecked mining ship trying to continue to stay alive on a strange jungle world while evading the deadly xenomorphs that they inadvertently brought with them. As anyone who’s seen an “Aliens” film or read an “Aliens” comic knows, that usually doesn’t go well for anyone not named Ripley. It’s pretty much the usual story here, peppered with the usual amount of bickering amongst the decimated crew, but Roberson also bakes in a more interesting subplot involving the past history of this once-desolate world, which happens to be the same locale as the 2012 film “Prometheus,” which, along with the “Predator” franchise, plays an important role in Dark Horse Comics’ “Fire and Stone” event.
A quarter-century of “Aliens” comic books have pretty much explored all of the seeming ways that the extraterrestrial creatures can prey upon humans, which really wasn’t a very diverse set of circumstances in the first place. Roberson takes advantage of the story elements made available from “Prometheus,” though, and manages to eke out a unique outcome after one of these pursuits, which makes for a surprising and rather creepy cliffhanger ending.
There are only a couple of pages that show the usual xenomorphic crunch ‘n munch in a prior scene, and Roberson spends much of the time expounding on how the crew is learning to survive with aliens in their midst, rather than becoming victims of them. It at least spares readers from a lot more violent and bloody demises, but the characters themselves don’t evoke much in the way of interest to generate any kind of bond with readers, so there’s no real reason to care whether these characters avoid a set of retractable teeth through the skull or not.
Roberson’s other storyline features one of the survivors discovering the means to find out just what happened on this world decades earlier. This plotline covers much of what was already shown in “Prometheus,” although it does work nicely as a recap for those who might not have seen the movie. The two storylines remain largely separate, at least until the issue’s final page presumably brings them together. This part of the issue still has a fresher feel, even if it’s mostly due the walking through the lesser trodden mythos of “Prometheus” as opposed to that of “Aliens.”
The moderately derivative mood of Roberson’s story could have been enhanced with dynamic layouts, but Reynolds sticks to strictly traditional panel arrangements that sufficiently tell the story and move it along, but don’t really add any excitement to it. Reynolds applies a unique combination of realism and coarseness, making the characters readily identifiable without looking like copies from photo references. His style conveys static images rather than movement, though; some of the panels look a little stiffer than intended and seem more like poses for publicity stills over actual motion. The technique blankets the issue with a very subdued and low-key texture, rather than make it jump out from the page. Colorist Dave Stewart contributes to this with an almost exclusive reliance on greys and earth tones, adding a feeling of colorblindness to the already subdued look of the entire issue.
“Aliens: Fire and Stone” #2 is a decent-enough chapter in both the mini-series and overall event, but it’s partially undone by a seemingly deliberate attempt to avoid too many fresh ideas and a vibrant way to illustrate them.