Writer/artist/inker/colorist Raffaele Ienco knows the day aliens make first contact, no one will be prepared for whatever ensues.
"It's going to be more wicked than anyone ever imagined," he told CBR.
In his new 132-page Image Comics graphic novel, "Devoid of Life," slated to hit comic stores September 3, Ienco shows readers one alien race that is certainly wicked, a group called the Xenos that will hunt down anyone who learns of their existence and show them a gruesome death. The full-color original graphic novel is said to appeal to fans of movies such as "The Ring" and "The Sixth Sense."
"It's a horror/sc-fi story about a mysterious hidden planet in our solar system," Ienco explained. "If anyone becomes aware of them, they're targeted by the planet's protectors. The tag line of the series is, 'They must remain unknown.'
The book, written, drawn and colored by Ienco (pronounced I-en-koh), leans more toward the horror side than the sci-fi side. "There are no ray guns, but it involves another planet. The [alien] agents, they're more ghost/wraith like," Ienco said.
In one scene, the main protagonist of the book, a detective named Rochelle, is contacted by the Xenos via a movie marquee. Every time she looks at the marquee, it says something different. The aliens tell her "we must remain unknown." Rochelle thinks she's losing her mind, but she's actually the only one who can communicate with these visitors.
"I like aliens that you can't understand. I think any alien culture would not be totally understood by humans," Ienco said. "You know how a dog is smart, but also half-stupid? And a computer is smart, but obtuse? That's what the Xenos are. They're alien " they wouldn't do things the same way we do."
Ienco sites a scene in the M. Night Shyamalan movie "Signs" that he thinks nailed the way aliens would be " even though movie fans criticize the scene often. "You know when the alien is stuck in the pantry? Everyone was mad. I loved [that scene,] because the alien probably didn't know what a door was," Ineco remarked. "I loved the fact that he couldn't figure it out. The alien doesn't know the door is on hinges. If we were stuck in an alien pantry, we wouldn't know the proper gesture to get out. Some people say, 'But they mastered space travel.' Well, maybe they traveled here through slime they made from their mouths. And we travel in metal ships " so we're actually more advanced."
Similarly, the Xenos act purely on instinct. If someone on Earth becomes aware of their alien race " which of course happens in "Devoid of Life" -- they get a telepathic link to that person. Their instinct tells them to snuff out that telepathic link. They're not necessarily evil, Ineco says, they're just doing what their natural instincts tell them to do. "They're not evil; they're just alien."
Being alien, the final fates of many characters in the book are a bit unusual " and grisly. The Xenos don't carry ray guns, after all. What Ienco depicts in his art is a much more horrific death, with victims suffering snarled faces and burning flesh in their final moments.
"Devoid of Life" took Ienco, or "Raff" as his friends call him, a year and a half from start to finish. Since he was the only creator involved with the project, it gave Ineco a unique working perspective. Changes to the script could be made on the fly, and there was no collaborator to ever slow him down. "I did the basic plot, then I drew the first 100 pages, then I scripted them," Ienco explained. "I then went back and finished the final 27 pages. Then Image wanted it in color. I couldn't find a colorist for it, so I said, 'Screw it,' and I colored it myself."
This isn't Ienco's first published comic book, but he likes to think of it as a new beginning. Ten years ago he produced the story and art for the three-issue series "Stargate: Doomsday World." Around the same time, he also contributed to a "Zen: Intergalactic Ninja" comic book. "I don't even like talking about that shit," Ineco said of his first stint in comics. "That was ten years ago, but the stuff I'm doing now is ten light-years better."
Ienco comes from the video game industry. He decided to save money and quit his job so he could try his hand at being a full-time comic book professional. So far it's working out pretty well, as Image has also picked up his second graphic novel, a book called "Manifestations," which is a supernatural thriller he plans on releasing sometime next year. "I'm living the dream," Ineco remarked. "But let's have some green to go with that dream. Not that money is everything. But I'm in the door now. I'm ecstatic. Even if it is just my little toe that's in that door. But [Image has] picked up 'Manifestation, and Image's audience is huge. They don't pick up just any comic."
It's Ineco's dream to follow in the footsteps of his hero, another multi-talented creator by the name of Frank Miller. "He's my role model. I'd love to do what he's doing " directing films," Ienco said. "Right now, I'm just concentrating on telling good stories, with good art."