Predator: Fire and Stone #1

Easily the pulpiest of the "Fire and Stone" issues so far, "Predator: Fire and Stone" #1 has some fun with its survival story. Christopher Mooneyham's signature style adds grit and humor to Joshua Williamson's clever script, and both understand the simple kill-or-be-killed appeal of the 'Predator' universe. I didn't necessarily care about these characters, but the issue is a thoroughly enjoyable take on what really makes humanity so formidable: our conniving dedication to self-preservation.

Galgo Helder, seen in the other "Fire and Stone" titles, has abandoned the Geryon armada in his patrol ship, Perses. When he detects a Predator stowaway onboard, he wakes his comrades Piper and Higgins from cryo sleep for a hunt. The three men begin with jocular bravado; Galgo rouses Higgins with, "Wakey, wakey, old man! We're goin' huntin'," and Piper boasts that Higgins and Galgo should "stay back and braid each other's hair" while he confronts their guest. Of course, things soon take a turn for the worse, and it's clear that the Predator isn't the only brutal creature on board.

Unlike the protagonists, Mooneyham and colorist Dan Brown can handle whatever scene Williamson throws at them. From Galgo's insufferable smirk to the energetic fight scenes, the art is a perfect, pulp-homage fit for this story. I particularly enjoy how Brown incorporates the Predator's thermal imaging to build suspense, but his darker, restrained palette in the rest of the issue is also an atmospheric complement to Mooneyham's inks. The figures never feel heavy or posed; rather, they're dynamic, solid and full of momentum. The plot therefore seems relentlessly active, even when the characters are simply walking through the ship. It's also fun to see Mooneyham enjoying the subject matter. He revels in the Predator's ugliness, emphasizing and exaggerating its pincer teeth and jowly jaw. With so much to like, the art gives the action the appeal that the characters lack.

This is not to say that the characters are uninteresting; rather, they're fascinatingly unlikeable. Williamson writes Galgo as a slimy survivor who's willing to use whatever tools are available to save himself and kill the intruder. He even murders his old mentor in order to flush the Predator out. In another script, this type of character could have bored me with his lack of complexity, but Williamson writes Galgo's ruthless ingenuity as very - one might even say uniquely - human. Galgo is willing to sacrifice his friends, but he's also fierce and fearless when the Predator captures him. In Williamson's hands, the stubborn, unquenchable will to live is as admirable as it is despicable.

On a larger scale, the issue demonstrates how Dark Horse's befuddling publication schedule can work. Even though this issue takes place after the events of "Prometheus: Fire and Stone" #4, which won't be released until December, it isn't confusing. Williamson can afford to make the backstory pretty inconsequential, and he takes advantage of that to tell a more self-contained story. Whereas much of the emotional investment in the "Predator Vs. Alien" issue involved the unseen previous arc, here the emotional center is smack dab in the present.

"Predator: Fire and Stone" #1 is a great addition to this event. I'm actually quite excited to see Galgo and the Predator go after their new quarry, because it looks like they'll be a Machiavellian match made in heaven.

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