A team of hardened Colonial Marines and a Weyland-Yutani representative are sent on a mission to investigate a problem on a colonized world, and some anomalies come to light before they set down on the seemingly deserted planet. That’s the general premise of many “Aliens” stories as well as Dan Abnett and Brian Albert Thies’ “Predator: Life and Death” #1, the beginning of a four-issue miniseries that ties into the larger “Life and Death” event involving Dark Horse Comics’ “Aliens” and “Prometheus” licenses. Abnett puts a twist on the oft-used plot device of this issue, but it’s mainly by way of switching the players around; instead of encountering a Xenomorph, the marines instead encounter a Predator, and the story relies on many of the usual tropes.
There’s the usual array of characters present: the nervous and trigger-happy marine; the seemingly conniving company rep whose job seems to be putting everyone else in danger in the name of W-Y’s best interests; and the calm and decisive captain who does her best to keep her troops in line. Abnett disguises the story as best he can and tries to freshen it up, but it will only seem truly fresh to those who haven’t seen variations of this story told a dozen times already, and those who aren’t familiar with the franchises likely aren’t the intended audience. If the appearance of a Predator, rather than one or more Xenomorphs, was an intended surprise, that surprise was ruined by the “Predator” in the title.
Thies’ art has a kind of soft, blurry touch that gives the story a different look, but that also works against it; for instance, it’s not clear on the first page that Captain Paget is a woman. Many of the opening panels feel cramped, crowded with exposition to lay out the story, but — once that’s done — his panels open up to help Abnett’s story get moving. The confines of the marines’ ship have the feel of a large military vessel, while the far-off world the troops visit is decidedly alien and unfamiliar. Colorist Rain Beredo’s washy transitions work well with Thies’ textured lines; the usage of gradients rather than hard contrasts gives the overall art a fitting style for capturing an alien planet.
Thies’ art also paces Abnett’s story nicely, despite the issue’s derivative predictability, and David Palumbo’s cover beautifully blends a couple of the different franchises together. “Predator: Life and Death” #1 is for those who can’t get enough Predator comics in their stack. For all others, though, there will be a nagging sense they’ve seen this before, because — for the most part — they have.