Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Aliens: Fast Track to Heaven

            Aliens is an interesting franchise, mainly because it always falls on that line between horror and action.  The first two movies are complete genre shifts between the two, and they’re both considered two of the greatest movies in their genres.  There’s the fear of a single xenomorph slowing picking off a crew one by one, and there’s the swarms of them that can be fought off with the right tactics.  No matter what, though, the biggest fear of the Aliens franchise is how the xenomorphs can come anywhere, anytime.  They crawl through vents, come in where you should be safe, and you never know where the next one is going to be.  Fast Track to Heaven just does not hit this concept right.
            The story has a crew working for the Weyland-Yutani at the Heaven station, a space station attached with a space elevator to Hell, the surface of Jupiter’s moon, Europa.  The elevator has been stopped midway, and they investigate to figure out why.  Turns out there’s a xenomorph on-board, who proceeds to slaughter them as they try to fight it off.
            Problem number one of this book is simply that it does not have the length to tell a complete story.  It’s a mere 38 pages, which is less than the length of two standard-size comic books.  It has to rush through characterization and some of the deaths, which hurts it.  We don’t even see one crew member’s death, despite the rather meager cast.  Aliens is also a franchise that tends to distinguish itself with its characters.  There’s a reason Ripley appeared throughout all the non-vs-Predator movies.  Yet I really couldn’t tell you much about any of these characters at the end of the day.  In Alien and Aliens, they gave us plenty of time to know the characters and care when they die.  We don’t even get a moment to do that here.  The 38 pages also results in an absolutely disappointing ending, with a splash page and a wall of text.  I couldn’t believe it had ended that way.
            Now, to get back to what I was talking about with not knowing where the alien comes from.  The problem here is that the alien pretty linearly follows the crew.  It doesn’t hide and creep around and pick them off.  The crew moves forward, the xenomorph moves with them.  Although it’s always nice enough to give them time if they need to talk about anything.  I wanted some tension here.  I guess it really comes back to the length.  With more pages, there would’ve been more time to rack up the suspense.  Instead, it’s just ho-hum, xenomorph killing people.  That’s how I feel about it.  I wasn’t left with anything memorable at the end of this book.  Just an absolutely standard Aliens story.
            The one thing I did really like was Liam Sharp’s art.  It’s a pretty rough art style, but I feel it fits the book well, and he can hit the violence spot-on.  The elevator-turned-xenomorph-home is an absolutely wonderful example of gruesome, creepy imagery.  Sadly, I can’t say the same thing about the coloring.  It’s rare to have a book where the coloring is so very obvious, but the panels are just covered in single colors.  Characters will be red and the backgrounds will be blue.  The few panels where he uses the full palette of colors to make it look like it would are significantly better-looking.
            I really can’t recommend Aliens: Fast Track to Heaven.  It’s just too short, to the point where it noticeably affects the book.  Across a mini-series, this might’ve been a good story.  Across 38 pages, it’s scrambling to get the bare bones out there.  And for $11?  There are far meatier books you can spend your money on.
            Special thanks to Net Galley and Dark Horse Comics for letting me review this book.

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