Aliens: Dead Orbit is Dark Horse’s newest Aliens comic book series, and was dropped on Alien Day this year. James Stokoe serves as writer and artist of the series, in which an engineering officer is pitted against the Xenomorphs with little resources to aid in his survival.
This first issue is the perfect way to open up the series. A crew of six is aboard the Weyland-Yutani Sphacteria 284255 station, when they observe a ship floating nearby. Five of the crew members go to the other ship to check it out, and come to find that there are three humans still asleep in tubes. While attempting to save them, things go wrong and they are badly burned. They need to get back to the Sphacteria, but the engineering officer on their ship might not be much help, as he comes in contact with a Xenomorph, who hovers over the case he needs to help the others. The issue ends with a menacing look at the full body of the alien that plagues the Sphacteria. And so, mankind’s fight for survival continues…
Stokoe’s writing in this issue is flawless. The crew interacts in such a way that we can tell they are close to each other and don’t hold much back. They stay focused on their mission, but are able to do so in an informal manner at times, so much so that we can see the friendship between coworkers. The character interaction is fluid and natural, so the conversational parts of the script move really easily.
Each character has his/her/their own personality that shows through quite a bit. We don’t know too much about the crew just yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing more characterization as the story moves forward.
There is a lot of scientific language, but nothing we can’t understand well. I’m sure the vast majority of us—especially if we’re fans of the franchise—know what an “airlock” is or what it means to “dock.” The script has an incredibly stable pacing to it and reads very well. There is a lot of suspense that builds up throughout the second half of the issue, and it’ll have you itching to turn the page.
The illustrations help make this issue as atmospheric as it is. Stokoe uses a lot of extraneous lines for shadowing to create a dark and mysterious tone. There is also an insane amount of detail in the line work, from the characters’ space suits to every panel and wire of the ship. When the three astronauts’ bodies get burned alive, we see them without skin. Stokoe pays so much attention to detail that we can see the tendons and muscles of these characters! It’s not even that gory; it’s just badass. The artificial lighting makes for some really warm tones, and the cooler ones make for a nice contrast. This issue looks beautiful, and we can clearly see the time that Stokoe spent on the details of this story.
For any and every horror, sci-fi, and Aliens fan, this issue is a must-read. It feels like this is going to be a really enthralling series, and I can’t wait to see how the crew (or just the engineering officer) handles the Xenomorph(s). Stokoe has done a brilliant job on the premiere issue, and I’m already addicted. To check out this gem of a book for yourself, get out to your local comic shop and give it a read!
Written by & Illustrated by: James Stokoe