Aliens: Dead Orbit #1
Story and Art by James Stokoe
Dark Horse Comics, April 2017
Reviewed on 5.24.2017 – 8/10 Stars – Recommended
Like the best Alien stories, Dead Orbit is at first subdued. The central character, Wascylewski, is the lone remaining caretaker of the Sphacteria, a large way-station orbiting a distant gas giant in a remote system. “Wassy” is a diligent, desperate technician doing what he can to keep the station running before his time runs out. In flashback, we begin to see Wascylewski’s memory of how the Xenomorph was introduced to the station’s crew above the gas giant, Pelops.
The Alien movies are famous for emphasizing the individual visions of talented directors. Dark Horse has done something similar by giving Stokoe freedom to do much of the heavy lifting in Dead Orbit. While the typical Alien story starts by introducing crew members waking from hypersleep, Stokoe starts with the aftermath. Only Wascylewski appears to be left alive. The take is interesting and frees the series from the typical structure of Alien stories. How do you survive against the Xenomorph when your ship is stationary?
Although Dead Orbit does veer from the structure that made the movies effective, it’s good to see Stokoe and Dark Horse try something new by beginning the series after the Alien has run amok through the Sphacteria. Wascylewski is alone, scarred, and losing his mind. He’s a capable engineer who is holding on by his wit’s last thread. Wassy may also be an unreliable narrator. No hints are given about the fate of his colleagues.
The first issue does feel like it needs more room to breathe, but there’s plenty of atmosphere and hints within its twenty-four pages about where the series is headed. Still, the pacing and atmosphere are solid. Looking at each page, the amount of labor that went into each panel is appreciated. Stokoe excels at capturing the grunge and industrial oppression that is pervasive in the corporate, space-faring future of Alien. In Dead Orbit, Stokoe has selected the bulky aesthetic of the original Alien with its CRT computer monitors and boxed instruments stacked atop each other. This disheveled, boiler room view of space-tech serves Stokoe’s style well. His work here feels like a cross between the widescreen detailing of Geof Darrow and the bleak menace of Richard Corben.
Aliens: Dead Orbit is building as a unique, measured take on the Xenomorph horror mythos. Aliens: Dead Orbit 2 is due on May 31st from Dark Horse Comics.
Aliens: Dead Orbit 1 from Dark Horse Comics is available on ComiXology and Kindle from Amazon for $1.99.
8/10 Stars – Recommended