Without a doubt, ALIEN: COVENANT is one of the most highly anticipated films of the year. It’s got fans of the franchise wondering how it will turn out, especially after Prometheus, but many fans hope that Ridley Scott returns triumphantly to the sci-fi franchise he launched in 1979.
Dark Horse has been publishing Aliens comics since the late 80s. In the process, they’ve developed a series of stories filled with morality-challenged scientists, brave space marines and sneaky synths. This expanded universe also features junkies addicted to Alien Queen Royal Jelly and huge corporations obsessed with exploiting the xenos, regardless of the cost.
We’ve still got a month to wait until the film drops, so in addition to re-watching the movies, here are 10 Alien comics from Dark Horse we recommend you checking out in print or digitally.
Dark Horse continued the adventures of the surviving “Aliens” characters in three limited series’ starting in 1988 called OUTBREAK, NIGHTMARE ASYLUM and FEMALE WAR by Mark Verheiden, Mark A. Nelson, Den Beauvais and Sam Keith. Well, kind of. These titles originally focused on Hickes and Newt, survivors of ALIENS, but then ALIENS 3 came out and screwed up that continuity. So, Dark Horse went back and changed Hickes to Wilks and Newt to Billie.
With that in mind, dive into these stories and pick up with these characters and see that no one really walks away from an Alien attack unscathed. Throughout these three stories, Wilks, Billie and eventually Ripley continue running into the xenomorphs, while also learning more and more about how they work and what they want which ultimately results in the near destruction of Earth itself! These books set the tone and continuity of the Aliens books for years to come.
Originally titled ALIENS: HIVE, this 1992 series by Jerry Prosser and Kelley Jones, eschews many of the tropes of the franchise by pairing a scientist named Stanislaw with a thief called Gill in a plot to build cybernetic Aliens in order to infiltrate xeno hives as a means to collect the Royal Jelly which has become a wildly popular street drug.
They head to a planet with a massive nest to do exactly that accompanied by an android and run into all kinds of problems even with devices that mask their scents from the bugs. HARVEST captures the obsession seen in other Alien stories while also mixing in healthy doses of fantastically creepy art from Jones who’s one of the best horror artists in the business.
When it comes to out-there scientists who eschew morality in search of advancements, the Aliens Universe stands second to none in sheer population. In 1993’s LABYRINTH by Jim Woodring and Kilian Plunkett we meet Colonel Doctor Church, who’s in charge of the Innominata research facility.
As you might expect, he’s experimenting on Aliens in crazy ways — he even walks one around like a dog — but the real horror of this tale comes when he explains the origins of his interest in the species. As a young man, his entire ship fell to a bunch of xenos on a moon. He figured out how to live by helping the aliens cultivate their own experiments on his fellow humans and other horrible acts. Even though his story didn’t assuage his eventual attackers, he still escapes to continue his unorthodox research into the alien menace.
Two comic book legends teamed up to tell the story of Selkirk in 1993’s ALIENS SALVATION. WATCHMEN artist Dave Gibbons and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola introduced us to the prayer-minded cook who would up stranded on a jungle island trying to survive an inhospitable environment made even more so by the presence of Aliens.
His faith is further tested when he discovers that The Company planned on dropping the Aliens on this planet to breed them. Enraged, Selkirk goes on a rampage, taking out the xenos and then setting his downed ship to explode, taking him and the planet with it. While SALVATION’s a pretty good story, the real draw here comes from Mignola’s angular, gnarly artwork which works perfectly in the world of Aliens!
Even musicians can becomes fatally obsessed when it comes to the Aliens as seen in the 1994 limited series MUSIC OF THE SPEARS by Chet Williamson and Tim Hamilton starring musician Damon Eddington. He feels compelled to create a symphony mainly composed of the hateful sounds of the xenos.
Eddington’s record company sets him up with a space, an egg and some assistants, but as anyone who spends a lot of time with Aliens knows, they don’t exactly care what you want. After laddering up victims on the food chain, Damon finally gets what he wants out of the monster he dubbed Mozart, but needs one final note to finish his masterpiece. You can guess how well that goes in this story that examines the madness of creativity. Plus, it’s also got ninjas, a captive Alien hunter named Blue and robot heavy metal bands, so all of those are marks in the plus column.
ALIENS: ALCHEMY, a three issue series from 1997 by John Arcudi and Richard Corben, examines the relationship between the new space colonies popping up and their religious ideas as related to the Aliens. In other words, the cultish order on a back-warter planet comes under scrutiny when an Alien starts feasting on the townsfolk.
Between the religious overtones and the presence of a human villain with as much sway and influence over the town as Muir, ALCHEMY oftentimes feels like Stephen King’s take on an Alien story with skin-crawling art by a true artistic master in Corbien.
James Vance and Guy Davis produced a truly mind-melting Aliens story with SURVIVAL, a three issue series from 1998. Victor Thompson takes center stage in this story as a man who heads out for a mission alongside his wife and son. The problem, as you might imagine, comes when their benefactors prove to have set up the whole mission as a way to test anti-xeno methods.
The story itself, though, is told in such a way that you’re never quite sure where Thompson stands as his memories intersect with fantasy and hallucinations to produce a patchwork of insanity sewn together with Alien thread. Made all the more heartbreaking by the stellar Davis artwork that helped make B.P.R.D. one of the best books around, this tale will leave you wondering just how important survival truly is.
Have you ever wondered what ALIEN would have been like if it came out in the 1950s? That’s the approach writer-artist John Byrne took with his 1994 one-shot ALIENS: EARTH ANGEL as he incorporated elements from the films with the set-up of a classic 50s alien flick. Instead of focusing on space-farers, this one zooms in on a pair of teens who stumble across a downed UFO. They save the pilot, but have no way of knowing that what they think of as his face is actually a facehungger!
This very different looking xeno bursts forth and starts tearing through the small town, especially the local biker gang. A doctor attempts to save his family, but still runs into the creature, eventually teaming up with the gang to burn the aliens to the ground. If you need more incentive than checking out an ALIEN/THE BLOB mash-up, this one also features ties to one Ellen Ripley!
It’s never easy being the new kid in town, especially when that town happens to be a fourth generation agri-colony as seen in ALIENS: WRAITH. The 1998 one shot by Jay Stephens and Eduardo Risso introduces a hard-edged kid named Roark to the peaceful community. Though he’s initially standoffish, Roark does agree to hang out with a bunch of the local kids in the woods. Before long they start telling spooky stories about a nearby cave that supposedly houses a skeletal monster called the Wraith.
Bored, Roark decides to go investigate in a move that feels very GOONIES-esque. He very quickly realizes first that the Wraith poses a real danger and, second, that one of the kids named Hope followed him inside. From there, it’s a wild chase as they do their best to escape the albino xenomorph. WRAITH comes off as an Alien film if it had been produced through Amblin, but with an incredibly bleak ending.
Dark Horse let the Aliens comics rest for a while, but have rejuvenated them in the last few years. One of the current titles coming out from the publisher is ALIENS: DEFIANCE by Brian Wood and a variety of artists. This one picks up after the events of ALIEN but before ALIENS and focuses on a severely injured Colonial Marine named Zula Hendricks who finds herself joining forces with a rogue synth named Davis in an effort to hinder Weyland-Utani’s efforts in acquiring more aliens.
Filled with the kinds of twists and turns you’d expect from a serialized story set in such a rich universe, Defiance not only delves into the power of humanity through Zula, but also investigates how much of that can be picked up by an artificial intelligence. On top of that, the book is packed with fierce looking aliens, mega firefights and plenty of other goodness to sink your claws into.