Aliens: Defiance #1
(Dark Horse Comics, April 2016)
Writer: Brian Wood
One of the most striking characters in the movie “Alien” (Twentieth Century Fox, 1979) was the android character called Ash. The movie is set partly in deep space, and partly on a misty planet, where a face-hugging monster leaps out of eggs lurking in the ruins of a creepy spacecraft. Motivated solely by Machiavellian directives from executives at the sinister business venture called Weyland-Yutani Corporation, Ash the “synthetic”, as he is called, has a complete disregard for human life and objectifies his crewmates as either obstacles or suitable hosts for xenomorph incubation. Ash’s secret mission is to secure an asset capable of being potentially weaponised, the horrific alien spawned from the facehugger which has horrifyingly started to prey upon the crew of the freighter Nostromo. Ash’s betrayal of his fellow crew members is necessary to meet that objective.
This comic may precede or post-date the 1979 movie. It follows a Colonial Marine, Zula Hendricks, who rides out to secure a derelict cargo vessel called the Europa with a cadre of combat synthetics. The starship is unexpectedly over-run with aliens, and Hendricks finds herself during a brutal firefight abruptly cryogenically frozen in “stasis sleep” for apparently twenty-seven days. When she awakes Hendricks finds herself inexplicably bound. The dropship which has taken them to the derelict vessel is gone. The Europa is in deep space, returning to its point of origin. Most of the crew of synthetics were destroyed by aliens in the initial melee.
The synthetic shadowing Hendricks, named Davis, is behaving oddly. He says he has defied Weyland-Yutani’s orders (presumably to preserve the aliens and land on Earth) because there were “none I deemed appropriate”. Davis says, “I am no longer satisfied with my factory programming. I would like to be more.” He confesses to stealing his masters’ confidential information and evinces an intention to prevent the aliens from being exploited as weapons by Weyland-Yutani.
But was Hendricks immobilised for twenty-seven days just so Davis could be “thorough” in ridding the derelict of aliens? Why has the dropship so conveniently disappeared? Why has the Europa been taken far away from prying eyes on and near Earth? Could Davis have infected Hendricks with an alien and is delivering her to a remote site? Is Davis really rebelling against Weyland-Yutani?
Hendricks does not seem to trust Davis’uncharacteristic altruism and neither does the wary reader. Is Davis engaging in the “defiance” against his masters foreshadowed in the title, or is he as heartless as the xenomorphs? There are so many questions. The delight to this story is not the macabre horror of the aliens, but the inability of both Hendricks and the reader to ascertain what is truth and what is a lie hidden behind half-truths. The writer, Brian Wood, has set this disturbing and sinister story up perfectly in this first issue.