Writer: Dan Abnett
Art: Brian Thies
It occurs to me that the Predator has surprisingly little backstory in the first two films in his series. The two Alien vs. Predator movies added just a little bit more background to the species. At its core, however, Predator is really a big cypher character who doesn’t have or need much in the way of story. So to some extent, an author is limited in what they can do with a given Predator: he’ll show up, kill a bunch of people, and has to either best the protagonist or be bested. To that extent, it’s surprising that Dark Horse has been able to publish as many Predator comics as it has over 20 years.
Predator: Life and Death is Dark Horse’s most recent attempt to infuse a little more life into the property, following its Fire and Stone crossover last year. The latter was Dark Horse’s first effort to write Aliens and Predator stories that tied into the recent Prometheus mythos, and it did so through four separate four-part crossovers that tied into a larger narrative. Life and Death does the same thing, though now in a new seventeen-part crossover that’s being helmed entirely by sci-fi writer Dan Abnett.
That isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. Although the comic is billed as the first in a seventeen-part series, Predator: Fire and Stone is clearly labeled as a four-part comic, so presumably readers can limit themselves to this one story. The series identifies itself as being set “forty three years after the events in the motion picture Alien and one year after the events of Fire and Stone.” For those keeping track, this is over a decade before the movie Aliens, and Abnett makes this clear by having the story revolve around an expedition by the Colonial Marines (the guys who went with Ripley in the Alien sequel).
Typically, the Marines are sent to a faraway planet to investigate an illegal mining operation, but they find themselves caught up in a few larger mysteries. One: most of the colonists are missing, except for one survivor who’s ranting that everyone is doomed. Two: there’s a mysterious crashed spaceship on the planet which looks really valuable for the corporate picking by the corporate goons on the expedition. And three, there’s an invisible monster that’s picking off the Marines.
Essentially, this is Aliens, without Ripley’s story of redemption and with a Predator instead of the Xenomorph. The story is fine so far, but nothing we haven’t already seen in either of the film series. It’s not bad, and fans of both franchises will probably enjoy seeing a faithful depiction of the heroes from one dropped into the hunter/prey sequences of the other. That said, there’s not much to the individual Colonial Marines who we meet in the story: they’re your standard “tough guy” characters who get confronted by a bigger threat than they can handle. Unsurprisingly, a few of them very quickly become Predator fodder. Abnett certainly has some fun with the story; though beyond the mystery of the crashed spaceship, it’s unclear where he can take this story where no other Predator story has gone before.
Brian Thies’ art isn’t bad either, but it does suffer from a few flaws. He does a decent job of portraying the Marines’ mammoth spaceships, capturing the tone and feel of Aliens. However, his anatomy is a bit off at times, with some of his figures looking not-quite-human and the Predators’ size in relation to the humans uncertain at times. Rain Beredo’s coloring does complement Thies’ art nicely, though, making a basic jungle seem a lot more alien and disturbing under the circumstances.
This story is recommended for fans of the Alien/Prometheus and Predator films who want a more modern expansion of the film universe than Dark Horse’s earlier efforts accomplished. However, there isn’t much else to bring in a casual Alien or Predator fan who doesn’t normally go beyond the films.
Rating: Three Facehuggers out of Five.