Tuesday, January 13, 2015

7 Days of Comics: Alien vs Predator–Civilized Beasts


For almost as long as I can remember, there’s been something about the Alien mythos that’s attracted me. Maybe it’s the extraordinary designs by H.R. Giger, the terror inspired by the original film and the world implied by James Cameron’s sequel; maybe it’s merely the powerful aliens and the aesthetic appeal of the lighting of the films. In any case, despite the aesthetic, chronological, and other differences between the Alien and Predator films, they have been paired together for as long as I’ve been aware of the franchises. Something about John McTiernan’s Yautja and Ridley Scott’s Xenomorphs pairs them intuitively. Alien vs Predator was a viable entity since before Predator ever became a franchise of its own right.

And yet, something about this franchise has been poisoned. To my understanding the second and third Predator films have been at least welcomed as average films or better, whereas the other five related films released since 1992 have earned a greater deal of fan rage than they have love. The paired franchise’s latest foray into the public consciousness, Colonial Marines, seems to have been met with almost universal scorn. Today I discuss such a story, a comic that I would watch any of the films its shares a universe with rather than recommend (except for maybe Alien 3). That comic is Alien vs Predator: Civilized Beasts.

This comic was released in 2008, a tie-in to the two Alien vs Predator films. The back of the book proudly boasts:

Following the events of Thrill of the Hunt, Alien vs Predator: Civilized Beasts again teams fan-favorites writer Mike Kennedy (Lone Wolf 2100) and artist Roger Robinson (Gotham Nights) in an action-packed battle royal to determine the heavyweight championship of the galaxy!

Let’s see how it delivers on these points, shall we?

I can’t deny that it follows Thrill of the Hunt, which I haven’t read, but I can certainly hope that the first volume did a better job of introducing the characters and the situation. Very little attention is paid to how the humans – who seem to largely be the main characters – arrived where they are, or even who they are. It’s not until new cast members are introduced that names start to be used, despite the fact that pages at a time will pass without a single word of narration or dialogue.

Whether or not the writer and artist are fan favorites is something else that I can’t necessarily dispute or confirm. What I can say is that instead of setting up a story, the writer spends time introducing us to pretentious babble about the nature of civilization and whether or not Darwinism is linked to it, seemingly implying that the act of fighting for survival and the use of instinct lead to death rather than civilization. As for the art, I have little in the way of complaint other than certain occasions of human proportion and the way people bend from time to time. It would be a damned bit more useful if the art was sequential enough to tell the story that it tries to tell silently, however.

How about the action-packed battle royal? Well, there’s certainly battling going on, and some action. It’s kind of hard to tell, seeing as how we’re focused on the human plot (which is the only one that gets any speech, while there’s no narration to be found anywhere else). Oh, and there’s the fact that the story with the Aliens and the Predators make no sense. As far as I can tell, the Predators have one, two or more Xenomorph queens, which they use to farm Xenomorphs to fight. And to let humans fight. And they occasionally heal humans were injured fighting Xenomorphs. But they occasionally also kidnap humans and rip their arms off, too. Sometimes they use tasers on the queen so that Xenomorphs will respawn in their vicinity. Need I go on? Slowing down to show things happening in a linear manner, or hell, even using the novel approach of using some sort of text in a comic book, would help… whatever’s supposed to be happening here.

Well, as to the heavyweight champion… actually, yeah. It’s pretty clear that no matter how many Xenomorphs there are, no Predator will ever be injured in combat with one. I saw this as a lack of suspense or interesting combat, but yeah, they hit this one pretty much on the mark.

Ultimately, I didn’t have any reason to care about these characters, to pay any mind to who was or wasn’t an android, or to who died or didn’t. I had nothing to invest in whether the Predators beat the Aliens, or vice versa; it had absolutely no relevance in any of the goings-on with the human story. It’s not necessarily that it was the B story to the humans’ A story, though there is such a distinction, as neither one of them could be followed in a manner consistent of what would be considered the “A” plot. The B and C plots, perhaps. I, for one, wish I had been reading the A plot, which was probably centered on another planet, with other characters, and a different writer.

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