Script: Mark Verheiden
Art: Mark A. Nelson
Colours: Dark Horse Digital
Lettering: Willie Schubert
Cover illustration: Mark A. Nelson
Ok, straight off we have to address an issue with this trilogy of books. They were originally designed to pick up where the second film ended and therefore featured the characters of Hicks and Newt. However, when Alien3 was released these characters were killed, meaning that the characters were renamed to Billie and Wilks, LV 426 (Acheron) became Rim. This was done in a rather sloppy and haphazard fashion as sometimes characters still use the original names and places (mainly in the third book); additionally many of the other characters from Aliens remain unchanged, such as Vasquez, Frost, and Stone etc. This half-arsed approach in re-editing does affect the story occasionally and since Dark Horse has just re-released these stories in their unedited form the whole point of this exercise seems questionable. Why not simply say that these events take place in an alternate timeline and keep the characters names the same? Admittedly, the alternate timeline plot device has become more popular in recent years and this change of obviously occurred in the early 90s, but I personally found that it weakened the stories. I will use the new names as I am using the omnibus text, but will highlight links, omissions and edits where appropriate.
Outbreak begins 13 years after an Alien outbreak on the colony of Rim (or the events of the film Aliens in the original text). Billie (Newt) and Wilks (Hicks) are still emotionally crippled by their experience, suffering continuous nightmares. Wilks has become an embittered, violent drinker, whilst Billie has been confined to a mental institution. Both characters are offered a chance of redemption when the location of the Aliens home world is discovered, retrieved from the data banks of an abandoned spaceship that was the scene of an Alien infestation. The military launch a mission to the Alien home world to bring back specimens. However the infected Captain of the abandoned ship escaped to Earth and is secretly being held in the labs of the Bio-National Corporation. This corporation is determined to hold onto its advantage of an alien specimen and dispatches a unit of mercenaries to stop the military mission. As the military mission progresses it becomes apparent there is also a traitor in the Marines midst. Back on earth a religious cult has discovered the existence of the Alien and the location of the secret lab where the, now fully grown, Alien Queen is being held. They attack the lab thereby releasing the aliens on Earth. Meanwhile on the Aliens home world Billie and Wilks succeed in defeating the company Mercenaries but end up being trapped on the surface surrounded by Aliens, they are saved by the intervention of a member of the Space Jockey (Engineer, or whatever) race. Traveling back to earth they discover the planet has become overrun by aliens and just manage to escape in an automated military transport ship en route to an undisclosed off-world location.
Outbreak features a decent story-line and some good characterization. The story is in fact a stripped down version of the SD Perry books, as are others in this trilogy. Whilst there is a decent story-line it does re-use the standard tropes of the series. Whilst this is done effectively it does not push any real boundaries or explore the universe.
Wilks’ character was a little clichéd, Billie’s transformation from victim to heroine played out well.
I rather expected the Aliens home world to resemble a Geiger nightmare but due to the limitations of the artist it’s just dull. Personally I would have preferred a little more story devoted to the outbreak on Earth and the downfall of mankind. An interesting feature of this story is the introduction of the space jockey, or engineer, as villains which was recently mirrored in the film Prometheus as was that races’ use of Aliens as weapons.
The artwork is solid old-school comic strip, good enough, but as previously mentioned a bit bland and uninspired at times.
Overall this is a solid, if uninspired, first foray for Aliens into the world of comics and graphic novels.