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A xenomorph alien snarls at the camera on a black background, on the cover of Alien #1, Marvel Comics (2021). Image: InHyuk Lee/Marvel Comics

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Marvel’s Alien #1 is the anti-corporate gorefest fans have been waiting for

It was only a matter of time

All the way back in 1979, Sir Ridley Scott introduced the world to a very small corner of a sci-fi universe where Facehuggers scampered, Chestbursters ruined otherwise lovely dinners, and Xenomorphs offered fatal french kisses in the dark. That film, Alien, was a massive success, one which spawned a slew of sequels, video games, toys, lunchboxes, and comic books — you name it.

For a long time, Dark Horse was calling the shots on the comic book end of this spectrum, but now the Xenomorphs have a new publishing master: Marvel Comics. Welcome to Alien #1.

Who made Alien #1?

The book’s written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson (whose name you may recall from Marvel Zombies: Resurrection and Empyre: Captain America), with artwork from Salvador Larroca (whose Marvel credits are considerable, including a lengthy run on Star Wars, The Uncanny X-Men and Doctor Doom). The striking cover comes to us courtesy of Inyhuk Lee, while the colors were handled by GURU-eFX. It’s a sharp-looking, well-written book.

What is Alien about?

The year is 2200, which places us roughly 75 years beyond the events covered in the original trilogy of Alien films (in case there’s any confusion on the timeline, Alien #1 helpfully provides a cheat sheet of sorts several pages into this issue).

We are quickly introduced to one Gabriel Cruz, a Weyland-Yutani security chief who’s finally retiring after spending decades working for the infamous company. His allegiance to the corporation cost him his family, friends and — as we see in a grisly flashback that becomes more well-defined as the issue goes on — fellow soldiers. Cruz is a haunted man, and he’s ready to make amends to the people he abandoned throughout his career.

Upon returning to Earth from the Epsilon Orbital Research Station, Cruz meets with his shrink (a very familiar-looking android) and just as he’s working up the nerve to get in touch with his estranged son, Danny, the boy — now a purposeful young man — shows up at his house. Ostensibly Danny’s there to touch base, but in reality he’s there to dig for something that will gain him access to the Epsilon station. Given Danny’s pronounced distaste for Weyland-Yutani, we can safely assume that he’s not interested in paying them a friendly visit.

And, given that this is an Alien story, you can safely assume that things aren’t going to go well for Danny once he gets there.

Why is this happening now?

“Dark like this [...] penetrates you. Tightens around your skull. Presses into your eye sockets until something pops and even the memory of light [...] drains away,” say narration boxes on a panel of a view from inside a stasis pod. Words have been scrawled on the outside of the pod, “ALIEN INSIDE,” in Alien #1, Marvel Comics (2021). Image: Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Salvador Larroca/Marvel Comics

Corporate logic. Following the merger of Disney and 20th Century Fox, Marvel announced that it would begin publishing new books based around the Alien and Predator franchises.

Yes, what were once staples of the Dark Horse empire are now under the great, big Disney umbrella, which means that the stakes are pretty high for Alien fans: There’s a lot to live up to in the wake of Dark Horse’s run with this universe, and with no further Alien movies on the horizon, it’s up to this series (and the upcoming Aliens: Fireteam) to provide fans with their Xenomorph fix.

Is there any required reading?

If you’ve seen an Alien movie or read an Alien comic book, probably not; Either of those would clue you in to pretty much everything you need to know here: Weyland-Yutani is nefarious and not to be trusted (...or is it?), the Xenomorph threat is still going strong (which is to say: These bugs are still kicking the ass of virtually every human being they encounter), and things will likely get a lot worse for our characters before they get better. That’s just life in the Alien reality!

It seems likely that the average Alien #1 reader will know all of these things from the jump, but in the highly unlikely event that you’re totally unacquainted with the franchise, I suppose I’d recommend watching James Cameron’s Aliens (at the very least!) before diving in. The deeper mythology of the series, most recently explored in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, doesn’t seem like it’ll feature here, though it’s possible it will come into play somewhere up the road.

Hm. Y’know what? Better watch all the Alien movies, just to be safe (Don’t bother with the two Alien vs. Predator movies, though, because woof).

Is Alien #1 good?

Narration describes the xenomorph horde as “an insatiable mass of writing, gnashing, death, hunting for any sprig of uncorrupted life,” and the image of skittering creatures in a dripping biocave, overseen by an alien female form is just as horrible, in Alien #1, Marvel Comics (2021). Image: Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Salvador Larroca/Marvel Comics

It sure is.

When Johnson introduced yet another Weyland-Yutani research station hovering over the Earth, and yet another “mission gone wrong” scenario for our main character, I’ll admit to feeling a little disappointed: These story-building elements are so common within the various short stories, novels, and comic books that they’re more of less cliches.

But mere pages after my brief dalliance with disappointment Johnson began steering the story in a direction I wasn’t expecting. By the end of the issue, I was very curious to see how things would play out for Gabriel, Danny, and the rest of the people living on the Epsilon (I’m particularly intrigued by the thread of anti-Weyland-Yutani activism that runs through the back half of the book; that feels timely and clever here).

Furthermore, the artwork sings. Xenomorphs are not the easiest thing to effectively convert into two dimensions (ask someone to draw one, watch what happens), but Larroca nails the slithering, chittering, horrific aura of these things with aplomb. The human characters and androids also look great, as well as the steely, ultra-clean-until-covered-in-body-parts-or-Xeno-blood corporate spaces found within the Epsilon observatory.

All of this, by the way, is brought further to life by GURU-eFX’s color work, which turns almost every page into full-blown eye candy. And lemme tell you something: it’s clear they’re not gonna be shying away from the gore. For instance...

One panel that popped

A panel of a person taking a shotgun blast to the face, in an explosion of fire and blood. Sound effects: BOOM, SPLACKKK. In Alien #1, Marvel Comics (2021). Image: Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Salvador Larroca/Marvel Comics

Wouldja look at that? Beautiful. Can’t wait to see what issue #2 has in store for us.