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Aliens: Dead Orbit

    Ian Jane

  • Aliens: Dead Orbit

    Aliens: Dead Orbit
    Released by: Dark Horse Comics
    Released on: March 21st, 2018.
    Written & Illustrated by: James Stokoe
    Purchase From Amazon

    This new series begins at Weyland-Yutani station Sphacteria 284255, a fuel depot/weight station with a crew of six. One of those crew members sleeps in his chair until the station's computer system wakes him up. He looks for a cigarette but he's out - he's also got just over four minutes to get things in order, because the station requires immediate attention. He heads into the airlock, suits up and grabs his gear. As he starts surveying the exterior of the station, he notices a space ship nearby.

    Cut back to 'before.' Captain Hassan of the Sphacteria radios a ship, we assume it's the same one we just saw. There's no answer. The man from the intro, who we learn is named Wasclewski, works on a console. A man named Rook says that maybe the comm systems are no good - a woman named Park chimes in, that ship was scanable and heat sensors show they have active cryo chambers. They assume that the crew is 'still in the freezer.' They also assume that the crew is either salvagers or raiders. Wasclewski is told to get the shuttle ready and to get Torrenson's gun, even if it doesn't have any ammo.

    Park and Doctor Harrow accompany Wasclewski and Hassan on the shuttle. They move into the air lock and dock, it's a mess. Life support is functional but they leave their helmets on anyway. There are strange melted bits - like acid was splashed on parts of the ship, it's melted through the bulkhead. In the cryo chamber they find two male twins and a female still fast asleep. Hassan orders the others to wake them up. They can't leave them there but they're not dragging the cryo chambers back to the Spacteria.

    They flip the switch, but something goes wrong. The systems on this ship are a mess and the tubes start flooding as the three survivors start to wake up. They crack the lids and get them out but it's bad, they're burned and going into shock.

    Back in the present on the Spacteria, Wasclewski hears a familiar HISSSSSSS and although he thinks it's a leaking air hose, we know better.

    We flashback and see what happened to get that corpse there. A heavy set middle aged man, a doctor, and a younger woman, Park, try to hold a woman with what look like severe burn marks all over her body still so that he can get an IV into her. Eventually it works and she goes to sleep. It turns out she's one of three in this condition. The other two are at least stabilized. The doctor tells Captain Hassan that he's concerned about infection, he needs bandages and antiseptic. These three were the people pulled off of the ship - Hassan had hoped maybe that they'd get some information out of them, but it didn't happen. It's kind of hard to talk when you don't have any lips.

    Hassan finds Wasclewski in the hallway and orders him to start going through the logs of the ship that they took the three survivors off of - a movie that Hassan acknowledges broke established quarantine rules in a big way. He begrudgingly obliges and soon enough he, Hassan and a few others are exploring the manifests. It looks like they exchanged a few crates for some Chinese yuan, a currency only used in frontier colonies. It also looks like there were eight crew members onboard, but when they searched the vessel they only found the three that they brought back. Hassan asks Rook to call this into head office.

    The intercom goes off - Park says that doc needs everyone down in the medical bay a.s.a.p., all three of the rescues are having seizures. Given how much sedative they've been given, this shouldn't be possible, but then one of the bodies flips off of the bed and onto the floor, a chestburster cracking out of its rib cage - then a second body follows suit…

    When the third issue begins, Wasclewski is cocooned in the hull of the ship, a pair of aliens hissing in his direction not too far from where he lies trapped. When he notices Captain Hassan cocooned just a few feet away, we flashback and find out how this all happened.

    As Wasclewski and the others patrol the ship, an alien pulled Torrenson into the duct where it was hiding, leaving Wasclewski, Park and Harrow powerless to save him. Knowing that Hassan is gone, the three run as quickly as they can. They regroup, scared that first they lost Rook and now Hassan, but intent on figuring out where the bugs are coming from. If they properly sealed off the main areas by the deck then they must be coming from the sub-decks, possibly from over by engineering. Torrenson wonders aloud how the xenomorphs got so big so quickly. Park figures that if they can find where the aliens are hiding, maybe they can get their people back.

    Torrenson has another idea. He wants to gather up supplies and wait in the scavenger's ship for rescue. Before Rook was taken he did send out the alert, and even if it takes three months, Torrenson would rather do this than face the aliens. Obviously he and Park get into it. Once things cool down a bit, she talks Wasclewski and Torrenson into heading to the medical bay to check on Harrow. When they arrive, they find Harrow with a knife to his throat, one of the women from the other ship having awoken in a rather nasty mood and now wanting to find the rest of her crew. She mutters about an infection, a dead colony - she's unhappy that Wasclewski and the others woke them up, they were frozen for a reason but before the conversation can go much further, Torrenson attacks her.

    This won't end well for anybody…

    When the fourth and final issue of Aliens: Dead Orbit begins, Wascylewski is running for his life through the halls of the space station's C-Deck. As he does, he flashes back and we see what happened to many of his former shipmates at the hands of the xenomoprhs. There's a fire on B-Deck and the station is in trouble, their only hope is to get to the cargo hold.

    Wascylewski finds some mining charges and knows what he has to do. Everyone locks themselves in life support and the charges blow, severing that module from the one where the aliens are holding on. It leaves the humans floating in space awaiting rescue and the aliens burning up in orbit with the rest of the station. Of course, they could all die before anyone picks up their signal but really, it's their only shot. Before they can make all this happen, however, an aliens attacks out of the duct work.

    Wascylewski manages to make it away and lay the first charge. It blows a whole in the hull and it looks like the plan is going to work, but not everyone is going to make it leading up to a final showdown between he and one of the bugs…

    It might have been five months since the last issue of Aliens: Dead Orbit came out but James Stokoe's four issue series ends on a serious high note. This is intense, frightening and very claustrophobic stuff. Well written with believable, human characters and amazingly illustrated with a hyper-active attention to detail. Every panel is filled, there's no dead space and his talent for unusual camera angles and panel layouts really makes this book a real treat for the eyes. If the story isn't complex, it is lean, effective and engaging and this last issue really ties everything together in a big way, the perfect mix of action and horror.

    The best thing you can say about it? It leaves you wanting more. Sure, the story is resolved but it would be great to see Stokoe return to the Aliens universe in the future. It's clearly a property that plays to his writing and illustrative skills.

    In addition to collection the story from the four issues that made up the Dead Orbit storyline, this trade paperback also includes a cover gallery and a collection of pages that Stokoe illustrated as 'pitch pages' for Dark Horse, some color test work and a few pin up pages.

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