"Aliens: Dead Orbit #2" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written and illustrated by James Stokoe
2017, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on May 31st, 2017
Tensions are running high on the space waystation. After coming across an abandoned ship, the crew takes on three horrifically injured passengers in cryogenic stasis. Since this is an Aliens book, you can probably guess what's wrong with them. Meanwhile, there's a xenomorph around and a big hole just ripped open on the side of the station. Things are not going well.
You can tell from page one that these space-faring folks are living on borrowed time. There's an unavoidable sense of dread radiating out of every panel and the characters are not entirely aware of it. You'd think with the amount of xenomorph encounters that have happened over the years that some organizations would be a little better prepared for them. They have no idea what they're in for.
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This is especially true with those survivors they took in. On the one hand, they're doing what's right by taking these people in and doing what they can to treat them. On the other, these patients are going to lead to the death of everyone on this ship. Writer / artist James Stokoe has created cringe-worthy characters with the patients. Their very existence looks painful. It looks like their skin has melted off, leaving exposed nerves, muscle, and sinew. The ship's doctor points out, “Two of them haven't got any fucking lips, Captain!”
Stokoe's lettering adds to this unsettling quality. The patients let out this guttural sound, like they're trying to breath, but it's too difficult to do so. It's this painful “HGK!” repeated over and over. The letters themselves are jagged and disjointed. The balloons drift downward, hauntingly hanging in the air like a spectre. This gets more intense when one of them wakes up screaming. The letters jump off the page as the patient is leaping off the table with unnatural strength.
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Where the xenomorphs are a minor part of the first issue, they are a force to be reckoned with in this one. We've seen the familiar chestburster scene several times over the years. The one in this comic is perhaps the most gruesome and terrifying. It comes with how Stokoe prepares the scene. You almost forget that this is a foregone conclusion, wondering what could be wrong with this person. Meanwhile, an ominous “TH-THMP” sound emanates from his chest over and over again. You can't block it out. You can't avoid it. You can't cover your eyes. Then BAM! It's an explosion of blood and pain. A new xenomorph is born.
The tension never lets up. Even the scenes where the crew gets to catch their breath are filled with uneasy foreboding. Stokoe is a master at building the terror, using the story, art, and lettering together in such a cohesive way. Aliens: Dead Orbit is the kind of comic you read with fists clenched, fearful of what's waiting on the next page. This is an unforgettable book and a must-read for any fan of Aliens.