Retro comic review: Aliens: Salvation (1993)

In honor of the newest Alien film, Alien: Covenant (read Keri’s review here), this reporter has decided to take a closer look at some of the franchise’s other pursuits, primarily comic books because comic books are rad. The Alien comic-verse has been helmed for close to 30 years by Dark Horse Comics and has become one of the longest movie/comic tie-ins in comic history. One of the earliest successes was a work titled Aliens: Salvation, penned by Dave Gibbons and illustrated by a young Mike Mignola in 1993.  A gritty, maddening tale of the last survivor of an Alien attack, the comic marks the beginning of Mignola’s career into horror, preceding Hellboy by only a few months. Though initially doomed to die in obscurity, Salvation was re-released in a fancy, hardcover graphic novel in 2015 and has made its way into my grubby mitts.

Salvation is a fairly straightforward story about a man, a ship, and some Aliens. The lead, Selkirk, was once the cook on an intergalactic trade ship, but is now marooned on an island on an unknown planet with only his half-mad captain to keep him company. He spends his days praying to whatever God is still listening and his nights not getting shot to death by his companion. But they are not alone on the island. Aliens have appeared on their little corner of the universe and they are determined to kill everything in sight.

I’m not going to lie, I don’t know a TON about the Aliens franchise. I’ve seen the first two movies and Prometheus, so I’m going to merely judge this work on its merit as a sci-fi comic and a tie-in for casual fans of the series. To be honest, I was originally sold on it because of the Mignola name (which is most likely the reason the comic was re-released in the first place), and the promise of seeing his earlier illustration work. That being said, I really dug this comic. The story delved deep into not only what made the monsters so terrifying, i.e. their relentless pursuit to kill, but the actual mental and spiritual damage a creature like that can do to someone who is deeply religious. It’s something that hadn’t been really addressed in the movies, even with Prometheus’s esoteric angle of humans being the children of god-like aliens. Salvation takes it one step further and pushes its protagonist to question his existence as he does more and more horrendous things to simply survive. In his world, humans have traversed the stars and made contact with creatures outside their universe, but they have never quite found themselves. It’s as much a mediation on human existence as it is on survival on an unforgiving island brimming with Alien dangers.

But the real question is, was I right to judge a book by its Mike Mignola cover? Yes I was. The art is phenomenal. It definitely has that ‘early Mignola’ vibe to it, not because it is lacking substance or was sloppy work like so many other early artists, but more along the lines of someone who was still figuring out their visual style. The line work is a lot finer than his trademark, thick inked style popularized in Hellboy and the faces aren’t quite as schematic. It almost looks like very good fan-art of Mignola art. He does keep the heavy shadows and subdued color scheme though, creating a dynamic atmosphere for the characters to live in. The visual tapestry clearly points to an artist who is well on his way to an amazing career and he did not prove us wrong.

All in all, Aliens: Salvation is great for someone who is either a casual Alien fan such as myself or a more hardcore enthusiast. You could even go into blind having never seen a movie and still enjoy it. The comic isn’t about the how and the why of the Aliens, but that they are already out there and are quite ready to kill you. Much like the movies themselves. Grab yours today!

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