COMIC REVIEW: Predator: Life and Death #1 | FanboysInc

COMIC REVIEW: Predator: Life and Death #1

By Vernon Miles

Writer: Dan Abnett

Artists: Brian Albert Thies, Rain Beredo, Michael Heisler

Cover: David Palumbo

$3.99

Dark Hose Comics

Arguably, there hasn’t been a good Predator movie since the first one came out in 1987, but fans everywhere were intrigued, if not excited, by the title of 2010’s Predators. There was no mistaking that it was an allusion to Aliens.  In a way, Predator: Life and Death is the Predator story everyone hoped for in 2010. On first sight, the story is exactly Aliens: A tough but respected military commander is leading a team of testosterone-fueled hotheads into an unknown situation with a charming but clearly devious Weyland-Yutani representative pulling the strings. At one point, it even appears a nearly identical Sargent Vazquez-like character makes an appearance. Though as it evolves the parallels to the first Predator movie become more clear, the team works its way through the jungle. It’s an interesting idea, though it reinforces how similar those two plots already are, and copying that almost exact pattern for a fourth or fifth time (if you include the similar plots of Aliens vs Predator and the aforementioned Predators) starts to become more tedious than exhilarating.

If you have to have a story about overly macho space-jarheads, it’s hard to find a more experienced writer than Dan Abnett (of Warhammer and Guardians of the Galaxy renown). By this point, Abnett probably talks about elite military units dealing with otherworldly terrors in his sleep. It’s a credit to his script that the slow set up, while not particularly compelling, never feels like a slog. Abnett slowly teases out glimpses and clues at what’s waiting for the soldiers, but it’s an approach that might have been better served for an audience that hadn’t seen any Predator movies and hadn’t looked at the cover or title of the book.

COMIC REVIEW: Predator: Life and Death #1

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A crucial element to Aliens success that’s missing from the entirety of the Predator franchise, and one that to a degree still holds Life and Death back, is Ripley. A key piece of the horror in Alien and the action in the pluralized sequel is a relateable and memorable protagonist, someone the audience can connect with that grounds the story. It’s possible that the Captain, whose name isn’t mentioned anywhere in the script, could evolve into a compelling character, but there’s nothing particularly intriguing about anyone we’ve met in the first issue, so there’s no tension or concern for whether they live or die.

But while that approach works for Aliens, arguably that’s not what Predator is about, and that’s where the book clings to its roots. These soldiers, they’re horror fodder. It’s about watching a bunch of soldiers go crazy in a jungle as they’re stalked by an invisible terror, and in that regard Life and Death #1 mostly delivers. This is a conflict many franchise tie-ins deal with: readers are picking up the book wanting more Predator, and straying too far from those original concepts alienates that audience, but stick to close to the source material and readers won’t feel like they gained anything. It’s a problem Star Wars books have struggled with for years: swinging between carbon copies of the original trilogy to material completely unrecognizable from its source. If you’re the kind of reader who doesn’t mind that kind of repetition, it looks like Predator: Life and Death might be right up your alley. But if you’re hoping for a radical re-imagining of the Predator franchise, it might be best to wait and see how the series takes shape.

COMIC REVIEW: Predator: Life and Death #1

With it’s bright colors and sharp lines on the main characters against typically dull backgrounds, Brian Albert Thies and Rain Beredo’s art also feels somewhat evocative of the 90’s and early 2000’s Predator comics. It’s serviceable, but for fans of the comic series it gives the book a subtle nostalgic touch. A few highlights artistic highlights are scenes where action extends past the edges of the panels. It’s a small touch handled deftly. It’s introduced early so it doesn’t feel gimicky later, and when it is used later, it’s sparingly enough to maintain its impact. Where the scripting wavers slightly in the action, the art picks up the slack and delivers a tantalizingly brief action sequence.

The “Best At What it Does”: For Predator fans who were hoping for a more Aliens approach to the franchise, Life and Death delivers on that promise. A Predator hunts Colonial Marines, and it’s as off to as vicious a start as that premise implies.

The “Isn’t Very Nice”: But it never goes beyond that premise, and even that it doesn’t reach until the last four pages of the book. For anyone concerned that the Predator franchise has gotten stale, Life and Death isn’t the title that will eliminate that concern. At this point, the franchise is as much about this familiar format as it is the stories themselves.

FBI Score: 7.5 out of 10. The first quarter of the Life and Death mini-series amounts to a retelling of Aliens with a Predator instead of a Xenomorph. It’s an interesting premise, and Life and Death follows that idea to the letter, but it’s not a particularly ambitious one. It shuffles around the existing Predator and Aliens plots effectively, but what the franchise needs is new ones.