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The Worst Comics I Own: Aliens – Earth War


Why I Bought It:

I’m a lifelong fan of the Alien universe and mythos.

For better or worse, I’ve found reasons to enjoy all of the Alien films, with the exception of the Aliens vs. Predator ones.

Those are just straight up hot garbage.

I like to think of the Alien extended universe as one of the more successful in pop culture history, as it’s produced some damn good videogames, as well as a handful of rather impressive comic books.

That being said, while I only owned 1 Alien collected edition prior to picking up Earth War, (later reprinted as “Female War”) that of course being Labyrinth AKA the best damn Alien comic I’ve ever read; I could recall reading numerous reviews of it.

Find it. Read it. Then Read It Again. You Won't Be Disappointed.

For the most part, Earth War was regarded as a below average contribution to the series.

Despite willfully avoiding it for most of my life, as fate would have it I stumbled across a copy of Earth War, along with 2 other vastly superior Alien comics, Rogue and Hive; during a trip I took down to Tucson, Arizona.

As it turned out, the comic shop had a special deal for old trades where if you bought 3 from the “crap pile,” the total cost would come to $10 flat.

Seeing that a good opportunity to pick up a handful of souvenirs for my trip, as well a solid deal to boot, I bought all 3, hoping that Earth War wasn’t nearly as crappy as I had heard.

To this day, I still wish I had grabbed that Mark Texeira Sabretooth comic instead…

Why It Sucks:

Earth War is an absolute mess.

Quite literally, from the art, to the layouts, to the soulless dialogue, everything about Earth War just oozes disorganization and messiness.

The funny part is, the actual art for the book, drawn by Sam Kieth of The Maxx fame; is quite stunning at times in a late 80’s-early 90’s sort of way.

Employing a rough and heavily detailed style, the book has a “texture” to it like what I’d imagine a Heavy Metal comic put through an “R. Crumb filter” would look like.

The R. Crumb references end there however, as the women in Earth War are rendered with ethereal beauty and perpetual soft-focus effects, the men are hairy and burly lumberjacks, and the Aliens are impressively designed, yet far less horrifying and more streamlined than that of the designs seen in the films.

Less insect-like and bony, more meaty and "friendly."

One odd note I feel I have to make mention of regarding the art is that, stepping in line with the Heavy Metal vibe I mentioned earlier; the gadgets and weaponry in Earth War have a decided low-tech look to them.

As well as it was all drawn, I found this to be particularly jarring given the more sleek and organized designs found in the films up that point (Earth War made between Aliens and Alien 3).

That being said,, while the art can be quite good at times, especially in close-ups, most of the renderings are extraordinarily inconsistent from panel to panel, suggesting a rushed or awkward production timetable.

More so than the art though, perhaps the biggest strike against Earth War comes from it’s infuriating layouts.

Layouts are, in my opinion, the one reason why it takes a special kind of talent to craft a really good comic.

You can suck the gas pipe at drawing.

You can be the shittiest writer on the whole goddamn block.

But if you have that special talent for putting panels in sequence to tell a story, cleanly and efficiently, then you sir; are 2 steps ahead of the curve when it comes to making comics.

Unfortunately, the guy that made this JLA comic was definitely lacking that special something.

That being said, Earth War makes use of some of the most frustrating layouts I’ve ever seen in a mainstream published comic.

Nearly every panel, at least when there are panels, is a close-up, and virtually all of the backgrounds are either implied through color splotches, or ignored altogether.

The combination of these 2 design flaws results in the book suffering from a lack of a distinct “path” for your eyes to follow, with many of the panels doing little to lend the book any sort of consistent spacial awareness from panel to panel.

That is to say:

Earth War is a book makes you work your ass off to read it, and if you couldn’t tell from the title of this post; it’s hardly worth the effort.

Which brings us to the actual story of this fucking book.

Penned by Mark Verheiden, who also wrote other Dark Horse comics, and subsequent movie adaptations such as Timecop and The Mask; Earth War actually has a fairly intriguing premise.

Pretty impressive for a guy that penned a scene involving Van Damme fighting some dudes in his boxer shorts in Timecop:

At this point in the Alien comic universe, the Alien’s have essentially conquered Earth, resulting in mankind evacuating the planet to regroup and/or find a way to cleanse the planet of the Xenomorphs.

The interesting part in all this, is the fact that, unlike reprinted versions of Earth War and other early Alien comics, the version I picked up retained the use of the characters of Hicks, Newt, and Ripley.

Apparently there was some sort of legal dispute regarding the use of the 20th Century Fox characters, resulting in the comic characters being renamed and redrawn for future printings.

With Earth War and it’s predecessors essentially serving as a direct follow-up to Aliens, one would think the story would be quite good, however this is hardly the case.

The story is told largely through the inner monologue of Newt and Ripley, both of whom are apparently at odds with one another due to Newt’s abandonment issues following her experiences on LV-426.

Personally, I maintain that no amount of writing wizardry could ever hope to make Newt a worthwhile character following her downright painful portrayal in Aliens, and if anything; Earth War proved me right in this regard.

Shoulda' left that bitch in the sewer... Jus' sayin'...

All through the book she is whiny, and largely irredeemable, making her segments some of the more annoying portions of the story.

Oddly enough though, it’s Ripley that serves as the both the protagonist and one of the more frustrating characters in the book.

Ripley was intriguing in the movies because she was tough, decisive, and relatable, but in the comic she is portrayed as being emotionally distant to the point of being robotic.

While one could argue that having an alien species utterly ruin your life likely could result in a person shutting down and devoting themselves entirely to destroying said species, personally I prefer Ripley as the more complete human being that was portrayed in the movies.

Most of the story surrounds Ripley and a squad of marines, who I might add are virtual carbon copies of some of the more developed characters from Aliens, working to capture a unique breed of Alien that could turn the tide of the war.

That “unique breed” of Alien serves as perhaps the one really big contribution that Earth War made to the Alien mythos.

Said species was the Queen Mother alien sub-species.

Not as impressive as you were expecting, right?

Essentially serving as a governor to the standard Queen’s mayor, the Queen Mother was clearly intended to serve as a plot convenience in terms of allowing the human’s to handle a planet-wide crisis of alien infestation.

Personally, I think the idea of the Queen Mother makes a fair amount of sense in terms of overall practicality, though I don’t see it as being an entirely necessary element to the Alien mythos.

Even in the comics, the Aliens have always been compared to ants or wasps, and as such, it makes sense for each hive to be at odds with one another, with each being governed by a singular Queen.

All the addition of a Queen Mother really does is makes it possible for the Aliens to be further demonized through giving them the ability to function as a unified and sentient species.

My personal fascination with the Alien stems largely from it’s status as a destructive, but otherwise animalistic creature, hence my great love for the Labyrinth story arc.

In my eyes, the inception of the Queen Mother stands as both a lame plot convenience for an equally lame story, but also as an annoying and unwarranted part of the canon that makes the Aliens seem like they’re “Out To Get Us” when it’s much more interesting to view them as destructive and industrious that can’t coexist with humanity largely due to the parallels they share in their tendency to effect their environment in profound and irreversible ways.

Obviously, I’ve had a minute or 2 to think about this.

That being said, Earth War sucks balls because it took advantage of, and did harm to the canon of the films and comics, but more importantly because it gave me a headache on my vacation with it’s shitty-ass layouts.

Is It Still Worth Reading Anyway?:

Unless you’re a supercalifragilistic fan of the Alien comic series, then there really is absolutely no reason to pick up a copy of Earth War.

Like I said, the thing is a chore to read, and it doesn’t really add to the series so much as mire and drag it down with extraneous elements.

You could do a lot worse of course, but with so many other quality pieces of Alien fiction floating around out there, I really don’t see why you’d waste your time with Earth War.

Filed under: Comics, Movies, Uncategorized, Worst Comics I Own, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Best Track in the Game #2: Starfox

Yes, the "T" stands for "Trevor." NOBODY was gonna' steal my Star Fox!

Oh Star Fox, how I loved playing you at other peoples houses.

That’s right, many a sleepover resulted in me either: A) staying up all night playing Star Fox, or B) waking up crazy early and waking the whole house at 5 AM by firing up Star Fox.

It’s interesting to note however, that in the case of the latter, it was never the sounds of the game itself that would wake people up.

It couldn’t have been, I was always careful to keep the TV volume down low when I was up too early/late, scouts honor.

No, as it turns out, it was me that would always wake people up.

As a child I was what one would call a “hummer,” and wouldn’t you know it, Star Fox’s soundtrack was one of the most hummable I can recall.

Looking back, aside from being pissed at me for waking them up as I ducked, weaved, and hummed the shit out of whatever stage theme was playing, I’m sure at least one of my friends’ parents must’ve thought I was retarded or something.

Yeah, kinda' like this kid.

Despite the combined strength of the Nintendo hype-machine and the ignorance of my youth, I never bought into the idea of Star Fox being “revolutionary” on the Super NES.

I remember Nintendo hyping the shit out of the Super FX chip, which was the component that gave the Star Fox cartridge the ability to display 3D polygons to a limited degree.

Well guess what?  I was a fucking kid!  I didn’t give a shit about “3D”, I didn’t know what the fuck 3D was!  All I remember caring about was the fact that the manual said there was a DRAGON in the game somewhere called the “Monarch Fucking Dodra.”

MOTHER. FUCKING. DRAGON.

Fuck, I remember being more impressed by the construction of the clay puppets they used for the pictures in the manual than anything I ever saw in the game.

Not the best example, but it'll do.

Graphical jibber-jabber aside, Star Fox was a solid game.

It wasn’t perfect by any means, but humming along with the soundtrack while entertaining the prospect of letting Slippy get shot down always proved enough to keep me coming back for more.

"Dib, Dib! Dib, Dib!" Fuckin' worthless piece of shit...

I didn’t own the game until much later in life, and it took many years for me to actually sit down and beat it, but Star Fox was a game that I just plain loved to play…  at the expense of other peoples’ beauty rest.

Anyway, without further ado…

The Best Track in the Game is…

Intro Stage – Corneria

Why?:

Oh really now, how could I not pick Corneria as The Best Track in the Game?

It’s easily one the most energetic and bombastic compositions in the game, not to mention it flows with the action almost note for note.

Well, provided you aren’t slowing down the pace of the game by mashing the air brake like a noob.

Part of the enjoyment of listening to the Corneria theme for the first time, is the incredible build up leading up to it.

When you first boot up the game, you are treated to an impressive homage to the opening sequence of Star Wars: A New Hope, although with much more ominous background music.

This tune is repeated in many of the various “tunnel” sequences in the game, to much greater effect, most notably preceding the final boss.

After the intro we are taken to the Title Screen.

The tune is bold and dignified, which as a kid was all I needed to get me stoked about saving the universe from a space monkey in a Rubik’s cube.

He killed your father...

From there the game takes you to the Setup Screen and Training Stage, both of which greatly contrast the Title Screen tune in the sense that they are comprised of calm and inviting melodies, the sort of stuff that makes you smile and rock back and forth while humming along… or something like that.

And then they hit you with this:

WOAH!  Shit just got real!

For a game about anthropomorphic space fighter pilots blowing up geometric shapes, Star Fox had some seriously moody and atmospheric moments to it.

Outside of the overall kick-ass, Top Gun-with-a-fox tune of the Corneria stage, I think the Emergency Call sequence preceding it was the biggest factor in making me select it as The Best Track in the Game.

Runner-Ups:

Boss Theme (Corneria Version), Venom-Planetary Base Theme (Route 2 Version)

The Corneria Boss Theme will always stick with me because of one hilariously bad judgment call.

The first time I ever got to see Star Fox in action was when my brother rented it for the weekend.

He fired it up and I quietly sat beside him, taking in the spectacle.

I remember we both laughed at the voices for the characters, imitating them whenever they’re speech windows would open up onscreen.

To us, Falco was always yelling:  “Farther wing damage!”

Anyway, as soon as the ominous build up tones of the Corneria Boss Theme kicked in, and the radio clicked on saying, “Incoming enemy,” our laughter and excitement ceased, instantly replaced with the cold tinges of fear.

“BUM, BUM, BUM!  BUM, BUM!  BUM, BUM, BUM!  BUM, BUM!”

My brother turned to me, and for probably the first time I can recall, asked me:

“What should I do Trevor?”

I was stunned.  My older brother was asking me for help?

“Uh… Go… Go, up!”

With that, my brother pulled up in his Arwing, and was immediately killed by the massive Attack Carrier that flew in from overhead.

My brother’s first life in Star Fox was cut short just before even getting to see the first boss.

Yeah, I caught a beating over that one.

The Corneria Boss Theme is not nearly The Best Track in the Game, in fact its repetitive and dull when heard independent of gameplay, but for me, those ominous opening notes are simply unforgettable.

The Venom Base Theme however, is not one that holds any sort of special place in my heart, rather, it is simply a damn fine piece of music.

The Venom Base Theme is one of the fastest-paced tracks in the game, however it belongs to a stage I rarely ever played in my youth.

Remember when I said I wasn’t very good at Star Fox?  Well, Venom Base is essentially the last level of the game, accessible only when playing from one of the harder routes.

Yeah, fuck that noise.

As it turns out, I didn’t really “discover” the Venom Base Theme until much later in life, largely because of my lack of mad Star Fox skills.

It’s an energetic, kick-ass piece of music, but definitely a little too obscure (from my standpoint) to call it The Best Track in the Game.

That being said, I will conclude this post with an image that haunted my dreams as a child, and always gave me incentive to turn off the console before getting a “Game Over.”

Did they really have to make Morgan Freeman look so damn scary!?

Filed under: Games, The Best Track in the Game, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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