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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.