On 4/26, Read The Best Alien Story You’ve Never Heard OfPosted: April 26, 2016
It’s April 26, which means it’s Alien Day, in reference to the planet LV-426 in the original film (whether this is better or worse than May The Fourth Be With You is up in the air). That led to a lot of activity today, from screenings to sales to debate over the possibility of Newt being resurrected for Neill Blomkamp’s film. For me though, LV-4/26 has led to the discovery of a forgotten old comic book that may be one of the best Alien stories ever.
The comic in question, Alien: Salvation, is an oversized prestige issue from 1993 written by Dave Gibbons (the artist of Watchmen) and pencilled by Mike Mignola (the creator of Hellboy). It follows Selkirk, the godfearing cook on the ship Nova Maru who gets caught up in an outbreak of xenomorphs the ship is transporting for The Company. Selkirk winds up stranded on an uninhabited planet with the ship’s captain, and goes through hell trying to find his way to safety. Selkirk then narrates his tortured journey through his prayers to God, asking for salvation and forgiveness for his actions. The result of all this is a terrific little yarn that not just works on its own terms but also serves as a perfect summation of the Alien franchise overall.
Gibbons and Mignola’s story combines a variety of tropes and beats from across the film franchise, while bringing some new details to the mix as well. From the bro-y atmosphere aboard the Nova Maru, to the hidden android among the crew, to the hidden machinations of The Company, to the lonely struggle for survival, Salvation hits many of the beats that feature throughout the series. At the same time, they also include a run-and-gun finale a la Aliens, and the philosophical/religious backdrop is closer to Prometheus than anything else. Besides all of that, most of the opening third of the story is just Selkirk trying to survive the elements and his insane captain after their ship crashes, with the threat of the xenomorphs hanging overhead a more grounded survival story.
All of this is elevated greatly by the storytelling talents of Gibbons and Mignola (not to mention the inks/colors/letters by Kevin Nowlan, Matt Hollingsworth, and Clem Robins respectively). It was Mignola’s involvement on this that initially caught my eye; I assumed that he had just done the cover art and was thrilled to see he had drawn the entire story. It should come as no surprise to anyone that’s enjoyed the eldritch stylings of Hellboy that he draws a mean xenomorph, and he does a great job with the action as well.
But what really impressed me here was Gibbons’ script. I’m mostly only familiar with his work as an illustrator, and here he shows his scripting chops are just as enjoyable as his pencilling. He handles the philosophical questions of the story with a direct but thoughtful touch that stands leaps and bounds above what some of the films have achieved without sacrificing the energy of the story itself (ahem, Prometheus). Together, the two make for a killer creative combo that I wish I could see more of, in any universe or context.
Alien: Salvation is ultimately a quick, disposable tale. It’s not important or impactful in the scheme of the Alien mythology, and it’s not even that notable in the scheme of Gibbons’ or Mignola’s career. But it is a damn good story in its own right, and it is a great microcosm for the best aspects of the Alien franchise overall. Truth be told, I’d rather have seen a cinematic version of this over two of the films we actually got… but that would’ve denied me the pleasure of this little gem of a comic book.
Alien: Salvation is available on Comixology, and it’s on sale until 5/2. Get it now!