REVIEW: Aliens: Rescue #1

Dark Horse’s Latest Brian Wood Outing Will Be a Lot of Fun If It’s Given Room to Breathe

LOOK AT MY FANCY HELMET. Image: Dark Horse Comics

LOOK AT MY FANCY HELMET. Image: Dark Horse Comics

by Patrick Greene

I’ll come right out and say it: I thought Aliens: Resistance was awful. I found the visuals inconsistent and confounding, the storytelling rushed and a little bit stupid, the characters interchangeable and uninteresting.

Which was borderline shocking to me, coming on the heels of Brian Wood’s previous outing (the excellent Defiance, which you can grab in two nicely priced collected volumes).

Aliens: Rescue, whose first issue dropped earlier this month, is off to a technically solid (if slightly uninspired) start. Picking up years after the events of Resistance (did I mention I didn’t like that one?), Rescue centers on Alec Brand—a minor character, er … rescued by Zula Hendricks and Amanda Ripley during the events of Resistance.



He’s grown into a Man With a Tough Looking Haircut, and as such he’s been brought into the fold of the Colonial Marines. He appears to miss/appreciate Amanda and Zula, and to have been scarred by the events of his childhood. He also has an interesting backstory, which is unfortunately glossed over in a handful of panels (wonderfully colored by Dan Jackson) instead of being given time to unspool.

And that brings me to my main complaint with these limited arcs: why do they have to be so short? Why was Dust to Dust compressed to four issues? Why was Dead Orbit (my favorite Dark Horse title in years) squeezed into four issues? And how did James Stokoe manage to pull that format off?

And why did Aliens: Resistance, which, again, was awful, try to fit two or three movies’ worth of exposition into four issues?

Aliens: Rescue, which isn’t bad by any means, is already having to race along just to fit the plot into a tiny bucket. Fox, Dark Horse, et al. are clearly trying to make us invest in this new generation of characters. And I love that idea, because Zula is wonderful, Amanda (at least in Isolation) is great, and Alec is … something? But give us time with them. Time that isn’t purely expositional. The best parts of Aliens: Rescue #1 are psychological: Alec remembering his childhood on Earth, and the Marines fighting a horde of (nicely designed) creatures while Alec deals with PTSD.

Give us time to appreciate that. Give us time to get to know them.

Brian Wood clearly knows what he’s doing. He can tell a great story, and he’s proven as much with Defiance (which breathed over a much longer arc). Kieran McKeown, whom I’ve never heard of before but whose art I like quite a bit, brings a nicely solid skillset to the title. It’s not particularly expressive (or particularly interesting), but it tells a cohesive story in a way that’s easy to follow and enjoyable to look at.

The feel of Rescue is similar to the feel of Resistance: these are NOT horror titles. This isn’t James Stokoe. These are action sci-fi comics. What I like about Rescue is that it feels more aware of that fact and more at home with that aesthetic. It reads like a slightly more involved version of those mini-comics that came with Kenner figures in the nineties.

And that isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s just a thing, and as such it needs to inform decisions about tone and pace etc. If Aliens: Rescue wants to succeed, it needs to embrace what it is and enjoy itself.

Give us action. Give us colorful space adventures with the Colonial Marines. Give us a protagonist with a backstory that means something, and give us an arc that can buttress and tie back around to what we’ve had from Wood and Co. over the past few years.

Aliens: Rescue #1 isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s a step in a direction I can get onboard with.

Rating: 3/5

Review: Blade Runner 2019 #1 (spoiler-free)

Titan’s New Entry Into the Blade Runner Universe Is Gritty, Compelling, and Worthy of Its Name

by Patrick Greene, with input from Jaime Prater and Dan Ferlito



If you’ve seen Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner—you have, right?—you’ve undoubtedly been struck by the density of the world-building. The story focuses on a relatively small cast of characters, but the Los Angeles they inhabit is a phantasmagoric dystopia that seems at once incomprehensibly large and impossibly crowded.

Watching the film, you might’ve found yourself wondering: What’s happening just out of frame? What other stories are taking place behind those grimy windows, backlit by neon and underscored by an ocean of Cityspeak?

Lucky for you—and for us—David Leach, Senior Creative Editor at Titan Comics, wondered the same thing. And that’s where the vision behind Blade Runner 2019 emerged.




We’re quickly introduced to our protagonist, Aahna Ashina (“Ash”), an LAPD Blade Runner so good at her job she’s running out of work. While she waits for her next bounty assignment, she’s tasked with a missing persons case: a billionaire’s wife and daughter have vanished, and there are concerns Replicants might be involved.

Ash is a compelling character from the get-go. Almost preternaturally good at her job, she’s more of a Sherlock Holmes than a Rick Deckard. She’s full of quirks: she never takes her coat off, and her spinner almost never leaves the ground.

She also, we find out early on in a particularly gruesome (and thematically poetic) scene, has no moral reservations retiring Replicants.

One of the eternal debates in Blade Runner fandom centers around the use of voiceover in the early cuts of the film. Whether you love it or hate it (there might not be a middle ground on this), the voiceover adds significantly to the noir feel of the theatrical release. Blade Runner 2019 brings the voiceover back in a big way, and it works. It’s sparing, it’s beautiful, and it makes the comic feel like a classic noir tale.


From the very start, it’s clear that this is a comic created by people with tremendous reverence for the source material. The attention to detail, the tone, the Easter eggs—it’s all organically brought together in a way that feels made by fans. Fans who happen to be extremely talented.

Michael Green needs no introduction (he’s the Academy Award-nominated cowriter of Blade Runner 2049), but it’s worth pointing out what a masterful turn it was having him onboard for this story. There’s a real tonal continuity to the films. It’s more aesthetically aligned to the first Blade Runner film, but the language feels like a bridge between the two.

His writing partner, Mike Johnson, brings a wealth of comic-industry experience to the project (interesting factoid: he’s scripted more Star Trek comics than any other writer). I can’t emphasize how important this is: comics are a unique medium, and some of the best novelists and screenwriters have tried and failed to cross over in the past. Johnson and Green make a hell of a team.

Speaking of people who understand comics: Andres Guinaldo is a PERFECT fit for the artwork. He’s got a very analog, almost nineties style; hand-drawn (or at least looking like it), with tremendous detail and dynamic, confident inks. Paired with Marco Lesko’s vibrant colors, it feels beautifully uncommercial. It feels labored over. It feels loved. It feels very human, which is part of why we love Blade Runner in the first place.


It’s almost impossible to overstate how important these comics are for our fandom. They are canon sequels, just as 2049 is a canon sequel to Blade Runner. They’re co-written by the man who, with Hampton Fancher, gave us one of the great sequels of our time. They’re produced in direct collaboration with Alcon. They feature art (variant covers and design inspiration) by Syd Mead.

These are real, and they are permanent additions to our fandom. And if the rest of them are anything like issue one, we are very, very lucky.

Blade Runner 2019 #1 goes on sale July 17. Call your local comic shop and ask them to set one aside for you, or order your copy online.

Shoulder of Orion rating: 4.5/5

Patrick: 5/5

Jaime: 3.5/5

Dan: 5/5

Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Sony Pictures Animation

Sony Pictures Animation

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a towering achievement that represents a watershed moment in animated storytelling

by Patrick Greene

We all see movies for different reasons. Some of us want to escape. Some of us want to learn. Some of us want to laugh, to cry, to question. To feel part of a shared moment. To feel more alive. To feel like kids again.

Every once in a while, a film comes along that manages to do all of those things. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is one of those films. But what's perhaps most remarkable about Spider-Verse is that it accomplishes all of this while being insanely audacious.

Nothing about Spider-Verse is typical. The animation style—full of contrasting screentones, textures, expressionistic colors, and dimensionality—is overwhelming to behold. Inspired by the comic work of Sara Pichelli, the artist who (along with legendary writer Brian Michael Bendis) created Miles Morales (Spider-Verse's protagonist) back in 2011, the visual language of this film is unlike anything else I've ever seen on a movie screen. I've heard it described as "a comic book come to life," but it's really so much more than that. It's like the constituent components of a comic book's art—the linework, the CMYK printing, the digital textures, etc.—are constantly dancing with each other. It's like the essence of a comic is coming to life on screen. It's just absurdly cool.

The story, too, is anything but expected. In the comics, Miles Morales exists in the Ultimate universe—a parallel but distinct dimension from the mainstream Marvel comics. His story begins with the death of Peter Parker in the Ultimate continuity; from there, his journey unfolds in a distinct but familiar fashion. He's bitten by a radioactive spider. He loses a loved one. He's a nerdy outsider, but he has heart and he's brave and he always gets up.

But Morales has become a beloved character in Spidey fandom because his story brings so much newness to the mythos while feeling completely of a part with it. He's Afro-Latino. His dad's a police officer and his mom is a hospital administrator. He listens to hip hop and loves graffiti art. He doesn't tie his shoes. His powers are similar to Peter's, but with some twists (used to great effect in Spider-Verse). 

So in making Spider-Verse, Sony could've easily chosen to create a safer movie by setting this in a parallel continuity and just sort of ignoring the Peter Parker storyline altogether. But instead, they decided to embrace the strangeness of these parallel comic universes completely and wholeheartedly, and that's how we end up with a film where five or six universes collide and coexist.

And that collision is wonderfully liberating, because the filmmakers are able to tell a story unencumbered by audience expectation.

I first became aware of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller when I saw 21 Jump Street back in 2012 and laughed so hard I nearly passed out in the theater. Then again, in 2014, The Lego Movie had me completely in stitches—but also walking away feeling like I'd witnessed a genuinely deep artistic statement. In Into the Spider-Verse, we see the real fruits of what this pair can do with a story. It is so funny, so quick, and so full of life that you almost don't realize how profound it is until it's over and you lay in bed thinking about it. The screenplay, by Lord and Rodney Rothman (the latter served as co-director, alongside Peter Ramsey and Bob Persichetti), is just a complete triumph. Even though the realities of creating a film with a realistic duration (and budget) means that some of the multiverse characters are relegated to glorified cameos, they all have moments to shine. You won't forget them. 

And the score. Oh, the score!! Experience it in a theater with the absolute best sound system you can find. It weaves seamlessly between heart-thumping hip hop beats and orchestral grandeur. A lot of films that try to integrate hip hop sound like manufactured garbage. Spider-Verse—somehow even more than Black Panther—is a completely wholistic musical experience. You're able to appreciate where these genres merge and diverge. You get to hear real hip hop and real orchestral soundtrack music (by the gifted Daniel Pemberton) and both feel completely honest and ravishing. 

The fact that I have to wait another two weeks until this officially releases to see it again is killing me. It's already one of my favorites.

It might be the best superhero movie I've ever seen.

Review: Venom (2018)

Sony Pictures Releasing

Sony Pictures Releasing

by Patrick Greene

Before I get into the meat (eyes … lungs … pancreas) of this review, I want to be up front about a few things.

My love affair with comics started with a love affair with Venom. When I was eight, I snagged a copy of The Amazing Spider-Man #378 with my allowance money. It was the third issue in the massive awesome-fest that was Maximum Carnage, and it starts with Eddie Brock returning to New York City to team up with Spider-Man to defeat Carnage.

Venom wasn’t supposed to be a hero. We all know the story by this point: Spidey comes back from Secret Wars wearing a crazy badass black symbiote. He realizes the suit is a) alive and b) not exactly trustworthy and ditches it with help from the Fantastic Four, whereupon Eddie Brock, disgraced reporter (and ex-Peter Parker colleague), encounters it during a dark night of the soul. United in their hatred for Spider-Man and Peter Parker, the two outcasts merge together and become almost unstoppably powerful.



But things start to change during the Maximum Carnage-palooza, and suddenly Spider-Man and Venom are reluctant allies. Venom starts moonlighting as a vigilante. He gets his own limited series, which I absolutely love and upon which the film is loosely based, titled Lethal Protector. Venom becomes a (ruthlessly violent and sadistic) champion of the downtrodden and disenfranchised. And before you know it, Venom goes from villain to antihero to straight-up hero. But a hero who still looks like a monster and has no problem gleefully disemboweling bad people.

At the heart of all this is something very simple and very important: Venom is, and always has been, a love story. Eddie Brock and the Venom symbiote are two rejects who found each other across vast reaches of space and realized they were soulmates. The best Venom stories have always put that relationship front and center (including the wonderful First Host limited series by Mike Costa and the ongoing horrifying/beautiful/insane rebooted series helmed by Donny Cates).

And this humble Venom fan is happy to say that Sony’s Venom absolutely nails that love story.

Directed by Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) and starring Tom Hardy (Mad Max: Fury Road), Venom is the first installment in “Sony’s Marvel Universe.” To be completely honest, I don’t really have any idea what that means at this point—I know Sony is creating a shared universe for its Marvel properties to inhabit that runs parallel to the juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that the thoroughly delightful Spider-Man: Homecoming is in a liminal third category wherein Spider-Man is part of the MCU but also still owned by Sony, so he could theoretically appear in an upcoming Venom sequel (or this Venom could appear in a future Spider-Man film).

I don't know, it’s complicated.

This was something of a source of stress in the Spider-Man/Venom fan communities leading up to the release. The lack of a chest symbol, the absence of apparent ties to the world of Homecoming, confusion over the symbiote’s origins, etc. were all discussed ad nauseam. Then there was the trailer where Jenny Slate’s Dr. Dora Skirth says “sym-BAI-ote.” Then the news that the expected “R” rating was dropped to “PG-13.” Then the Tom Hardy interview where he says his favorite 40 minutes were cut from the film. Then the bizarre controversy with A Star Is Born. Then the alarming Rotten Tomatoes score. Then the doomsday prophesiers announcing the film would have to gross a highly-unlikely $200 million to turn any sort of profit.

And then we saw the movie. And it was absolutely wonderful.

I don’t normally deviate from critics’ scores as much as I have on this one, so part of me wonders if my love for this movie stems from the experience of being a Venom fan since my childhood. It’s possible that I’m overlooking serious cinematic flaws because some fundamental things were done so right. But you know what? I’m not a professional movie critic, and I’m going to be subjective as hell. So buckle up.

Sony Pictures Releasing

Sony Pictures Releasing

It’s impossible to talk about this film without talking about Tom Hardy. He just completely owns this thing from top to bottom. His portrayal of Eddie Brock is crazy. I mean that in the best possible way. I have no idea how he came up with this characterization. He’s so full of tics and idiosyncrasies that you just can’t take your eyes off of him; yet he’s such a gifted actor—and has such insight into who Eddie really is—that you never lose sight of the actual character underneath. Even before things turn to shit, he is just a complete mess. Shuffling around with slumped shoulders, mumbling with a genuinely strange accent, stop-starting every time he tries to string a thought together. And yet these qualities make him a brilliant investigative journalist. He’s able to become unassuming. He comes across like a child. You don’t notice his intellect or his athleticism. And then, when the moment is right, he pounces.

But Eddie’s got some pretty deep character flaws. He’s not a bad person—his Lethal Protector arc, the one that basically redefined him as a hero in the nineties, hinges on him saving a community of homeless people—but he’s not always a great one. He wants to do the right thing, but he can’t always figure out how to.

But after the shit hits the fan, Hardy’s performance goes from a ten into This Is Spinal Tap 11. It is just bonkers. And so much fun. I don’t want to give much away, but I’ll say that I’ll never look at tater tots the same way again.

The rest of cast is largely set-dressing, but it’s not their fault. And it’s also not a problem. This is Eddie’s story, and Eddie’s story has never really been about other people. Eddie sucks with people. Eddie makes the wrong decisions. He’s divorced. He can’t keep a job.

Eddie’s story is about his relationship with the symbiote.

And in Venom, the symbiote is PITCH-PERFECT. By turns hilarious and utterly menacing, the Venom symbiote shines as its own complex, flawed character. We understand why Eddie falls in love with it. It’s not just a monster costume; it’s an animal. An animal stranded on the wrong planet who is literally just a sentient puddle in the absence of a host. And in Eddie, he finds the perfect partner. They are mirrors of each other—two failures who come together to become something special. Hardy’s vocal performance as the symbiote is wonderful: even with all the garbled (but very effective) processing, he brings out layers of depth in the character.

Think for a second about how impressive that is. He is playing an alien parasite communicating internally with himself. And in the midst of that, the parasite manages to be both reminiscent of Eddie (since he’s bonded to him, after all) and yet its own entity. The symbiote’s booming lines are just fantastic. You’ll remember them after you leave the theater.

Sony Pictures Releasing

Sony Pictures Releasing

But to touch on the rest of the cast: Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn) plays Anne Weying (who goes on to become She-Venom in the comics), Eddie’s ex-fiancee (ex-wife in the comics); Riz Ahmed (Rogue One) plays Carlton Drake, CEO of the Life Foundation and basically this universe’s Thanos; and then there are a bunch of other people doing some things.

No one’s bad. Williams and Ahmed do fine jobs in their roles, even if the roles themselves are a little dopey. They’re both committed, and they both bring out the best in the material. But again, the material makes no illusions that it’s about anyone but Eddie.

And I think if you aren’t watching the movie through that lens, you’ll be a bit let down.

Fleischer turned out to be a great fit as a director. There’s a difficult tonal balance you have to pull off with Venom to make the character work: you have to set up a paradigm in which your hero gleefully bites the heads off security personnel and the audience laughs and recoils and still likes him. That’s genuinely tough.

And for the most part, Fleischer walks that tonal tightrope and succeeds. There are some pacing issues: the beginning is a little slow-fast-slow, and the climax comes and goes a bit quickly. In a movie about Venom, you need to really understand Eddie first—and if you don’t like Eddie, you will probably hate the first third of the movie. But if you’re open to embracing him as a distinct (and distinctly weird) character, by the time he joins up with the symbiote it’s just a tremendously gratifying thrill ride all the way to the end.

Matthew Libatique (Black Swan), best known for his (incredible) collaborations with Darren Aronofsky, shot the film; Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther) scored it. Both turn in solid—if perhaps a little underwhelming—work here. Venom’s theme is pretty freakin’ badass, though, and I look forward to hearing more of it if they manage to get a sequel made.

Speaking of which: stay through the credits. Trust me. There are a couple of scenes back there, and both will make you squeal with joy if you’re a Spidey fan.

Again, critical reviews of the film have been largely awful. I honestly don’t understand why, but I’m assuming a lot of it has to do with what kind of movie you go in expecting. Is it a horror film? No. Is it a sci-fi thriller? Not really. Is it a super hero movie? I guess it sort of eventually becomes one, but not really. Is it a Deadpool-style comedy? It’s frequently hilarious, but it’s not built around the idea of being self-aware and risqué.

So what is it?

It’s a love story.

Rating: 4 Klyntars (out of 5)

Had this stupid grin on my face the entire freaking movie.

Had this stupid grin on my face the entire freaking movie.