Monday, September 26, 2016
I dropped the ball on this one, but no one called me on it in the last four years: we were looking at some of the continuity in Dark Horse's Aliens comics, specifically the return of Ellen Ripley at the end of Nightmare Asylum. I didn't think , or at least wasn't sure, that it was followed up on; turns out it totally was! In 1990's Aliens: Earth War, written by Mark Verheiden, art by Sam Kieth. (With covers by John Bolton.)
Continuity-wise, so far everything has sprung off of Aliens, since Alien 3 was still a couple years out. Hicks and Newt--still Hicks and Newt here, in the original issues, not Wilks and Billie--hadn't seen Ripley in years. They had gone into coldsleep at the end of Aliens, but Ripley was gone when they woke up, and here we see where she went: a second, government ship had been sent to follow-up on LV-426 Acheron. Ripley was intercepted and forced to go back on a "scientific expedition." For good measure, she gets to watch helmet-cam footage of Kane from Alien, in case she was working through any of her survivor's guilt; but she goes along to protect Hicks and Newt.
Somewhat predictably, the second expedition doesn't go any better than the first, but is over right away. Based on the distress call from the derelict ship on LV-426, Ripley discovers the aliens aren't just spreading "like some horrible cancers," they were trying to get back to a Queen Mother. "Why," isn't especially clear; but the aliens were still somewhat mysterious in that fashion. It had been implied that they had some level of telepathy, which also helped make a mess of earth: the planet was infested with aliens, but a lot of people had also lost their minds to the aliens' influence. (To mix a couple genre metaphors, think failing a sanity check as in Call of Cthulhu and going full Renfield.)
Escaping with some soldiers, Ripley had been working on a plan to capture the Queen Mother, take her to earth, and blow them both up. Ripley believes the QM and her drones would both be vulnerable then, and had little reason to care about what happened to earth anyway: the corporation and/or government had betrayed her multiple times already, and referencing a scene deleted from the original theatrical release of Aliens, Ripley's daughter had grown up and died of old age while she had been lost after the first movie.
Events are complicated by broadcasts from earth of a little girl struggling to survive, that reminds Newt of herself; and the terraforming of earth by a third party...This was Dark Horse's maybe fourth or fifth Aliens mini-series, and each had built off the last, but this does feel a little crammed. The continuity would be adjusted a bit afterwards: I think this was the last with Ripley, Hicks, and Newt; the next mini-series was Aliens: Genocide. This was also pretty early work from Sam Keith, who has done more Aliens work since.