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A Prometheus non-primer – Green Lantern Versus Aliens

June 4, 2012

Prometheus is almost upon us. The Ridley Scott-helmed Alien prequel that isn’t a prequel, but yeah, really is kind of a prequel, opens here in the U.S. on Friday (it’s already out in parts of Europe). That means that now is the perfect time to pull one slice of the Aliens comic universe out of the archives and drag it into the light of day.

Choosing a slice from the multitude is the problem.

The Alien franchise is venerable but lacking something, and that something is characters. Voiceless, squealing black-carapaced killing machines make for good antagonists, but they’re weak when they have to carry a book, and most of the interesting characters from the films get killed off as a requisite of the genre’s butcher’s bill. This has meant that the xenomorphs have been paired with a never-ending series of opponents over the years. Perhaps too many. There’s been a glut. And it’s not just the comics. The cinematic brand has clearly undergone a dilution (possibly starting with the first, excellent, but maybe overkill sequel) and by the end of the second Aliens vs. Predator abomination we waved goodbye to the last remnants of mysterious dread from Sir Ridley’s sci-fi benchmark. Just think about where we are with Prometheus: The xenomorph stars have become so devalued, THEY ARE NOT EVEN THE SELLING POINT OF THEIR OWN PREQUEL. They may or may not even be in the damn thing. Whatever the case, they’re not even figuring in the marketing. Granted, some of that might come from other “prequel” letdowns leaving that descriptor meaning little more than “steaming pile,” but still…

I’m digressing — back to the comics. The endless crossovers always ramped up and up and up, and the inter-company encounters between DC and Dark Horse were probably some of the most intriguing/bewildering of the lot. Batman, whether he was battling Aliens or Predators (or, in well-conceived fan films, Aliens AND Predators) always felt natural in the personalized combat required by both those foes. His World’s Finest partner, Superman, was also put in conflict with these nasties, but there was another layer of disbelief that had to be suspended in his case. When the Man of Steel comes up against our beloved xenomorphs, there has to be some power-capping chicanery involved, because, well, THEY ARE NOTHING TO HIM. “Oh, hello. You have acid blood and little stabby mouths within mouths? And an ability to hide and make sudden, heart-stopping appearances? That’s cute. Excuse me for a moment while I fly through a goddamn star.” He has to be depowered or stuck under a red sun or other such nonsense, you know? (I realize this criticism can be extended to most Superman foes. But for some reason it’s more of a sore-thumb in these crossover things.) This means the Superman vs. Aliens material feels forced, which also carried over into his team-up with Batman against the Alien/Predator death-combo.

And now we come to our selection for the day. (My apologies for the rambling preamble — the preramble.) Yes, Green Lanterns were thrown up against the xenomorphs too. And boy, does the series feel forced.

This four-issue mini came out at the turn of the millennium, deep in the midst of that awful interregnum where Hal Jordan was dead, having gone out a villain, and poor Kyle Rayner was saddled with being the only GL left. But fret not, Jordan-lovers, because Hal gets a fair amount of page-time in this split production. (It always felt like DC knew they screwed the pooch when they killed Jordan so clumsily, so they had to cram him into every flashback that they could. WE’RE SORRY, OKAY?) In fact the entire first issue is all Hal, as the Corps, investigating a dead Lantern (who hasn’t passed on his ring), has their first close encounter with the toothy drooling monsters. Jordan leads an all-star team — including Tomar Re, Kilowog and (my personal favorite) ladies-man Salakk (I prefer the Salaak spelling, but he’s Salakk here, so…) — on the investigation, and, after getting ambushed (Tomar Re gets a dose of acid), Jordan makes the key observation that should end the whole shebang:

Basically it’s no problem to hold them at arm’s length and let them flail away like a little runt swinging his arms while a tall dude holds his head. GOOD TO KNOW.

So Jordan vaporizes them, right? No. Not being killers, Jordan and his buddies ferry them to planet-Lantern Mogo, where they’ll be able to live happy lives without brutally killing anyone, in the outer space version of (actually) taking a dog to a nice big farm in the country. The xenomorphs will get to run and play and salivate to their hearts’ content.

Flash forward ten years to Rayner botching everything, which can all can be traced back to Jordan’s humanitarian soft spot for hideous bioweapons. A freighter crash lands on Mogo, obvious complications arise, and Rayner gets hooked in by former Lanterns — including Salakk — to go put things right. You’d thing Salakk would maybe clue Rayner in about the whole “form a protective bubble and they can’t hurt you at all ever” strategy, but no. If that were the case, then we wouldn’t have a story stretched over four issues, with all that wan dramatic tension. Instead, Rayner leads an Aliens-esque commando squad in — perhaps Salakk fills the Bill Paxton GAME OVER, MAN role — and quickly gets overwhelmed. What does Rayner go and do?:

Yes, Rayner whizzes it in record time. Cheap. CHEAP. I don’t know, Kyle, maybe form the ring so that it has a smaller diameter than your knuckle. SO IT DOESN’T FALL OFF WHEN YOU USE YOUR HAND FOR SOMETHING. “Could you pass me the peas? Thanks so mu- OH GOD MY RING.” Even the sainted Hal has had trouble keeping track of his jewelry, but man oh man…

Rayner and the one surviving member of the freighter’s crew go in search of the ring, encounter an Alien queen, and the story spirals to its inevitable conclusion. An aside: How do Aliens reproduce without a Queen? Because here they don’t have one — that I could see — when exiled, and next thing you know there are eggs and face-huggers galore. Has this been addressed in any of the comics? I have not the energy to look for myself.

Ron Marz (Silver Surfer) scripted and Rick Leonardi (Spider-Man 2099)and Mike Perkins provided the art for this series. I have no quibbles with the latter, as Leonardi and Perkins do what they have to, breathing sequential life into Giger’s classic designs. And even Marz gets a pass for the painfully obvious, flat-as-week-old-soda plot. What else could he do? You get the Lanterns, you get the Aliens, and you have to blend up a story around their suddenly mixed universe. It’s an impossible task, and he might very well have done the best he could under these straight-jacket circumstances. It’s a gimmick to sell books, not an attempt to forge a truly memorable story.

And hey, now that I think of it, an exiled nasty getting uncovered by bumblers and wreaking havoc was the plot of last year’s terrible Green Lantern. Not the best association to have.

So. IN CONCLUSION. If you like the Alien(s)-verse, maybe check out Prometheus. It looks to have little to do with the xenomorph vehicles of the last two decades, which in turn means it’s doubly removed from hokum like this. Enjoy!

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