We continue on from the fallout of issue #3 as Gabriel, Bishop, and Hamilton continue the search for Danny across the research facility. When they make a grim discovery, tensions rise as the Xenomorphs seem to have some connection to the embryos they implant in the hosts. The issue drags its feet a bit, covering just enough pages to get to a cliffhanger introducing a new variation on the familiar Xenomorph. That being said, the variation may not be all that new, either.
The pacing of the issue is a problem. Phillip Kennedy Johnson is doing a lot of positioning in this issue and providing bits of backstory without really making much forward momentum. Additionally, Iris’ sudden appearance a few pages in when she doesn’t seem to be present in the group feels weak as well – a bit sudden. Maybe glimpses of her following along would have helped – as it stands, her being on her own and then popping up when she does feels overly convenient. Her survival remains a puzzle, not a compelling puzzle, but a puzzle regardless.
As it stands, I still find it hard to care for any of the characters. Gabriel’s regret isn’t particularly compelling, and the little development outside of being a brooding merc dad doesn’t really give any of his lamentations weight. Bishop ends up being the best character of the bunch so far solely due to the presence of the android in existing films. Even then, while this Bishop spouts Bishopisms, his relationship with Gabriel is superficial at best. Even worst, the comic commits to what is now a trope for the character. It feels like this story is repeating many of the same beats of existing Alien stories but lacking any actual points of interest. Even the revelation of the “new” Xenomorph is ho-hum to anyone who remembers the Praetorian.
I won’t dwell on the art. At this point, Salvador Larroca’s work will not win me over. There is no sense of motion, characters still look strange panel to panel, the inking is a mess, and the coloring in this issue felt particularly off when it came to the “resin” the aliens use to encase hosts. It looks less like sickly greyish-yellow goo and more like blue raspberry candy – I am not sure where Guru-eFX picked up this coloring direction.
Ultimately, I can only hope the series will swap to a different artist on the next arc.
Alien #4 is a middling, place-setting installment of a series that is failing to live up to the cosmic horror of the Alien franchise’s height. Whatever Phillip Kennedy Johnson is hoping to seed for the franchise needs to impress. At this point, I am not confident it will happen.(2 / 5)
As you’ll see, this time I am not reviewing a second comic. I am going to experiment with a shorter, hopefully, speedier column to increase the number of reviews I can do. We’ll see how that goes.
In the meantime, please let me know what you think of the review. I especially would love to hear from readers of Marvel’s Alien, especially fans of the title. Am I off the mark with my criticism? Let me know in the comments.