29 June 2012

FWS Forgotten Classics: ALIENS vs. PREDATOR (Dark Horse 1990)

Originally, FWS was going to post on the topics of weapons used in space warfare, but somehow, the Cylons ate the post, weeks of research and work gone. So, I pulled out this blogpost that another week from being posted. Damn Frakking Cylons!
There are ideas that are simply organic together, like peanut butter and jelly, manual transmissions and the Porsche 911, chips and salsa. It was somehow natural that when the alien hunters from 1987's Predator and the nightmarish aliens from ALIEN and ALIENS were paired together. But in the years since we first got to read about them in the pages of Dark Horse Comics, this wonderfully evil idea has been twisted in a perverse shell of it's former self.       
Some of us fans of the ALIENS and Predator universes got lucky, we got to experience the Dark Horse Comics adaptation of these dark science fiction universes before Hollywood completely fucked them up with their abortion of films depicting the war between the Xenomorphs and the Yautja races.Back in 1989, Dark Horse Comics was forging the continuing path for these two alien races and their involvement with humans through separate comic series, and then in 1989, in DHP#34 combining them BEFORE the Predator 2 film. Then in 1990, we got the full limited series of five issues, and it was brilliant, becoming one of the best comics of 1990. This is the work that Hollywood should used for the AVP film without a doubt. Maybe we will see this AVP in the future if the universe has any sense of justice.




The Plot of the 1990 ALIENS vs. PREDATORS Limited Series


The 1990 limited series printed a #0 comic which combined all of the black&white comics from Dark Horse Presents, giving the reader background information on the setup of mankind's first contact with the ancient conflict between the Xenomorphs and the Yautja. Cargo pilots Tom Strandberg and Scott Conover working for Chigusa Corporation, are hauling supplies and empty cargo modules to Ryushi colony in the Beta Cygni system. Unknown to them, a Yautja mothership passes directly in front of them moving a FTL speeds. While the comic book shows the events onboard the alien vessel, the dialog is of Tom and Scott discussing modern Terran society and how we have moved beyond nature, and how humans are fucking with mother nature. Within the expertly drawn Yautja mothership, different hunting clans battle for hunting rights on seeded worlds with Xenomorph eggs via automated delivery vehicles. From the comic, we learn that the Predators have industrialized the hunt for the alien race, onboard the mothership, an Xenomorph Queen is tied down, while still pumping out eggs, and the automated loaders screen for any queen facehuggerss destroying them on detection.  However, the clever queen gets one past the robotic systems. Far away from the bowls of the vessel, two alien hunters, one younger, one older with a broken tusk battle for the right to hunt on Ryushi, the older, more experienced Yautja wins, forcing the younger hunter to a jungle seeded world.
Here the comic shows the younger hunters struggle on the jungle world, and the warrior/hunter ritual of breaking a certain Xenomorph finger, using the acid to tattoo themselves with the clan mark.
 Already, the reader is hooked on the well-written dialog of Tom and Scott, while visually learning of the Yautja culture and their role with the Xenomorphs.
Broken Tusk, or Dachande in his own tongue, led the hunting expedition to Ryushi. This world was naturally an atmospheric standard world, but suffers under 19 hours of brutal sunlight from twin suns, making Ryushi extremely hot and desert-like, appearing to be akin to the rocky deserts of Arizona and Utah. The planet has been only settled for four years with a population of 115 centered around the only major settlement, Prosperity Wells, and ranches. One species attached humans to Ryushi, the Rhynth. These massive beast are a cross between Cows and Rhinos, and the reason behind the billions that the Chigusa Corporation invested. Rhynth are viewed as the answer to Earth's problems of feeding its population with real protein, and these interstellar ranchers are looking to turn a massive profit with the first shipment of these animals back to Earth via the cargo ship on its way. The small settlement is in the middle of a power change, the previous corporate administrator is leading and being replaced by the icy Machiko Noguchi. While the humans agree over profit margins, the eggs arrive and free-range Rhynth locate them. Days later,the Yautja hunting party led by Dachande arrives as well as the human cargo tug Lector. 
One of the major Ranchers finds the discarded facehuggers, and covers it up, fearing the quarantine on his animals. The local vet, Dr. Revna goes out to hunt down live samples of the facehuggers, but runs into the Yautja party. He rams his hover-bike directly into their landing craft, destroying its fuel system and knocks out Dachande leaving the younger hunters leaderless and angry. They embark on a path of revenage on the human settlers of this planet, starting with the ranches, while impregnated animals are herded onboard the Lector. The plot becomes clear here, the humans, Xenomorphs, and Yautja all battle in the colony site, while Noguchi and Dachande ban together after the hunters lose their sense of honor by killing children. Tom and Scott become trapped onboard the Lector with the alien hive, and  impregnated. To stop the war being the species, Noguchi releases the Rhynth from the holding pens. This flood of heavy flesh crushes hunters and Xenomorphs alike, giving the humans time to evac from Prosperity Wells into the desert. Scott and Tom hatch a plan with Noguchi to bring down the massive cargo module from geosych, ramming them into the Lector tug, resulting in a massive explosion to wipe the colony site clean of hostile aliens, Broken Tusk gives his approval, and helps Noguchi end the lives of the doomed star pilots. In the end, the hive is wiped out, the hunters are killed, and Dachande lays dying, in his last act, he rewards Noguchi with a alien-finger burn tattoo of his hunting clan. On the last page, she chose to remain on Ryushi by herself, and wait for the hunters to return.


What happened to  Machiko Noguchi?


By the time that the heroine Machiko Noguchi made another appearance in the pages of DHC she was named 'Small Knife' by the hunters in the followup to the 1990 limited series; AVP: WAR published in 1995. She lived among the Yautja hunters for a few years, after a few successful hunts and matches, she was rewarded with her own hunter armor with weaponry, but yet not fully accepted by the alien race. It was on a human hunting mission, that Machiko decided her loyality lay with mankind and not the Yautja, causing her to be exiled from the clan. It was not until the 2010 AVP: Three World War,when the Colonial Marines ask for Machiko's help in dealing with a band of killer-hunters raiding a mining colony. This series takes elements from the film Predators allowing Noguchi to side with the more normal Yautja and not larger, more aggressive Yautja who are using the Xenomorphs as dogs of war. She may be humanity's only hope ending the threat from the Yautja race.






The Historical Context of this comic


At the time DHC was publishing these comics, there were two giant comic companies, Marvel and DC, and in the middle were smaller publishers like Comico, Dark Horse, NOW, and others, but, Marvel and DC would have never touched or put these alien species together in legendary combat. This pairing and the fashion that the writers handled it, caused Dark Horse Comics to leap beyond their original titles and characters, granting them some great buzz to their work and allowing them to survive the downsizing in comic publishers in the mid-1990's. I know that I became a lifetime fan of Dark Horse because of their work in the ALIENS and Predator universe, and rejected the watered down mainstream comics of Marvel and DC. After films, like ALIEN 3 and Predator 2, we fans knew that majority of the time, DHC's work was lightyears better than the shit Hollywood was slinging (if they could have only done better with the Terminator comics!). Now, while matching up characters in a crossover was nothing new in comics, it had never been done like before AVP. Before Dark Horse Comics fused the identity of these two different films ETs, they were never connected in a canon source, some fans talk about it, including me, then after, matching two different foes became sickening common, like Terminator vs. Robocop. Ugh.




Why is this a classic?

Before the video games, other films, and toys, this limited series gave us fans the first look into the culture of the Predators and how they viewed the Xenomorphs and us. More over, the story by Randy Stradley, was dead-on right, hitting all cylinders, the only misstep was the coloring by Monika Livingston, which was corrected by the 2007 Omnibus edition.
In the years after this 1990 limited series, seventeen other AVP comic series were put out, only a few were any good, and the steer amount of titles degraded the entire AVP universe. Even now, when I reread the original 1990 series, I was struck how great the story really was, and how it is unlike anything in the rest of the AVP universe, even the direct followup comics.
Unlike most of the other comics and video games, this AVP title incorporates all three factions in the inter-species war, developing different sides to each. On one hand, we see a different human colony that IS NOT patterned after LV426, nor not governed over by the Wyland-Yutani Corporation, and not a Colonial Marine in sight. Instead we get the settlers and ranchers of this dust-ball of a world who are there for raising and selling a native species for food, which was more original thinking than the other AVP titles later. Within the Predator-hunter side, we see their culture struggling with the addition of high technology into their hunting, their pathological addiction to hunting the Xenomorphs, and despite being a highly advanced civilization, these aliens are still divided tribal lines that fracture their society. I admit that the Xenomorphs are underdeveloped here, but the Dark Horse series just prior to AVP have most readers at the time all the depth they needed. The 1990 AVP series showed the badass Xenomorphs containted and forced to serve at the whim of the hunters.
The standing of this original series is helped by when older fans,like me, were horrified at the treatment of the ALIENS  and  Predator  universe by Hollywood. Causing most of us to openly wondered why the original Dark Horse comics were not followed.
We are still wondering and waiting.

Is AVP Military Science-Fiction?


One of my friends told me that AVP is not true MSF, at least, not without the addition of the Colonial Marines. I disagree. While the original 1990 limited series did not involve the Colonial Marines, it involve a military organization: the Yautja hunters. These alien hunters are the typical military structure that we have on Earth now, but it was similar to military-like organizations that the Europeans encountered in America and in parts of Africa.
It is likely that any real ETs we encounter out there in the black will be completely different than us, but like most lifeforms, they hunted for their food, making for a common basis for the Yautja hunters to be a reality. While it is not unique to develop alien characters who are based on Native American hunters/warriors (AVATAR anyone?), but I personally believe that the Predator films and comics help seed another generation with the idea.Another reason for AVP being MSF, is it generated quite a few ideas for my upcoming novel, Endangered Species .

9 comments:

  1. Actually, the plot and setting of Aliens vs. Predators Dark Horse comic sounds rather interesting, compared to showing just another grubby little colony on a crappy planet that happens to be overrun by xenomorphs. Raising Rynth to feed the human race sounds similar to the "space farm" idea. Obviously this would only work with hyperdrives to send the food back to Earth within a reasonable timescale. I do have one quibble- don't you think that Machiko Noguchi would want to wear a little more clothing when she battles xenomorphs? With all the claws, stingers, facehuggers, and acid flying around, she shouldn't show that much exposed skin...

    I remember seeing a xenomorph skull mounted on the trophy display in the Yautja ship in "Predator 2", so perhaps the two species already were connected in a canon source- unless the skull belonged to some species that just looked like a xenomorph.

    Christopher Phoenix

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  2. Yeah, Mr.Phoenix, Noguchi outfit was a product of her time, battling deadly aliens while looking great in near swimwear. Can you imagine going to Target, and them telling you, "Yeah, the new steaks will be in in several weeks, they're coming from 10 lightyears."
    When I saw Predator 2 in 1990, I totally geeked out, but from the research I did, Predator 2 was not the first match up of the Yautja and the Xenomorphs, DHP#34/35/36 were released in 1989! I remembered Predator 2 being their first match up. Just goes to prove how forward-thinking DHC was in the 1980's.

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  3. It would be strange to have our food sent in from nearby star systems. Kind of puts new meaning in the term "alien lunch". If this actually happens, we'd better be careful not to let strange alien pests stowing away in the shipments. I'm sure we've all heard the stories about big spiders showing up in crates of bananas.

    We won't be able to even consider sending in food shipments from other star systems unless we invent FTL drives or some species of interstellar teleportation. It is more likely we will be stuck on an city-sized spacecraft eating food created by algae cultures. I wonder if a blogpost on future food would be appropriate for a blog on future war? After all, armies do march on their stomachs, and future humans will still have to eat...

    One thing we are not getting is the food pill. Can you imagine how many capsules you'd have to down every day to meet a human's required dietary intake? Synthetic food is no fun either, especially if the food on Camazotz is anything to go by. Unless you allow your mind to be absorbed into IT, all the food tastes like sand. I suggest tessering to the neighboring planet Ixchel to pick up lunch.

    Christopher Phoenix

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  4. That is a good point, Mr.Phoenix, I can recall whhen I watched the Jetsons, and they all eat food capsules, and the time, I thought it was a cool concept. if I could get a Starbucks pill....hmmm...
    I have thought about a blogpost on ration packs for FWS, and I think I will put that into my list of topics, thanks for the idea! I wonder Off-world food colonies, which sounds like V, would kind of look like the ship from Silent Runner I would guess.
    I like the Wrinkie in Time reference!

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  5. Ration packs are definitely an important topic for developing science fiction militaries, but I was also thinking of the topic of SF food on a whole. We are, after all, biological beings driven by calories and built up of proteins. Food is thus an important topic that often pops up in SF. Future society has to find sources of food, and if Earth is not producing enough for an expanding population, more sources must be found- whether they are algae farms in the sea or herds of Rynth on a distant planet. People who settle on other planets will have to worry about obtaining food- especially if the local environment doesn't produce anything edible.

    Sources of food even play an important role in the development of intelligent species. To develop big brains, an organism must either increase its caloric intake or lose some body mass somewhere. Our caloric intake is normal for a primate our size, so we took the second option. Humans were able to develop large brains because of cooking. Our guts are far to small to digest raw foods, so we eat cooked food that is far more easily digested and offers the most calories for the least effort. The excess calories freed up by the smaller gut are diverted to our large brains, giving us the intelligence to build assault rifles, spacecraft, write blogs on MSF, etc. The trade-offs between brain size and gut size have important implications for fantasy races and SF aliens, as this blog article at Science in My Fiction discusses. I got a crazy mental image of the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey descending from the skies and teaching primitive primates how to cook meat...

    http://scienceinmyfiction.com/2012/07/02/a-recipe-for-sentience-the-energetics-of-intelligence/

    I always loved "A Wrinkle in Time". It was one of the first books I ever had that showed FTL travel and alien creatures. "A Wrinkle in Time" was unusual for having a female protagonist in a SF novel at a time when that just wasn't done- I found that out later when I read SF novels from the same time period. I found the idea of an alien with senses wholly different from our intriguing- how do you explain sight to an alien that has totally different senses? The Ixchellian aliens processed reality so differently from humans that it was difficult for them to explain what they knew to us.

    Christopher Phoenix

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  6. I must say that your thoughts on a blogpost about the future of food and space rations has been rattling around my brain...being thinking about how to write it.
    Thanks!

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