I have a confession that may render me anathema to all my geeky friends.
I’m not a big fan of the concept of an expanded universe.
Sure, you get another dose of your favorite characters. And their children. Grandchildren. Pet goldfish. It can end up being great, but more often I find a good thing gets ruined by over-saturation. I won’t even go into the plotholes and continuity errors that can arise.
Sometimes, though, a book comes along that reminds me not to be so hasty.
On November 23rd Dark Horse brings us another taste of face-melting blood with Aliens: Fast Track to Heaven, a graphic novella that brings the menace from across the stars into our very own solar system.
We enter the story to find that something has gone awry on a decrepit ecological research station. It links “Hell”, the seas of Europa below with “Heaven”, the open space above. Weyland-Yutani, the corporation that seems to have its dirty fingers in all the freeze-died space pies, has ordered a team of security staff and ecologists down into the deep to get some answers. Or at least, that’s what they’ve told the crew.
Liam Sharp, known for his artwork in Judge Dredd, Event Horizon, and Gears of War produced Fast Track as a one-man show, tackling the cover, artwork and story. After reading it that comes as no surprise. The primary elements blend seamlessly, plot and color moving together to give us an experience that is appropriately cinematic, yet something only truly achievable in the comic medium.
From first glance onward the art is bold and engaging. Darkened, enclosed spaces are a brilliant and often neglected arena in which to play with light and color. Sharp rises to the challenge, but the attention to detail doesn’t stop there. Emotion plays clearly across the faces of his characters, their reactions to the crisis captured in diverse and original expressions. From the background scenery to the Aliens themselves the book has a its own definite style while still paying homage to the original film.
That homage is reflected in the plot as well – the inescapable horror, the ominous corporate machinations, the regular people trapped in between. Setting it apart is the location, a brief hop from Earth in galactic terms. A deeper emotional layer emerges as we see that our heroes aren’t just fighting for their lives. They’re fighting to preserve their planet.
My largest complaint (which is not quite the couched compliment that it’s often used as) is the brevity. 40 pages in a medium where some will have less than a dozen words and a few have none at all stifles the scope of the plot. Furthermore, the same originality that makes it so appealing also leaves us with little to tie us to these characters. Sure, we’re rooting for the humans. But does that mean we feel any sort of impact when we see one of them get speared through the chest on a tail? More than likely we’re too distracted by the striking imagery to even care.
I may be a staunch supporter of digital, but I’ll offer this – had I been reading on paper and been able to feel the pages as they passed I may have been more content, but instead the ending felt less tangible, filling me with different expectations and a somewhat unsatisfying culmination.
Repeat readings have shown that if you go in taking the work for what it is – a brief, beautifully rendered glimpse into a classic struggle – it will be impossible not to enjoy it.
Aside from being rooted in the Aliens ’verse, Fast Track is a standalone book in every sense of the term, with no ties to other novelizations or comic books. A drawback to some, but a boon to those craving an entry point into its world. Honestly, this may be the most approachable example of expanded universe that I’ve ever seen. And I may be a convert.
Love It? Share It!
Written by Kaitlin Pedri (@misssuperfluous)
Kaitlin wields a red pen like a katana and gets her kicks making fun of poorly written fanfiction. She forsook a life of editing, only to be drawn back in by the seductive allure of the misplaced modifier. The owner of an encyclopedic mind and a fangirl's heart, she bawls… More »
What did you think? Comment below!
Comments are closed.