By Dave Gibbons (Writer), Mike Mignola (Artist), Kevin Nowlan (Inker), Matt Hollingsworth (Colourist), & Clem Robins (Letterer); Dark Horse Comics; 2015
When the God-fearing Selkirk is forced by his insane captain to abandon the space freighter Nova Maru, he finds himself marooned on an inhospitable and remote world. Faced with starvation and madness, Selkirk believes that his salvation lies in the Maru’s planet-fallen payload, but uncovering the cargo could unleash hell itself…
As a long-time Aliens fan, I jumped at the discovery of an Aliens comic book with art by Mike Mignola. Better yet, this edition is a deluxe hardcover readily available thanks to its recent release back in September 2015. The book has a rather storied history, having been reprinted quite a few times since it was original published as a one-shot in November 1993.
It was first reprinted and serialized in the UK in three parts in Aliens magazine. Later on it was collected along with the story Aliens: Sacrifice in a trade paperback called Aliens: Salvation and Sacrifice in March 2001, featuring new cover art by Mike Mignola. It was collected yet again in the Aliens Omnibus: Volume 3 in March 2008. This 2015 deluxe hardcover edition — simply entitled Aliens: Salvation — sports yet another new cover by Mike Mignola.
In terms of continuity it does not appear to be directly connected to any other Aliens stories Dark Horse Comics had running concurrently at the time, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the story contained loose references.
While we don’t know what his situation is at the onset, the story is narrated retrospectively through Selkirk, the pious cook of the Nova Maru who becomes marooned with his insane captain. His perspective gives the story its religious overtones, as he frames his experiences as tests from God. It’s an intriguing approach to the story, his spirituality being what drives him where others might have lost hope, been driven mad, or died.
Before the xenomorphs are even a direct threat Selkirk must contend with a harsh alien world with biology that cannot sustain him, exposure to a brutal climate, and the imbalanced mind of his captain. Much of the horror stems from how close to the brink he is pushed by these factors alone, as well as the horrible lengths he must go to in order to survive. After all he endures, he’s confronted with whether or not survival really matters and is forced to make a choice. In these ways the story was quite strong.
My feelings about this book are a little mixed, however, because it contains many of the story elements that have become cliché to the Alien franchise at this point — surprise androids and themes of corporate apathy, to name a couple of these. These elements felt a little too recycled, especially in a book that is lauded as being a unique and memorable Aliens story. They still work well within the story Gibbons is telling, however, my gripe being more with the predictability that comes with their use. I liked the story quite a bit, but I would have enjoyed it better if I knew less of what to expect.
Mike Mignola’s art is the stand-out feature of this book, this discovery again having been the driving force for my purchase of it in the first place. His style lends itself well to the Aliens universe, particularly this story, granting the creatures a more Gothic look that feels in keeping with the religious tone of the story. I especially like the panels depicting the depths of the hive, which have a cold hellish quality to them.
Mignola’s art allowed the book a more timeless quality for me; it doesn’t look like it was written in the early 90s. This is likely because his style is iconic enough that is doesn’t really feel tied to specific time period. It was only upon further research for this post that I even realized the story was originally published decades ago. I had assumed it was something done much more recently. I’ve read the Aliens Omnibus Vol. 1 and its age is made much more apparent by its art.
Matt Hollingsworth does a great job with colour in this book as well, illustrating the tropical climate through a lot of pale yellows, blues, and greens that convey how vibrant the world is, yet at the same time how inhospitable.
Though it wasn’t the more unique excursion into the Aliens universe I was hoping it’d be, Aliens: Salvation is still a great story that’s more than worth reading. Mike Mignola’s representations of madness, alien worlds, and the xenomorphs themselves is in keeping with his wonderfully somber style that worked surprisingly well in a more science fiction setting.
While treading familiar ground Gibbons does a great job too, bringing a unique perspective to the table. He pushes his protagonist to the limits of the human spirit and confronts, after all mettle has been tested, whether survival is truly the most important thing in order to find salvation.