Despite only launching their very first Alien series last year – with the franchise having previously been in the very capable hands of Dark Horse Comics since the late 80s – Marvel have already relaunched the series with a new number 1 issue.

It’s a tactic they seem to resort to quite a bit, but with the same writer on board – Phillip Kennedy Johnson – and a story in the same timeline established in the previous two story arcs, it’s only going to lead to confusion further down the line, as it always does. At least Dark Horse had the sense – after their very first few series – to differentiate each separate story by name, not just by issue number. Having a new Alien #1, barely a year later, with no sub-title is just asking for trouble.

Anyway, griping aside this does mark a bit of uncharted territory for the Marvel incarnation of Alien. For one thing, Salvador Larroca is nowhere to be seen – thankfully. Which means awkward photo referenced art is out and a much more satisfying and dynamic visual style is in, thanks to Julius Ohta’s excellent pencils.

This story sees a team of synthetics – who’ve broken away from human society entirely due to the treatment of their kind – being tracked down by Colonial Marines, following a disaster on a fully engineered, otherwise successfully settled colony world.

The successfully engineered world gives us a glimpse at a side of the Alien universe we don’t usually see: gleaming, clean structures and futuristic cityscapes. Not that this lasts for very long of course – after all, this is Alien after all.

Likewise, the synthetic team/family are unusual protagonists and it allows a bit of political/philosophical commentary to come to the fore, again in a way that has perhaps been previously unaddressed in the Alien universe.

It’s an interesting setup with an unusual set of protagonists, though we don’t get to know them all that well with all of the exposition that’s needed to set the story up in this first issue. No doubt that’ll change, but the change in artist and the more unexplored territory covered here does give the series a bit of a shot in the arm.

It’s not an essential pickup just yet, but there’s definitely potential here for a different kind of Alien story to unfold – which is what the series in general, not just in comics, sorely needs.

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