Review by C.J. Bunce
You might think you’ve seen it all with five Alien feature films featuring the vile and merciless Xenomorphs. You might really think you’ve seen everything about Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley from the spaceship Nostromo. Ripley, the tough-as-nails heroine of the franchise played by Sigourney Weaver, was the lone human survivor of Alien (1979), and she led the charge against a Xenomorph attack in the sequel Aliens (1986), to come back again after her escape pod crashes onto a penal colony planet in Alien³ (1992), and finally return 200 years later as a human/Alien, Terminator-inspired hybrid clone in Alien: Resurrection (1997). Ripley is on so many best-of lists, like Best Action Heroine and Top 100 Best Genre Character, that it’s impossible to count. Ripley didn’t make an appearance in either Aliens vs Predator (2007) or Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien universe in 2012’s Prometheus, but has appeared in various incarnations in comic book spinoffs. Well you haven’t seen the last of Ripley. To quote the series’ often used tagline, The bitch is back.
A new trilogy series begins later this month, with Tim Lebbon’s Alien: Out of the Shadows. Surprisingly it bridges the period between Alien and Aliens. That’s right, Alien: Out of the Shadows pulls apart what you think happened to Ripley between entering into her deep stasis sleep at the end of Alien and her rescue from that sleep at the beginning of Aliens. And Lebbon does it in a way fans of the series might not flinch at. More importantly he takes Ripley on a nonstop, perilous mission that is as engaging as the grittiest and most exciting scenes in the franchise, the military mission in Aliens.
Chris “Hoop” Hooper works as chief engineer on a mining vessel called the Marion, as part of a Kelland Mining Company search for a rare metal called Trimonite. Kelland is, of course, a subsidiary of Weyland-Yutani—the company that controls everything in the future. Without wasting any paper, Lebbon catches us up with the Marion as two mining vessels go out of control in response to an invasion by certain familiar space “monsters.” The ships ram the Marion–limiting anyone’s chances at survival, at ever leaving the orbit of the seemingly unextraordinary planet below, and causing the Marion to slowly descend to be burnt up in the planet’s atmosphere. Jordan is the Marion’s experienced captain (and Hoop’s former love interest), Lachance is a level-headed pilot but he’s a pessimistic sort, Josh Baxter is the ship’s communications officer (and makes a good cocktail), Karen Sneddon is a hardened, intelligent science officer, Garcia is the nervous medic, and Kasyanov the doctor, with Powell and Welford engineers that keep the Marion’s crew alive for more than eleven weeks until Ripley’s shuttle auto-docks with them, 15 days before they predict they will get too close to the planet and burn up.