The quality of “Aliens” comics over the years from Dark Horse has fluctuated wildly. While the initial miniseries from writer Mark Verheiden and artist Mike Nelson still holds up well today, a quick read through any of the Omnibus volumes will reveal some pretty misguided endeavors as well. “Defiance” is not only the first ongoing series from Dark Horse set in this universe, but the first “Aliens” comic I’ve bought from them in a good long while. I decided to pick it up because writer Brian Wood has a pretty good track record for his work on licensed titles at the company. The good news is that continues to be true here as we follow Zula Hendricks, an injured private in the Colonial Marines, and Davis, a synthetic who has been engineered for combat, as they try to prevent the Weyland-Yutani Corporation from getting their hands on xenomorphs they can use for their weapons division.
Okay. I’ll admit that the core plot for this series doesn’t sound all that inspiring when it’s summed up like that. After all, isn’t Weyland-Yutani the main antagonist in just about EVERY major “Aliens” story? At least the ones that don’t involve Predators? What makes “Defiance” worth reading so far is the strong work Wood puts into characterizing Hendricks as a wounded warrior trying to do the right thing. The soldier’s recovery from a combat injury to her spine is integral to the narrative as it informs all of her actions while presenting a more intimate threat than the xenomorphs themselves. As an example, there’s a powerful scene in the fourth issue where Hendricks is laid up in bed after her injury and receives a visit from her commanding officer who laments the fact that after all the effort they put into her training they couldn’t even get one mission out of her. That she subsequently goes along with Davis’ plan to take out the xenomorphs makes perfect sense as someone who wants to validate their worth against a system that has written them off.
Davis also makes for an interesting companion as he struggles with his own injuries and drive to do right by humanity in his quest. However, you’re either going to have to make up your own explanation as to how a synth was able to overcome his programming regarding his original mission or hope that Wood provides one down the line. I do hope Tristan Jones, who illustrates four of the issues collected here sticks around for the long run as his detailed style provides some good drama and action. Frequent Wood collaborator Riccardo Burchielli and artist Tony Brescini also provide capable work as well. Though the plot in “Defiance” is old hat by the standards of the “Alien” franchise, the struggles of its protagonist make for compelling drama and let us experience the familiar from a new, fresh perspective.