Written by Charles Dixon, Pencils by Larry Stroman
I love a good action comic—a book that has all the hallmarks of a summer blockbuster, but that can be held in my hand and enjoyed any time I feel like it. Alien Legion: Dead and Buried, from Titan Comics, fills that need and does so in all the right ways. This new trade paperback collects Alien Legion 1-12, originally printed by Epic in the mid 1980s.
Alien Legion follows the exploits of Force Nomad, of the many units in the Alien Legion of the Tophan Galactic Union. Nomad is commanded by Major Sarigar with Capt. Torie Montroc and legionaries Meico, Tamara, Jugger Grimod and Tonk making up the rest of the cast of regulars. The story picks up the Force Nomad along with several other Legion units striking a Quaalian planet appropriately named Hellscape. Instead of making this a simple campaign, the Legion drops into the middle of a religious festival, causing the entire population to rise up to destroy the non-believers. The small Legion force is overwhelmed and Major Sarigar is ordered to abandon Nomad to the enemy. This sets up the story for the first several issues as Sarigar leaves the Legion in an attempt to save those comrades he believes to still be alive. It takes nearly two years, but Sarigar manages to rescue several members of Nomad and bring them back to the Union, though they are significantly worse for the wear. From there we follow the newly reinstated Force Nomad as they go on various missions for the Union.
Initially I was not impressed with the story. The entire rescue arc, from the initial mission-gone-wrong to the point at which they are off planet takes less than three issues, which to me seemed pretty quick. It wasn’t until a few more issues in that I realized this was merely the opening act to a much larger story, which was actually pretty impressive. The overall story was rather well thought out with several threads weaving in and out of the story, taking some twists that I didn’t seem coming. Charles Dixon does a wonderful job of weaving an enjoyable and complex (though not too complex) story. I also really enjoyed the fact that within this larger story there were a couple single issues tales that, while adding to the overarching narrative, also made for solid standalone stories. My favorite involved Jugger Grimrod being left behind after a shuttle crash. As the issue unfolds, Jugger narrate the sequence of events the reader sees on the page. While the end results are the same, it is really amusing to see the differences between Jugger’s self-aggrandized version of events and the reality. Jugger is a character that I really found myself liking, despite the fact that I know I really shouldn’t. It’s not just Jugger I found myself caring about, but all of the Nomad’s Hellscape survivors. In one form or another, just about all of them are suffering from PTSD, and its effects are both visible and even mentioned by characters throughout the story. For instance, on more than on occasion Sarigar comments about how much one of his legionnaires has changed, and not for the better.
In general I’m a fan of the art in this book, despite its being stereotypical of the time period. This is aided by the fact that the book had the same penciler for all twelve issues. This kind of consistency is key when trying to tell a story of this length. Larry Stroman also does a wonderful job of filling the Alien Legion with actual alien looking creatures. Now for the most part, the heroes are pretty much humanoid, but their compatriots are all kinds of weird aliens. (I swear, one of them looks like a broom in a uniform. Needless to say that is pretty alien.) Throughout the book there are some great homages to other science fiction works of the time, such as Robocop and Star Wars. The references are great and reasonably subtle so that if the reader is aware of the original works, they will pick up on these touches, but if they aren’t it will not taking away from the story.
Admittedly, Alien Legion is not without its faults. From time to time the dialogue can be pretty rough. While this doesn’t necessarily take away from the story, it doesn’t add to it, which is unfortunate. Additionally there are a couple of different aliens that speak with accents that are spelled out phonetically, often making it difficult to read. This is something that comics have never really had a good solution for and the level of offensiveness is dependent on the quality of the writing. In this case it’s pretty rough.
Also, as much as I like the art, there are some issues when it comes to storytelling in the action sequences. At times the sequences lack clarity and the reader is left to guess what is happening based on the surrounding panels. Other times these sequences can be quite enjoyable. This has the result of making the unclear panels that much more frustrating.
While Alien Legion will not rank among the classic comics of the ages, it is a really fun action adventure comic with a likeable cast and an engrossing story. Titan Comics is known for putting out some really wonderful looking hardcover books, and this trade paperback is an excellent softcover companion to them. It’s full of great little extras that only serve to enhance the reader’s enjoyment. Titan also has several future Alien Legion books planned, including a four part mini-series that just wrapped up, all of which I intend to pick up. 4/5 Death Stars