The ambitious Fire and Stone storyline is, in some ways, the Alien and Predator version of the shared universe model that everything is trying to adopt. It’s neat in theory: Fire and Stone is one overreaching storyline that stretches across four titles, Prometheus, Aliens, Predator and Alien vs. Predator. I was aware of it, but had not read any of the others before jumping into this trade, which collects Alien vs. Predator; Fire and Stone #1-4.
The problems presented themselves right away. We come into this story right in the middle of things. Even though this is an Alien vs. Predator miniseries, it picks up right where the Aliens story left off. It’s also extremely fast-paced, which can be exciting, but also never gives readers a chance to understand what is happening and who these people are. By the end of the volume, we know nothing more about these characters than we do at the beginning. We’re dropped right in the middle. For people who saw the first issue and picked it up on a whim, I can imagine this would have been a big turnoff.
If a story is going to be nonstop action from beginning to end, which this is, it needs some kind of break to feed in some of the previous story for those who may not have read the other series. Exposition is, sometimes, a necessary evil. More than that, it needs those smaller moments to give people some reason to care. We know that the protagonist is a dying scientist, but we never actually find out what his disease is. The villain is a synthetic who was given a version of a miracle cure that went horribly wrong and corrupted him, turning him into something beyond mechanics and synthetic flesh. Beyond flesh in general.In some ways, and this sounds strange even to type, the story is too science fiction. Things like lightspeed have never been part of the Aliens universe before. If that sort of travel is possible in this universe, that completely negates the fifty-seven years that pass between Alien and Aliens. There’s no need for the traditional cryo-sleep if this kind of space travel is possible. The fact that the characters are preparing for sleep as they are about to make that jump just comes off as ridiculous. But this is a minor gripe that really only relates to the established mythology and not to the story as a whole.
My major problem with Alien vs. Predator: Fire and Stone is that for an Alien vs. Predator story, the two title species feel shoehorned in. There’s no real reason for either of them to be in the book and it’s hard to justify the story without them. An Alien vs. Predator comic needs both aliens and predators in the same way that an Iron Man comic needs Iron Man. The story can certainly involve other elements, but the titular characters should always at the very least feel like they are supposed to be there.
There’s a lot of excitement and some well-drawn action, but it did leave me wanting more. Ultimately, this is a small piece of a much larger story and it doesn’t really stand on its own. Tie-in events should always at least try to feel like a standalone piece and not so much a fraction of a whole. But it did make me curious for the overall event, so I guess it did its job.