In the long comic book history of Aliens, which stretches back over twenty years, Salvation has always been ranked as one of the best. It’s a fan favorite, if not the fan favorite comic. With a creative team consisting of heavy hitters Brian Bolland and Mike Mignola, it’s easy to see why. Aliens: Salvation is not a long graphic novel, just shy of 60 pages, but it doesn’t need to be. It works perfectly to its length, never padding out the story with unnecessary details. Yet even though it is relatively short, it deals with some heavy themes. Faith, hope, survival and of course salvation. There’s a reason that last one is also the subtitle. Here, salvation is about much more than simply redemption. It’s not about forgiveness. At first, that’s what Selkirk, our narrator, seems to be expecting. He’s up front about it, too. He has sinned and he wants forgiveness.
Selkirk is a complicated character, which makes for interesting reading. He does some pretty dark things, including eating his captain and letting Dean die the moment he finds out she is an android, but he’s our protagonist. And it’s easy to sympathize with him, the way you root for anyone in a survival story.
One of the most impressive things about Salvation is that it does not fall into the usual trappings of either an Aliens story or a typical deserted island story. It features many twists and turns, but it’s not overly focused on them. Bolland and Mignola were much more concerned about creating a profile of this one character in particular and in that they succeeded.
However, the most impressive thing about the graphic novel as an Aliens comic is that it understands who the villain is. I cannot praise the comic enough for this. So many of the Aliens books published by Dark Horse are great. Many of them are extremely effective mixes of action and horror stories. But they were focused on the aliens, by and large. It’s easy to assume, at a glance, that the aliens are the monsters. In the films, though, that’s not the case. From Alien down to Alien Resurrection, the xenomorphs always rate second to the horrors of human kind in the form of The Company.Corporate greed has always been the evil at the heart of this franchise dating back to the original Ridley Scott film. Aliens: Salvation understands that extremely well. The villain here is The Company. Selkirk’s salvation does not come through saving himself, as he originally expects. Every time he sees something that might keep him alive a little while longer, he refers to it as his salvation. But when he understands what The Company did here, that his crew was sacrificed so that these creatures could infest an isolated planet that nobody would care about or ever even notice, he comes to the conclusion that the only true way out is to blow the hive and sacrifice himself.
What I love about this is the fact that Selkirk acknowledges that this action won’t beat The Company. There is no beating The Company. But it will hurt them, at least, and that’s enough.
The last page is so devastating and almost morbidly funny at the same time, serving as the perfect punchline to such a grim little tale.
Aliens: Salvation holds up. It’s as powerful, resonant and relevant as it was when first released. This new hardcover edition is probably the best collected version of it and is something that is sure to please new and old fans alike.
WICKED RATING: 9/10