Firmly focusing upon Maxon’s perilous plight aboard a spaceship that fast becomes “a death trap from which escape seems impossible”, Gabriel Hardman’s treatment for Issue Two of “Aliens: Dust To Dust” certainly provides its readers with plenty of pulse-pounding action. Indeed, despite this particular instalment of the “Dark Horse Comics” mini-series only featuring a single xenomorph XX121, and an infant-sized “vaguely worm-like organism” at that, the diminutive endoparasitoid extra-terrestrial arguably proves just as lethal as it’s human phenotype by tearing out the throat of one hapless passenger and resultantly causing the vessel’s captain to remotely blow the ship up in the hope that “there aren’t any more this far out.. [as] we’re miles from Trono.”
Intriguingly however, the “co-writer/artist of Invisible Republic” doesn’t arguably make the highly aggressive creature the ‘villain of this particular piece’ and instead seems to favour simple ill-fortune in the role of antagonist, as the twelve-year-old’s transporter desperately battles to climb through planet LV-871’s horribly polluted atmosphere in a frantic bid to reach the safety of the U.S.S. Carver; “Once we make contact, they’ll send another shuttle and we can attempt a transfer.” This seemingly endless battle against the elements really provides an enthralling roller-coaster of a ride with the vessel’s lack of knots to gain a safe altitude not being helped by either the fact that due to a hole in their port shielding it can’t actually reach orbit, or that its aft stabiliser snaps just as pilot De Vore is fast-approaching a towering mountain range.
Similarly, the previously gallant Assistant Administrator Waugh, whose heroic efforts ensured that young Maxon and his ill-fated mother successfully got aboard the spaceship in the first place, swiftly deteriorates into a rather brusque unlikeable fellow, once it becomes clear that any authority he apparently believes he has as a governmental official can be easily overruled by the shuttle’s no-nonsense captain. Such a change in personality proves fascinating, especially as the man appears to take his frustrations out on the twenty-page periodical’s central lead by scolding and roughly handling him, as if it’s the boy’s fault that the entire alien infestation has destroyed the bureaucrat’s settlement.
Slightly less successful than his writing though, is Hardman’s scratchy-style of pencilling, which occasionally makes it quite hard to discern what is actually taking place within a panel. True, the “Planet Of The Apes” artist for “Boom! Studios” sketches a genuinely heart-melting, utterly-silent sequence early on within this publication, when the craft’s passengers realise that Maxon’s mother is dead. Yet his story-boarding of the spaceship’s crash bags deployment as it nears an outcrop of deadly-looking stalagmites may debatably take several re-reads before it becomes entirely evident as to just how the bone-shuddering landing actually occurs…