Friday, April 2, 2010

Alien Legion: Slaughterworld

Written by Alan Zelentez
Art by Frank Cirocco, Terry Austin, Chris Warner, Whilce Portacio, Randy Emberlin

For a long time, I've been curious about the Alien Legion, but have never read even a single issue, until I found this long out-of print trade paperback for only $5, and figured it was well worth the risk. The book is really good. It is rare to find science fiction that is this action-oriented without the need to either over-emphasize the technological aspects of things (ie. almost any episode of Star Trek or Stargate or their spin-offs), or to add 'cute' story elements to appeal to a wider audience (Star Wars).

To be fair, Alien Legion is more of a war comic, with science fiction trappings than it is anything else. The Legion, modeled I assume on the French Foreign Legion, contains a bunch of rough and undesirable folk from different worlds. They are at war with the Harkilon, a single-minded group of ugly aliens. Not much more is explained, and it doesn't really need to be. We're well programmed to know what to do with a set-up like this.

Strangely, this volume collects the first issue of the original series, from 1984, and then the seventh through the eleventh issues. I don't know why, but 7-11 provide us with a complete story arc, and I liked getting the first issue introduction to the characters, so I'm happy with this choice. The fact that the first issue has a lot of plot similarities (with its crashed ships) is odd, but the first story depicts a military mission, while the second is about survival.

A group of Legionnaires, tasked with protecting a couple of Magistrates and the data they carry, get attacked by the Harkilon, and end up crashing a shuttle onto some planet, as do their enemies. Slowly, the two groups realize that they need to come to some sort of truce in order to get rescued and fight off the hostile indigenous life forms on the planet, although their mistrust is not easy to get past.

What makes this book really work is the strong character work done by Zelentez. While many of these characters are basically cannon fodder, there are some, such as Jugger Grimrod, a salty old soldier with a tendency to get in trouble.

The art on the book is really nice, especially considering its age. The first issue, by Cirocco looks fantastic, while Chris Warner's issues look really good. There is a lot of creativity put to work in creating these worlds, and some of the character designs (such as Captain Sarigar, the snake-guy) are awesome.

I'm pleased to see that Dark Horse has been giving these books the Omnibus treatment, as I feel the urge now to track down everything and read it....

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