alien vs. predator megareview, part 2: gaining momentum

batman vs. predator (comic 1991-92)

the brainstorming session at dark horse comics that led to the first alien vs. predator stories supposedly began as a discussion of doing a crossover with dc comics. it didn’t take them long to get back to that idea, with dc’s most popular character unsurprisingly getting the honors of the first crack at one of dark horse’s premier ips.

honestly, my biggest complaint is that although the art style is pretty great (and nostalgic for anyone who’s read any 80s and 90s batman comics), for whatever reason they decided to make everything way too dark, and it’s frequently actually difficult to make out what’s happening as a result.

the story is basically a drastically better version of predator 2 without the cartoonish racism (though with the less cartoonish early-90s comic book racism of basically every character who matters being white). the predator picks through all of the most powerful people in gotham, with his big target being batman. their final fight has a few great panels, and i actually don’t hate the writing for the most part. it’s straightforward, sure, but the cover says batman versus predator guys. this wasn’t gonna be the long halloween. brank

alien 3 (movie 1992)

(we watched the assembly cut, because of course we did. why would you not?)

i actually like alien 3 if we consider it entirely in isolation. as a fan of the larger series, i still feel pretty insulted that all of the survivors of aliens were killed off during the opening credits. and the movie just can’t wait to push ripley into another compulsory heterosexual relationship that doesn’t really add anything to the character. like her flirting with hicks, her tryst with clemens is pretty unobtrusive and doesn’t do anything to diminish her character’s primacy in the film. both men are more than willing to defer to ripley (which was especially refreshing in hicks’ case in the previous film given that he was technically in command of the mission at that point). and, in a sort of microcosm of how i feel about the movie as a whole, i actually quite like ripley’s relationship with clemens… in isolation. when you take aliens into account, though, alien 3 doesn’t give ripley any sort of space whatsoever to sort through her feelings about hicks’ death before she just jumps right into another romantic encounter. and if you’re going to make the patently ridiculous choice of just killing off everyone ripley made it to safety with, at least give her some space to do that. she was at least given space to grieve for newt, but that pretty much immediately has to give way to her frantically checking if she’s been implanted.

as far as the setting goes, i like a lot of what the movie did with its setting, but i hate the concept of the setting. first of all, i am just massively not a fan of biological determinism via chromosomes for… hopefully obvious reasons, but even in the specific case of “double y chromosome syndrome,” the film just flies in the face of even a cursory glance at everything we know about that condition, and knew about it at the time. there is no evidence–none–that having an extra y chromosome results in greater incidence of violent behavior, and in fact most people who have an extra y chromosome will go through life never knowing about it. i get that maybe thematically this wanted to be about violent male behavior, but if that’s what you want to focus on, i’m afraid you’re going to have to look at things like socialization and cultural baggage. (it’s almost like gender, which is a social phenomenon, is socially constructed or something. weird, right???) and before i entirely move on from this aspect, dear gods, did we really need an attempted rape scene? i know i should be counting my blessings that it stopped there, but at that point of the film it’s like, we get it, dangerous males. i’m sufficiently horrified of her surroundings. you can stop now.

what i liked about the film, besides ripley’s haircut, was that it all had an almost operatic quality to it. it really struck me during the third act when ripley was rallying the prisoners to try to kill the alien, and at the same time we just got these occasional cutaways to the looming threat of the company ship arriving. the soundtrack and the very deliberate pacing of the whole thing also adds to this impression. it’s very peaceful with an undercurrent of mournfulness and tension just waiting to burst.

i also love that alien 3 found an excuse to go back to being a survival horror sort of scenario. one alien that’s more than a match for everyone, no weapons, nothing to rely on but each other and whatever you could improvise from your environment. also also i loved the scene where the alien gets right up against ripley and growls in it medbay. fuck that was hot. yeah i know at other times the alien’s cgi was less than convincing, but i also don’t care.

some of the abandoned ideas for a third alien movie apparently included earth being invaded or humans finding the alien homeworld, either of which would probably have followed more in the footsteps of aliens. i would’ve loved to see the earth invasion one if done right, but my favorite unused sequel idea has to be the first one involving space communists. i know they probably inevitably would’ve been portrayed as evil or misguided or whatever, but it wouldn’t be the first time i’ve taken something in a movie and headcanoned it into being more awesome. what a missed opportunity.

finally, ripley’s sacrifice–which on my first viewing i associated overly strongly with my feeling that the way the film opened insulted fans of the series, and just wasn’t into the whole christ imagery–reads totally differently to me now. instead, i find myself mostly pulled into ripley’s motivations. her willingness to do whatever it takes to keep a scary capitalist empire from getting control of something as dangerous as the alien embryo, even at the cost of her own life. and i don’t want to imagine a world where i don’t admire and understand that choice.

that being said, i don’t entirely agree with ripley being written into that situation in the first place. she might not really have had a better choice, but the filmmakers certainly did. so, again, if i zoom in enough just to look at that moment in isolation, i kind of dig it. ripley is taking control in that situation in the only way that’s available to her. it’s a moment of defiance. it’s unquestionably badass. and it’s a moment that rings true to her character, and even paints a lot of her behavior in earlier films not just as someone who does whatever it takes to survive, but someone who really does have an unshakable core and just incomprehensible strength of convictions. but if we take a wider view, it just feels like it shares a little too much lineage with a storytelling device that’s existed since at least the time of greek tragedies where women committing suicide for honorable reasons was considered basically the most (and only) heroic thing they could do.

again, that’s just basically my experience with this movie as a whole. there are a lot of things about it that i genuinely like, but almost all of those things are at least a little tainted if considered in their broader contexts. the fact that my bias is towards enjoying movies over not enjoying them probably ultimately tips the scale in that direction, but it’s not difficult for me to understand why alien 3 is such a bitter disappointment to so many fans of the series. brank

batman vs. predator ii: bloodmatch (comic 1993-94)

copaganda aside (which is pretty much always gonna be an issue in batman comics), this was a pretty great continuation of the first comic! it’s once again a bit nostalgic for me to be visiting this era of batman comics, and including huntress was a neat touch that made a lot of sense thematically.

i liked all the fights in this a lot, especially the fact that they escalated and fit in with the story well. i love that batman got his ass absolutely handed to him and would’ve ended up as a trophy if huntress hadn’t come along in the nick of time. and i love that batman learns something new with each successive fight (even the ones he’s not involved in) until ultimately him and huntress have their titanic final fight where they have to throw everything they have against the predator and temporarily work as a well-oiled team to have a chance against him. it’s explicitly called out that if they let up for a second, they’re meat.

also my pred boy used a net a bunch of times!! heck yeah. seriously, i know i always harp on it, but the predator franchise should be so much bondagier than it is!! brank

aliens vs. predator: deadliest of the species (comic 1993-95)

this has some amazing moments, and i continue to actually like the predators way more in the comics than in any of the predator movies, but it’s just a chore to read. i don’t think it needed to be 12 issues long, and frustratingly this leads to a lot of it being pretty blatant padding. it’s somehow meandering and confusing at the same time. how is it possible that when you’re consistently taking so damn long to get to the damn point, you also can’t bother to have anything be coherent?

i seriously considered hitting this one with a dnf when i was about halfway through, but decided to at least skim the rest of it. again, it has its moments, but i really don’t think they’re worth it. drank

superman/aliens (comic 1995)

this was fine, i guess? definitely more what i’ve come to expect from crossover media comics rather than the two previous batman ones where it was like “oh, okay, this is like the quality you get in a normal batman comic but the bad guy is a predator.”

a bit disappointing because i’m way more into aliens than predator, so i was more excited for this even though i’m more of a batman enby than a superman enby, but oh well. crank

aliens vs. predator: booty (comic 1995-96)

this short story was originally serialized in previews before being collected as a one-shot. it’s… fine, i guess? not really anything to write home about. crank

aliens vs. predator: war (comic 1995)

this trade paperback collects aliens vs. predator: blood time (originally published in dark horse comics #25), aliens vs. predator: duel, and the titular miniseries aliens vs. predator: war (whose issue #0 was originally titled aliens vs. predator 2 and released in dark horse insider #1-#14). got all that?

blood time is quite short and told entirely through visual storytelling and narration boxes. the basic story is that a bunch of predators are on a hunt and one of the predators tries to screw over one of the others by stealing his kill and leaving him for dead. when he returns he’s horrified to see the other predator alive and being tended to, and the leader of the hunt has him stripped of all his armor and weapons and marooned on the planet as xenomorph food. there’s also a cute little narrative device where many of the narration boxes from the beginning of the story are actually repeated at the end with drastically altered meanings. i got a kick out of that.

aliens vs. predator duel is a two-issue miniseries that follows a group of space marines sent to investigate a distress call on the planet from the original aliens vs. predator miniseries. the plot is basically your standard “aliens fight predators and humans get caught in the middle” but it’s told very well and having the xenomorph that gestates in a yautja take on characteristics of the predators was an inspired choice that would have lasting effects on the franchise as a whole. overall, it’s a nice, small story that makes the world feel bigger and also a great bridge from the original miniseries (which was at this point buried by a bunch of irrelevant follow-ups that never reached the same level of quality) to aliens vs. predator: war.

the five-issue miniseries that gives the collection its name, aliens vs. predator: war, is much longer than either of the other stories. it ties quite a few continuity threads together, reintroducing the protagonist of the original miniseries (machiko) and having her travel with the yautja hunting clan depicted in blood time. and apparently the other human characters in this are from some of the aliens comics, but that doesn’t mean much to me since i haven’t read them. i might try to get around to at least some of those eventually. perhaps unsurprisingly i enjoyed the earlier issues where machiko was trying to fit in with the yautja better than the later issues where she did a mutiny to rush to the rescue of the other human characters she didn’t even know.

though they’re of drastically different scales, duel and war are pretty easily the best stories we’ve gotten in this comic line since the original miniseries, and as an entire entity the graphic novel is probably my favorite avp comic so far. arank

batman/aliens (comic 1997)

this was alright. somewhat better than superman/aliens, but sadly not as good as batman vs. predator. setting it in the mayan ruins was kind of a weird choice, but i suppose unexamined exotification was all the rage at the time. the art was awesome at times, though, so it had that going for it. crank

alien resurrection (movie 1997)

so, first of all, now that we’ve arrived at the last movie either of these franchises made before the first alien vs. predator movie let’s just get one thing out of the way: alien > predator. by like, a lot. this is easily the worst of the first four alien movies, and it’s still comfortably better than either of the original predator movies. just saying.

it’s still pretty bad, though. i mean. it’s a joss whedon script with absolutely awful special effects. and unlike alien³ it lacked even the saving grace of minimizing the impact of those awful special effects, no, this one puts that shit front and center. and obviously i’ve shown a greater than average willingness to ignore shoddy effects in movies but when you don’t have much else going for you… yeah.

this would be kind of okay if it weren’t for the last 20 minutes? like, it wouldn’t be good, but it would be way more okay? but the last 20 minutes just absolutely sinks it. everything involving ripley’s “son” was just the worst. his design is awful, and it led to one of the absolute worst endings i have ever seen in a major franchise movie. i’m actually kind of glad this scene is completely ruined by glaringly bad special effects, because it’s a terrible idea that doesn’t deserve to be executed better.

probably my most superficial frustration is the fact that every ounce of movie logic i know tells me that ron perlman’s character should’ve died in some spectacularly satisfying violent way rather than being one of the only survivors. he didn’t even have a redemptive arc, he just got threatened by ripley enough times until he finally (mostly) kept his mouth shut for long enough to make it out alive.

the only, and i mean only good thing here is that sigourney weaver and winona ryder are absolutely going to have the best lesbian alien/human hybrid and robot relationship ever and someone should really make that sequel. crank

batman vs. predator iii: blood ties (comic 1997-98)

yeah, i loved this one. two predators–revealed in the closing moments of the comic to be father and son–start terrorizing the gotham underworld. batman and alfred pretty much immediately figure out what’s going on, robin (who is finally in one of these!!) is like “uh what” as they keep him in the dark. (mostly at batman’s insistence, of course.)

there’s also a brief appearance from mr. freeze, which makes sense because this was coming out around the same time as batman & robin. when batman benches him, robin–in his tim drake guise–goes with his friends to a drive-in movie theater to watch some old scifi/horror shlock, but is attacked by one of the predators during the movie. there’s some really cute mixing of the dialogue in the movie with what’s going on with tim and the predator.

eventually, the predator chases tim back to the batcave and him and alfred have to try to fend him off. bats dispatches his own predator attacker and informs tim that the alien hunters saw batman and robin as a father and son, and were attacking them together accordingly as part of the younger predator’s initiation. this is a lot of silly fun, and i really appreciate the inclusion of robin obviously. i was really hoping we’d get that in the third one, and batman trying to bench him and him ending up in trouble anyway is such a classic story, really glad they went that route. arank

aliens vs. predator: eternal (comic 1998)

dnf.

this was one of those times where you’re super relieved that you’re pirating media, because after the first two issues were totally full of racism (for flavor!), i tapped out when the third issue opened with some transphobia (for flavor!),. i was just over it and very quickly skimmed the third and fourth issues to make sure i wasn’t missing anything important. as far as i can tell, i wasn’t. i don’t care if i’m wrong. drank

alien vs. predator: annual (comic 1999)

the 48 pages of this double-sized one-shot were devoted to five stories of varying quality.

the first three stories–hell-bent, pursuit, and lefty’s revenge–all feel like the comic equivalent commercials for longer works, but as far as i can tell hell-bent and lefty’s revenge are both self-contained, with only pursuit serving as a direct sequel to one of the aliens comics.

in all three cases, it doesn’t feel like much effort was put into telling a story that fit the length they were given, instead it’s like you get halfway through the exposition of an actual story before it suddenly cuts off abruptly and you’re like “oh, okay, i guess that’s it.” very unsatisfying.

chained to life and death tells a much more appropriately-paced, self-contained story that reads rather like a poetic montage about an elder hunter who decides to die at the claws and teeth of his “beloved prey” before realizing a split second before his death that the alien does not understand him or the significance of his act. it’s a pretty tragic story, but one that adds a bit of texture to the universe. it’s probably clear at this point that this is my favorite story in this special.

old secrets is some religious bullshit that i don’t care about. it retells the story of st. george and the dragon and reveals that the dragon in it was actually a xenomorph and i guess the church has an alien ship buried underground or some shit? idk, i really don’t care. crank

aliens vs. predator: the web (comic 1999)

this story was originally serialized in two parts in dark horse presents #146 and #147. it’s about this asshole billionaire who was a child on the colony from the original aliens vs. predator miniseries. he survived (obviously), but his parents didn’t. he got rich and put all his wealth towards eradicating both species.

his plan was basically to lure xenomorphs and yautja to a remote planet with a distress call and then detonate a neutron bomb to wipe both of them out. this is apparently something he’s done over and over. just an unremitting cycle of setting up the trap, luring them in, blowing them up, and setting up the trap again. whenever a human ship gets lured in, he apparently gloats about how smart he is, decapitates the crew, and places their severed heads in these floating robots to be his mindless slaves. idk man, it’s pretty gnarly.

the comic isn’t trying to present him as a good guy or anything, but it ends with him concluding that he isn’t really doing this for revenge anymore, he’s doing it for sport because he’s a hunter just like the yautja and xenomorphs. and just… no? you’re nothing like them, man. and what’s sporting about doing a genocide with nukes over and over and never being in any real danger yourself? just a whole lot of dumb here. drank

[a quick note here: i didn’t subject myself to aliens vs. predator: xenogenesis because it was apparently supposed to be a new 52/rebirth/etc-style retooling of the entire aliens, predator, and aliens vs. predator lines but instead was so poorly received that the series went on hiatus for like a decade, soooo yeah.]

aliens versus predator versus the terminator (comic 2000)

i was not expecting this to be a direct sequel to alien: resurrection! it isn’t the ripley/call lesbian adventure i requested (demanded, really), unfortunately, but it was still cool to see some non-canon continuation of their story. i thought the story was pretty good, overall. i certainly would’ve liked a bit more like big, messy indulgent three-way battles between the three titular menaces, and i can’t say the terminators really felt all that… terminator-like for the most part? but it was still a perfectly good read. brank

superman vs. predator (comic 2000)

distractingly bad politics (i don’t even want to get into it) and very little actual superman vs. predator stuff. y’know. the thing you’re promised on the tin. the whole point of the thing, supposedly. drank

green lantern vs. aliens (comic 2000)

i was super into this until they did a genocide and juistified it with “well, we don’t have the resources to be as principled as we used to be.” my dudes. “do not do a genocide” is not some unrealistic principle, it is the bare minimum of being a civilization. do not do a fucking genocide. i cannot believe i actually have to say this.

this did at least have plenty of the actual thing it promised on the cover (green lantern fighting aliens), and the first issue with hal was genuinely great. just such a pity that they had to go all edge and no point with the kyle rayner issues. crank

jla vs. predator (comic 2001)

this one wasn’t troubled by bad politics or anything like that. superman actually sums up his heroic ethos nicely at the end of the comic. it just wasn’t a very interesting story? the predators are all given equivalent powers of each justice league member (no idea how they managed that, it isn’t made clear) and fight them, and then the justice league switches opponents and beats them all up. it’s so straightforward and perfunctory, it reminds me of the first appearance of the crime syndicate of america in the silver age.

admittedly i’m not too sure how else they could have approached this, but idk, it was just kinda underwhelming. crank

superman/aliens 2: god war (comic 2002)

thank goodness chuck dixon wrote this one instead of that weirdo conservative gun nut/racist who wrote the first one.

this one was pretty alright! superman and the new gods fight darkseid’s hordes plus the xenomorphs. darkseid intentionally infecting his own army with xenomorphs so they would horrifyingly burst out of his soldiers’ chests just when the new gods thought they had won the battle was sickeningly evil and actually pretty badass. and in spite of the overwhelming odds and the real danger he’s under, superman insists that the xenomorphs have a right to exist and the queen needs to be captured and neutralized, not killed. because his ethics aren’t subject to convenience, not something to be dismissed the second he’s in real danger.

(i’m totally not bitter. honest.) brank

batman/aliens ii (comic 2003)

just kinda messy and bad. kinda weird that contemporary surgeons are able to remove the embryos from hosts when that seems to be very difficult for future surgeons to do, as we don’t see it attempted until alien: resurrection and everyone treats implantation like a death sentence until then. and giving all the aliens traits of batman’s rogues gallery is just eyeroll-inducing. just have him fight some freaking aliens, man! don’t overthink this. crank

alien vs. predator (movie 2004)

okay, full disclosure time. this was actually the very first alien or predator movie i ever saw, and i saw it in theaters in 2004. don’t worry, it gets more embarrassing. the reason i saw it is there’s a shot in the trailer where a predator shoots a net gun at someone and–despite the fact that it would be years until i admitted that was the sort of thing that worked for me–i was really into it. i always wonder if my overall disappointment with the predator franchise isn’t because of some subconscious inclination of mine that humans being hunted by technologically advanced aliens should be way more fun than it ever actually is. anyway, yeah, this is like the third worst alien movie but unless one of the ones i haven’t seen yet surprises me this is pretty easily the best predator movie? like, it isn’t even especially close.

yes, this is absolutely an example of hollywood toning down the “hardcore” elements of two franchises so they can package them together and sell them to nearly all ages. and they even turned to paul “resident evil” w.s. anderson to do so. i’m sure the whole thing pissed a lot of people off. probably still does. and despite being a much bigger fan of one of the two franchises than i was when i first saw this, here’s the thing: i don’t care. does this make a mess of continuity in the alien franchise? sure. is it not really keeping with the tone of either franchise? yeah, pretty much. is the exposition super clunky and obvious? yep! and yet… don’t care! you get what it says you’re going to get on the box, and you get it more or less in the form that any reasonable person would expect. good enough for me. brank

alien vs. predator: thrill of the hunt (comic 2004)

this graphic novel was released as a tie-in to the alien vs. predator movie, and i guess it had a secondary objective of smoothing over some of the continuity differences between the movies and the comics but it wasn’t really too heavy-handed about that and i can’t say i even really noticed much of that.

as an avp comic it’s not much to write home about? humans explore a planet for some greedy money reason, once it becomes obvious that there’s aliens (and predators! oh my!) there, they want to blow them all up so they can continue with their plans to make money off of it. one lady is going to file a report to stop them from doing that, so they decide they want her dead, but one guy protects her. aliens and predators show up and fuck shit up, and that’s about it.

i guess it was cool seeing the same kind of temple as in the movie in comic form? but the action and story of the comic was just extremely so-so.

oh i did get a bit lowkey horny when one of the fucking asshole guys (i couldn’t and didn’t care to tell them apart) was droning on and on at the beginning of the comic about hunting and dominance and hierarchies, though. i think that kind of thinking is bullshit but it can be kinda hot. crank

superman and batman versus aliens and predator (comic 2007)

i didn’t love the weird painting art style but idk, that’s just a matter of personal taste. the real issue here is the writing was just kinda bland. it needed more aliens and more versus. drank

alien vs. predator: sand trap (comic 2007)

this one-shot was bundled with a box set of every alien and predator movie plus the first alien vs predator movie which was released shortly before alien vs. predator: requiem hit theaters. it’s not that bad as a comic, but given that it’s set in iraq during the second american invasion of that country and doesn’t comment on that at all, i’m obviously not a fan. drank

alien vs. predator requiem (movie 2007)

darkness vs. context clues.

obviously the reason that little girl kept trying to play with those night vision goggles is because she’s in this fucking movie and she knows it’s the only way she’s going to be able to see a damn thing.

okay, look. i don’t care about any of the human characters, except for the ones i hate and that’s not a good kind of caring. i kind of love the overall ideas behind and even some of the blocking of some of the scenes where the aliens and predators are actually fighting each other? unfortunately this whole movie is so fucking dark that you cant see shit, so it’s really impossible to enjoy them.

i think this would be a so-so movie if you could see a damn thing that was happening. like, there would still be really bad writing and a cast of characters i didn’t give a shit about, but that’s honestly fine in a shlocky monster movie. it’s really the fact that i have to just kind of guess what’s happening throughout the movie that sinks this thing.

oh, and the last, interminably long action scene. basically everything that happens after they shoehorn in “get to the chopper!” that would be bad no matter how well-lit it is. drank


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