Written by: Chris Roberson
Art by: Patric Reynolds
Publisher: Dark Horse
Of all of the Fire and Stone comics, Aliens: Fire and Stone has the most riding on its conclusion. Prometheus: Fire and Stone asked a fair amount of questions, but the questions weren’t the core of the narrative; survival was. Likewise, Predator: Fire and Stone and Aliens vs. Predator: Fire and Stone are mostly vessels for crazy action.
But Aliens: Fire and Stone has always been about the questions, with Russell acting as an impromptu scientist. What is the black goo, what exactly happened on LV223, and what will ultimately happen to him?
And who the hell has he been talking to offscreen!?
I’m sad to report that Aliens: Fire and Stone issue 4 doesn’t really answer any of the above questions. It repeats almost all of them, but there are no real conclusions. No answers. It offers a somewhat lackluster ending to what I think is the weakest of the Fire and Stone narratives.
Now, in order to continue—and I plan on talking a great deal—I have to spoil the ending and plenty of other aspects to the comic. Read at your own risk.
Last review, I speculated that Russell might not be talking to anyone but himself and Rover, the little scanning robot he found. Issue 4 seems to want me to believe that’s the case, yet I’m still not quite certain. Oh to be sure, Russell is going crazy. He’s talking to himself and Rover in strange, conversational ways that are both spooky and kind of funny (think Castaway only with monsters).
But the way the text is given leads me to think that the obvious answer isn’t the right one. I truly feel there’s more than simple insanity. The problem is, Russell dies at the end.
Or so we are lead to believe.
The way the last bouts of dialogue are given are purposefully unclear in their usage of pronouns. Russell is near a pool of black goo and surrounded by Xenomorphs. He looks in the vicinity of the goo—but perhaps past it, towards someone else—and says “Oh, it’s you.”
The “You” could be the black goo, and given Russell’s infatuation with it and his dwindling mind, that’s the obvious answer. The “You” could also be Rover, though he desperately calls for Rover’s help when the Xenomorphs show up, making me think he’d have reacted differently to the little scanning robot.
The final answer, and perhaps the only interesting one, is that the “You” is the Engineer Russell found in the previous comic, finally awake and ready to do something.
Because as the P:FaS and P:FaS (ha!) comics show, there is an Engineer walking around doing something very strange and, I imagine, important. A:FaS acts as a prologue to the whole Fire and Stone shared universe, and it’s only natural that Russell has something more important to do than live, examine, question, and then die.
Futility is an important theme to the Alien universe, as is the inability to escape, but there’s always been a bit more than that. It’s why the four films—yes all four—are films and not just trashy movies.
Call me desperate, optimistic, or both, but there just has to be more going on here.
The problem is, the comic gives us no answers, and I don’t know if we’ll ever get them. There are only two comics left before the big Omega paperback, and I can’t imagine the Omega paperback will actually bother with Russell.
It has no reason to when there are plenty of living characters left to explore, and all of them want to get off LV223.
Yet Russell is a good and interesting character, and you don’t just kill off your good and interesting characters without payoff. A:FaS issue 4 ends without payoff. That’s bad, but it’s also not without precedent. P:FaS ended without any real payoff other than forlorn hope, and I’m beginning to wonder if the last two arcs will end in a similar fashion.
The real payoff isn’t the 4/4 but the Omega paperback slated for the future.
That’s its own problem, and one worth complaining about, but it’s not something I can fault our writers/artists for. I can only hope all of these questions—and there are plenty—are answered later on, and I’ll be damned but I want to find out what eventually happens.
I’m a sucker for questions. Prometheus is my favorite movie because of that, and every story in this Fire and Stone shared universe has followed in footsteps that remind me of Prometheus. But while I’m stuck waiting for an Engineer-knows-how-long amount of time for Ridley Scott to create the sequel to my favorite movie, I don’t have long to wait for Dark Horse to finish what they’ve started.
And if they’re going to keep pulling this, “ending but not an ending” crap, they better have something spectacular planned.