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Aliens: Colonial Marines is a 10-issue limited comic book series that was first published by Dark Horse Comics irregularly from January 1993-July 1994. Over the course of its run, numerous different individuals worked on the series — it was written by Chris Warner, Paul Guinan, Kelley Puckett and Dan Jolley; illustrated by Tony Akins, Allen Nunis and John Nadeau; inked by Guinan, Terry Pallot, Ande Parks, John Del, Bob Smith, Jim McDermott and Jordi Ensign; colored by Matt Hollingsworth, Pamela Rambo and Doug Jones; lettered by Clem Robins; and edited by Randy Stradley and Dan Thorsland. The series featured cover art by Robert Mentor and Joe Phillips.
The story takes place after the destruction of Charon Base. It focuses on a rag-tag unit of Colonial Marines investigating Xenomorph-related activities in a backwater sector of space and waging war against a mysterious terrorist cult of human/Xenomorph hybrids loosely referred to as the "Bug-Men". The series also featured the appearance of the first relative of a character from the Alien film series in the form of Carmen Vasquez, younger sister of the eminently popular Private Jenette Vasquez from the film Aliens.
In the Aliens comics line, Aliens: Colonial Marines was preceded by Aliens: Horror Show. In the midst of what was undoubtedly Dark Horse's most active year of Aliens output, it was published concurrently with Aliens: Earth Angel, Aliens: Rogue, Aliens: Sacrifice, Alien3: Terminal Addiction, Aliens: Taste, Aliens: Crusade, Aliens: Backsplash, The Compleat Aliens, Aliens: Labyrinth, Aliens: Salvation, Aliens: Cargo, Aliens: Alien, Aliens: Music of the Spears, Operation: Aliens and Aliens: Stronghold; the unreleased comic Aliens: Matrix was also due to be published concurrently. After its conclusion, Aliens: Colonial Marines was followed by Aliens: Frenzy.
Publication History and Changed Plans
The ambitious series was originally intended to run for 12 issues, with the cover numbering on the early issues reflecting as much, but during production the final two issues were cancelled. Starting with issue 8, the numbering was altered to reflect the new run of 10 issues. The initial plan seems to have been to run the comic as a series of 3-issue arcs, each created by a different writer/artist team, but this arrangement soon deteriorated, with numerous creative team shifts later in the run and several mid-run delays. The somewhat sprawling story was also concluded and wrapped up relatively abruptly by a new creative team in the last two issues.
From issue 1-3, Colonial Marines was written by Chris Warner, illustrated by Tony Akins and inked by Paul Guinan. Iconic painted cover art was provided by artist Robert Mentor (with two of the covers focusing on Private Carmen Vasquez, sister to the popular character Jenette Vasquez from the film Aliens). Issue 1 was edited by Randy Stradley and Dan Thorsland, while issues 2-10 were edited solely by Thorsland.
For the second three-issue story arc, issues 4-6 were written by Kelley Puckett and illustrated by Allen Nunis, with painted covers by new cover artist Joe Phillips. Each of the three issues was inked by a different team — issue 4 was inked by Ande Parks and Terry Pallot, issue 5 was inked by John Del, while issue 6 was inked Bob Smith. The series was released monthly through to issue 5 in May 1993, but this was followed by a three-month hiatus, with issue 6 not hitting shelves until August.
The stand-alone issue 7 was written and inked by Guinan and illustrated by Akins. It again featured cover art by Mentor, and came out in the following month of September 1993. It was followed by an another long break, this time lasting five months, that ended with the release of the next issue in February 1994.
Issues 9-10 were then created by the concluding creative team of writer Dan Jolley, illustrator Nadeau and inker Jordi Ensign, with covers by Phillips. Issue 9 was released in April and issue 10 was released in July 1994.
Issues 1-5 were colored by Matt Holingsworth. Issues 6-8 were colored by Pamela Rambo. Issues 9-10 were colored by Doug Jones. Clem Robins lettered the entire series.
#1: Meet Lt. Joseph Henry; the son of one of the most influential politicians on Earth, a proud member of the United States Colonial Marine Corps, and a poor slob in a heap of trouble. Lt. Henry, after yet again being charged with insubordination, is put in command of a platoon of the absolute worst Marines in the sector and assigned the lowest detail in the corp — checking up on a toxic waste dump! What Lt. Henry and company don't know is that this mission is about to go from bad to worse, because a strangely organized batch of Aliens has taken over the waste dump!
#2: Private Carmen Vasquez has joined the corp and is working hard to become as tough as her legendary big sister. What Carmen and the rest of her platoon don't know is that their mission will bring them face-to-face with the terror that took her sister's life, and has haunted her dreams ever since... ALIENS! Take a gruesome tour of a derelict space station with a group of Aliens who know the meaning of Semper Fi!
#3: Lt. Henry and his crew of ne'er-do-wells are — to put it simply — in the soup. Stranded in a space station with a pack of bloodthirsty Aliens waiting behind every access hatch, this platoon of Colonial Marines will leave no shell unfired in their struggle to survive. And as the pulse-fire echoes through the corridors, a hideous plan of mutating humans into Aliens is uncovered, leading Lt. Henry to wonder if this is more than just a random infestation.
#4: After barely escaping the rail-gun station known as the Sun Gun, our not-so-happy band of Marines is looking forward to a little R&R on the backwater (and we do mean water) planet Bracken's World. Guess again! The mysterious "father" from last issue has already established a foothold on the dreary little planet, and isn't about to let Lt. Henry interfere with his schemes. Get ready for aquatic action and intrigue as our hapless heroes are betrayed from within by the only person that can save them!
#5: Our merry band of Marines has holed up in the only major city on Bracken's World, and as Lt. Henry attempts to rally the local colonists against the approaching Alien army, he begins to suspect Beliveau's real reason for being on this mission. After all, why would a high-powered Company man have any interest in such a remote section of the galaxy? Does Beliveau hold the secret to the bizarre Alien/human hybrid they captured at the railgun station? Could he even be responsible for these well-organized Alien attacks? Intrigue, action, and rusty rooftops — what more could you want?
#6: The showdown on Bracken's World comes to a skull-crunching climax as Marines and colonists go toe-to-toe with the forces of the maniacal Bug-Men. And lest you think we would forgo plot development for the sake of action — Beliveau fesses up as to the identity of the enigmatic "father" of the Bug-Men! The plot is thickening quickly, folks, so don't miss this pivotal issue!
#7: Stranded in a remote sector of space with only a Dropship for transportation, Lt. Henry strikes an uneasy deal with Beliveau, the secretive company man who has many hidden, deadly agendas.
In return for the aid of the Colonial Marines, Beliveau leads Henry to an Alphatech storage facility piled high with state-of-the-art weapons designed to "eliminate" Aliens. The hardware will indeed come in handy, but the sole occupants of the complex — outdated maintenance robots — are already using them to ward off the latest Alien incursion!
#8: Armed with prototype weapons and a powered-up Dropship, Lt. Henry begins the final assault against the Alien menace. While he is planning his strategy, his crew is succumbing to strange withdrawal symptoms, and the ones still on their feet are plotting mutiny!
Henry's only hope is to reprogram Liston, the high-powered synthetic, to follow his every command — even if it means killing a human being. The air is thick with tension, and a traitor will step out of the darkness with a gun in his hand and murder in his heart. A guaranteed shocker!
#9: This is it: the endgame! Lt. Henry has tracked the "father" of the Alien forces — a rogue colonel pursuing a mad dream of cosmic purity — to a subspace communications relay, and plans an all-out assault against him! His command is weak, the Marines around him are planning mutiny at the first opportunity, and now the captive "bugman" is beginning to mutate into something that will shock the entire crew! Lt. Joseph Henry has never taken the easy path, and this time it just may kill him!
#10: The pulse-pounding conclusion to this action-packed series! Face to face with the deadly leader of this system-wide Alien infestation, Lt. Henry begins a suicide mission to fulfill his mad obsession: to kill "the Father" of the Aliens, no matter what the cost.
In the United Kingdom, Aliens: Colonial Marines was planned to be serialized and reprinted in 24 parts in Aliens magazine. However, the cancellation of the magazine left the rerun unfinished after 12 installments (in Aliens magazine, Vol. 2 #9-22, from March 1993-April 1994).
Behind the Scenes
Prior to release, a short preview of the comic was published in Dark Horse Insider, Vol. 2 #12.
Several members of the production team behind Aliens: Colonial Marines had previously been the principle contributors to the similarly-named Aliens: Space Marines mini-comics sold exclusively with Aliens and Aliens vs. Predator toys from Kenner. This includes writer Dan Jolley, artists Joe Phillips and John Nadeau, and editor Dan Thorsland.
- Aliens: Colonial Marines featured a number of firsts for the Aliens comic book universe:
- It is the first comic book to depict Xenomorphs adapting to their environment based on the animals in which they gestate (a concept first depicted by Alien3); in this case, the seafaring Aliens of the planet Bracken's World.
- The comic also portrays the mutagenic effects of the Queen's Royal Jelly on humans.
- Colonial Marines introduces the first black synthetic in the form of the shop steward.
- Finally, it introduces the Xenomorph-killing mercenary Herk Mondo in issue #6. Mondo would go on to star in two stories of his own in following years (Aliens: Mondo Pest and Aliens: Mondo Heat).
- Continuity-wise, the comic contains references to events and characters from numerous other Aliens comics stories, both past and concurrent, including Outbreak, Nightmare Asylum, Female War, Rogue, Newt's Tale, Labyrinth and others.