When I reviewed the Aliens vs. Predator Omnibus Volume 1, it was during the lead-up to Predators. I wasn’t the only person excited for the film; Dark Horse Comics used the opportunity to release a number of new Predator comics into the market, much like how Marvel used their various films to launch all sorts of mini-series and collections. These Predators tie-ins include a surprisingly good prequel, adaptation and sequel trilogy for the film. But Dark Horse’s best move was using the film’s popularity to release the long-awaited sequel to the original Aliens vs. Predator story.
Randy Stradley returns to write Aliens vs. Predator: Three World War and complete the story he began all those years ago. Also returning are the planet Ryushi and its most famous resident, Machiko Noguchi, now living among the humans, apart from her clan. As is typical in these stories, the conflict revolves around the relationships between humans and Predators, especially whether the latter should hunt the former, despite the humans' ability to kill both of the titular species when necessary.
The xenomorphs in these stories often get the short shrift ... but then again, there isn’t too much you can do with them aside from people being slaughtered and running away from them. A huge part of their appeal is their mindless monster nature and their sheer inhumanity. Unlike the Predators, aside from being bipedal, xenomorphs are so warped from humanity as to be unrecognizable. Otherwise, you end up with things like the Predalien, the King Xenomorph or the Hybrid from Alien Resurrection which take the concept to really weird places.
What rallies Machiko back into action is a rogue tribe of Predators, called the Killers, who hunt the “normal” Predators and control packs of xenomorphs. These were either inspired by or are the same as the Super Predators from the recent movie, as they are larger, far more violent and hateful of their smaller brothers. I really like this new idea in the AVP universe; now that the Predators are (relatively) kinder, the Killers can act as the truly villainous third faction. The ending hints at a sequel, a development I look forward to.
You will have to read the previous two stories to understand the plot, as the backstory is only hinted at, but fans of the franchise will see all sorts of memorable elements. On the human side, we have the Colonial Marines with their dropships, APVs, cryogenic sleep chambers and an android. On the Predator side, the Killers wear helmets resembling those worn by the samurai, hinting that they have had past Earth encounters similar to Predator 2 or “Old Secrets” from the Omnibus. On the xenomorph side, there is a queen, and that’s really all you need. There are even some internal AVP references, including a fight in a swamp reminiscent of the one from “Blood Time.” Not to mention, there’s a scene where they actually nuke the planet from orbit.
Joining Stradley for the art duties is Rick Leonardi, a highly regarded Aliens and Predator artist (along with a frequent Peter David collaborator). I was a bit apprehensive when I found out that he was penciling, as I had seen his art in New Thunderbolts and was unimpressed. Many of my art problems often boil down to the inks or colors, and that seems to be the case with Leonardi’s run on that title, as Three World War has some glorious art.
This franchise has two modes, Alien-style monster horror stories or Aliens-style all-out bug wars, and Stradley wisely decided to make this story the latter. An armada of Marine and Predator ships form an epic canvas for Leonardi, with massive space battles interspersed with ground combat. Stradley likes to write fight scenes with either no dialogue at all or just thought captions, and Leonardi is able to convey clear motion in these silent fights.
I should also mention the fantastic painted covers by Richard Swanland, which only add to the epic nature of the book. The cover for the trade uses the cover of the first issue and both draw the reader in with the first view of the Killers. If you saw this on the shelves, wouldn’t you want to know why (and how) the Predators are controlling the xenomorphs?
If you enjoyed the Aliens vs. Predator Omnibus or the stories contained within, this story is a must-read, especially as it provides a solid conclusion to Machiko’s story while opening up a new direction for the franchise. If you haven’t read the Omnibus, go back and read it, and then pick up this book. This is a book not only for the Aliens vs. Predators fans, but all sci-fi fans in general. Three World War brings the bug hunt tradition to a whole new level.