‘Alien Legion: Uncivil War’ Brings the Series Back to Form in a Big Way

GameStop, Inc.

AlienLegionUncivilWar_1_CoverI grew up with Alien Legion. Not in a literal sense, as I am not a comic book character despite what the internet may say about me. I discovered the title in the back issue bins of the sadly missed Land of Oohs and Aahs Comics when I was in my young teens, and was instantly hooked, buying up all the back issues I could find. The series didn’t read or look like anything else on the stands, with Superheroes then, as now, being the primary source of funnybook stories.

Stylistically and tonally it was so far removed from what I would normally read. The series was exciting to me as a kid who grew up with the original Star Wars films, the epic space opera Alien Legion presented me with was just the thing I didn’t even know I was looking for. It showed me what was possible with comics, and in many ways shaped what my reading habits would be in the future. Even now I read far more non-Superhero books from the likes of Image and Dark Horse than anything from Marvel or DC.

I haven’t read the series in years, and when I opened my inbox this week and found Titan Comics had sent me all four issue of the new miniseries I didn’t even know existed, to say I was excited would be an understatement. To rekindle my love of this series with an all new storyline had me excited, yet a little reticent. Could it hold-up to the memories I held in my brain-meats, nostalgia being the bastard that it is sometimes? The answer is mostly yes. It was like being reunited with old friends; awkward at first, but in the end like no time had passed at all. I received all four issues at once, so I’ll focus my review on the series as a whole.

ALIEN_LEGION_UNCIVIL_WAR_003_RGB_PREVIEWS_BC.jpg.size-600Force Nomad is tasked with a humanitarian aid mission, saving refugees from a civil war that has broken out on planet Harkilon. Of course the simple mission goes about as far off the rails as it possibly could, as smugglers are using the refugees as cover, and an itchy trigger finger turns the diplomatic mission into all out war! Pretty soon Force Nomad has to contend with a Harkilon battlefleet at it’s doorstep, and everything goes to hell.

Chuck Dixon returns to pen the series alongside original creator Carl Potts, with Larry Stroman bringing his unique style along for the bumpy ride. The story itself, even if a bit hard to get back into, is a great addition to the Alien Legion continuity, bringing sweeping space battles, fearsome hand-to-hand fights, plenty of deaths, and a few laughs as well. It’s like they never left the series, easily sliding back into their respective roles with reckless abandon.

The pacing is quick and bracing, with great dialog, even if some of the character’s language quirks can be a bit distracting. Dixon and Potts somehow find a way to let every character shine in their own way, which is not an easy thing to do with a cast this large. The sense of urgency on every page is palpable, and the writers make it known that this has become a suicide mission that many may not make it out of. With plenty of action and heartbreak, there is nary a wasted panel, every moment written to propel the story to its final dramatic and deadly climax. And just when things get too ugly, there’s Grimrod to lighten the tensions as always. And who doesn’t love/hate Sarigar?

Alien_Legion_Uncivil_War_04.jpg.size-600The artwork was a bit hit or miss for me. Don’t get me wrong, even though Larry Stroman’s art is an acquired taste to say the least, I’ve always enjoyed it just for the fact that it’s so different than anything else out there. I loved his original Alien Legion stuff, and his now classic X-Factor work in the 90s was dynamic and at times breathtaking. On this series it goes from throwback hints of greatness in some panels, to a muddled mess of shapes in others. I’d still take his highly original quirky style over many artists out there any day though, especially on this series.

Stroman was born to draw Alien Legion, his bold style fitting the book better than a pair of yoga pants on the girls at the gym, and Carl Potts’ inks give a real weight to the artwork as always. The action sequences are tense and uncompromising, and you never know who’s going to make it out alive, while the space battles are glorious, almost Kirby-esque in their realization, and his warships, while being vile weapons of destruction, are simply a thing of beauty to behold. The color work of Tom Mason really adds a lot to the book, giving the look of the pages his own unique stamp without detracting from the artwork. He has an extremely large palette, but uses it sparingly when the scene needs it, imbuing the page with the right tone at the right time.

Over all, it was a pleasure being able to revisit the Bospors of Force Nomad once again, even if it was a rocky ride at times. While Alien Legion isn’t for everybody, if you liked it in the past, like I did, I still highly recommend Uncivil War. This series brings a breath of fresh air to the Legion, while still keeping the essence of what made it great in the past.

A collection of Alien Legion: Uncivil War is out in January in the US from Titan Comics, but you can still order the issues from your local comic shop if you can’t wait that long.

 

 

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