From the House of Ideas: “Aliens #6” and “The High Republic: There Is No Fear” Demonstrate Superior Franchise Storytelling

A couple quick hits for you this week from the world of Marvel Comics.

First off, a lot of credit has got to be shown to writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson and artist Salvador Larroca, who just completed their first arc of their new Alien series, which we looked at earlier when it debut. There was always going to be a lot of eyeballs on how the House of Ideas would handle the Xenomorphs once the franchise made the move over from its longtime home at Dark Horse Comics; could the horrific chestbursters and company find a proper place in the Disney-owned Marvel, or would fans have to settle for a watered-down take on a sci-fi/horror classic.

Thankfully, Marvel has let its creators go balls to the wall horror with Alien, as the first six issues of Johnson and Larroca’s series demonstrated. The duo crafted a deep space rescue story that found a perfect combination of family drama, world-building, and the blood and guts fans would want from Alien. This first arc concludes with Larroca’s gorgeous and evocative artwork giving form to a story of sacrifice and family, while also furthering the Alien mythos itself. You know creators are doing something right when you finish a book and your immediate thought is “I can’t wait to see what comes next.”

Speaking of franchises, Marvel has been home to Star Wars comics for years now, and have done right by the IP in everything I’ve read (including the various Darth Vader books, all of which I’ve enjoyed). The latest excursion I’ve taken into a galaxy far, far away is the High Republic initiative that’s been a cross-platform initiative, with novels, YA titles, and, yes, comics. These stories take place long before prequels, when the Jedi are the peacekeeping group throughout the galaxy.

The High Republic: There Is No Fear compiles the first five issues of the ongoing series, written by Cavan Scott and illustrated by Ario Anindito, and is a solid place to start if you’re interested in Star Wars without any of the baggage. These are new characters and new stories set long before Skywalkers and Solos, and this first arc is all the better for it. In it, we’re introduced to a Padawan named Keeve Trennis, who is about to take the Jedi Trials. Will she succeed? And what will she face as the Republic beings expanding its reach, with its new Starlight Beacon.

What I enjoyed most reading The High Republic: There Is No Fear was its complete unpredictability. While the book obviously uses Star Wars tropes (Jedi and lightsabres, etc), by being set in a timeline yet to be explored, with brand new characters, questions of who will be around for the long term or who we can trust are not clearly obvious. For a franchise as divisive and familiar as Star Wars, delivering something fresh and unique can be a challenge; credit to Scott and Anindito for being up to it and delivering the goods.

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