Friday, July 25, 2014

REVIEW: Alien Legion, Uncivil War #1

Alien Legion: Uncivil War #1

Story: Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Larry Stroman
Inks: Carl Potts
Review: Will Dubbeld

Fans of obscure 1980s military science fiction comics rejoice! Alien Legion has returned!

First appearing as part of Marvel Comics Epic line, Alien Legion was described as the French Foreign Legion in space and told the tale of Force Nomad, composed of, “Footsloggers and soldiers of fortune, priests, poets, killers and cads—they fight for a future Galarchy, for cash, for a cause, for the thrill of adventure. Culled from the forgotten and unwanted of three galaxies, they are trained to be the most elite, and expendable, of fighting forces. Sometimes peacekeepers, sometimes shock troops, the Legion is sent into the Galarchy’s most desperate internal and external conflicts. Legionnaires live rough and they die hard, tough as tungsten and loyal to the dirty end.”

If that doesn't get yer blood pumpin' for some sci-fi action, go read Distinguished Competition's far inferior Legion comic . . .

Alien Legion was a staple of my youth, as back issues were plentiful in the quarter bin of my old comic shop. The art was phenomenal, the scripts were visceral and packed a punch, and any character (with a few exceptions) could die at any time. An almost revolving door of cast members attested to their mortality and as a youth I was glued to this book.
Riveted, even.

Hearing the news that Titan Comics was dragging the Legion through the mud again after years of inactivity brought a smile to my face.
Ear to ear, ladies and gentleman.
The fact that series originals and favorites Chuck Dixon, Larry Stroman and Carl Potts were back on board iced that cake. I promptly preordered and eagerly awaited.

Issue 1 arrived.
Page 1 was a full page spread of gunfire.
This was like slipping into your favorite comfy shoes after losing them in the closet for a decade.
Uncivil War's premise revolves around the Legion's age old enemies, the Harkilons, who are currently embroiled in a civil war. Harkilons are a race of reptilian...insect...
I dunno. They're bad guy aliens and the elite leaders can change shape. In any case, these evil aliens are having a civil war because without that deus ex machina we wouldn't have a comic book. Refugees from this civil war are fleeing Harkilon space and the Legion must serve as a border patrol for all intents and purposes.

Uncivil War #1 lays a bit of groundwork for the story, but serves mostly as a shoot 'em up on the ground and in space both. Readers familiar with the series see the returning staple characters; Sarigar, a serpent-tailed stoic warrior who serves as Force Nomads commanding officer, Torie Montroc, a nobles son who volunteered for the Legion, and fan favorite Jugger Grimrod, a cutthroat, hardened criminal.

The action is nearly nonstop, I fear because Uncivil War is a miniseries and that leaves no time for foreplay. Fans familiar with the Alien Legion universe will be able to plug right back in and go but I fear new readers may be at a bit of a loss, bombarded with strange terminology and stranger characters. Dixon and Co. have tempered that a bit, as the issue is bookended with a few pages of character bios and a glossary of Alien Legion lingo.

Larry Stroman and Carl Potts are on point with the art, giving us clean, detailed panels with a very poppy color palette. I've always been a fan of Stroman's art due to its otherworldly style, which has mustered a few complaints from folks I've talked to who've read his more mainstream work (i.e. X-Factor). It's never bothered me in the least, but I could see the point of view. No such issue could be argued in his Alien Legion work as it's composed of bizarre extraterrestrials and technology. His unique vision is applied perfectly, and I couldn't be happier to see him back in familiar territory.

Alien Legion might be a tough sell for new readers but I'd highly recommend the book to fans of science fiction, especially fans of settings not bogged down with hyper-sterilized Utopianism. This isn't a neatly dry-cleaned and pressed Star Trek sci-fi book, this is dirty sci-fi, a used, lived in sci-fi with grit in its teeth like Blade Runner, Alien, or the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

It's difficult to give an unbiased opinion of this book as I've been enamored with the material for nearly 25 years, but I'm not a bit ashamed to unabashedly support Alien Legion and I'd suggest the lot of you ladies and gentlemen do the same. Scour through some longboxes for back issues of the original series while you're at it. You'll be pleased with what you find, just don't get overly attached to some of those early characters . . .
My only complaint about Alien Legion: Uncivil War is the fact that I believe it's only a four-issue miniseries and not an ongoing one.

Perhaps this is the last we'll see of the Alien Legion, perhaps not. In any case, kudos to Titan Comics for bringing the series back and Long Live the Legion!

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