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|This article is about the comic book series. For the novel, see Aliens: Nightmare Asylum (novel).|
Aliens: Nightmare Asylum, originally titled Aliens and also known as Aliens: Book Two and Aliens, Vol. 2: Nightmare Asylum, is a four-issue limited comic book series that was first published by Dark Horse Comics from August 1989-May 1990. It was written by Mark Verheiden, pencilled by Den Beauvais and Roger Casselman, inked and colored by Beauvais, lettered by Bob Pinaha and J. David Jackson, and edited by Randy Stradley, with cover art by Beauvais.
The series is one of the few Aliens, Predator and Aliens vs. Predator comic books to serve as a direct sequel to an earlier story. Specifically, it continues where the previous series, Aliens: Outbreak, left off. It originally acted as a continuation of the 1986 film Aliens, featuring the characters of Hicks and Newt, but following the release of Alien3 in 1992, some reprinted editions have been edited in order to fit with the events of that movie.
In the Aliens comics line, Aliens: Nightmare Asylum was preceded by Aliens: Outbreak, and was followed by Aliens: Female War.
#2: The world goes mad for Hicks and Newt. In their desperate attempt to escape an Earth overrun with Aliens, their ship lands at a top secret Marine base where a crazed General is attempting to train Aliens for use in battle!
#4: Newt and Hicks join with the survivors of General Spears' army of Marines in a desperate attempt to reclaim the Earth from the Aliens, but it is an effort that seems to be doomed from the start! However, help comes from an unexpected quarter in this spectacular conclusion to one of the most popular miniseries of the year!
Aliens, Vol. 2: Nightmare Asylum
Wilks, Billie, and Bueller were the last survivors of a devastating assault on the aliens' home planet. But their return to the solar system made them refugees once more, fleeing earth and its alien infestation in a desperate attempt to stay alive. Now, in an otherwise unmanned military transport, they hurtle through space, destination: unknown, while in the cargo hold they carry with them a legacy of death they thought they'd left behind!
The story continues where Aliens: Outbreak left off, with Sergeant Wilks, Billie and the damaged synthetic Bueller a short time after having escaped the alien-infested Earth on a cargo ship. The crew discovers the ship is ferrying aliens to an unknown destination.
After killing the aliens, the ship autopilots to a military post commanded by General Spears, who is breeding and attempting to train aliens to fight against their own kind on Earth. He is depicted as ruthless, and is called insane by several characters. Throughout the story it is revealed that Spears is extremely paranoid about his own safety and the safety of his aliens, and is willing to sacrifice his own troops without hesitation.
As the story progresses, the aliens inevitably escape captivity and begin taking over the military base. Wilks and Billie manage to hide on the same ship General Spears uses to escape. Once aboard the ship Wilks and Billie realize it is full of "trained" aliens that Spears intends on using to take back the infested Earth. The synthetic Bueller also manages to send a transmission saying goodbye to Billie as they were separated in the middle of the story. Since Bueller is a synthetic and torn in two the aliens do not engage him in any way. Bueller is left alone and abandoned in the military base.
Before Spears lands on Earth Wilks and Billie jettison out in a small escape pod towards a different space station, aware that their chances of survival on Earth are slim. Once Spears lands on Earth he releases his "trained" aliens and expects them to attack the Earth-bred aliens. The "trained" aliens end up turning on Spears. In the end Spears realizes that the aliens were never actually trained, but simply remaining patient throughout their supposed training. The Queen and the other aliens had every intention of getting to Earth and killing Spears. Spears is brutally killed at the end of this realization.
History and Alterations
The first three limited series in the Aliens comics line are unique in that their content has been significantly edited several times since release.
Conceived as a sequel to James Cameron's Aliens, Nightmare Asylum originally continued the stories of Hicks and Newt through further adventures several years after the events of the film. However, following the release of Alien3 in 1992 — in which Hicks, Newt and Ripley all perished — Dark Horse elected to edit its early stories in order to keep them relevant to the Alien film series. To this end, the names and therefore identities of several individuals were changed to remove any direct connection to the movies. These alterations first appeared in the novel adaptation of Aliens: Outbreak, Aliens: Earth Hive by Steve Perry, in which Hicks became Wilks and Newt was now known as Billie; these new characters were then carried over into the subsequent novel adaptation of Nightmare Asylum, also by Perry.
When Dark Horse later came to reprint the Nightmare Asylum comic itself as part of the Aliens Library Editions series, it was similarly edited to feature the new characters. This modified version went on to become the standard edition of the comic, and for many years the original version was out of print and essentially unavailable. However, more recently the early Aliens series have seemingly reverted to the original characters — in 2016, Dark Horse published Aliens 30th Anniversary: The Original Comics Series, a special hardback collection containing the original, unedited version of Aliens: Outbreak, and this was followed in 2017 by Aliens: The Original Comics Series Volume 2, which similarly contained the original, unmodified versions of Aliens: Nightmare Asylum and its sequel Aliens: Female War. All subsequent reprints of the comic have used the original identities of Hicks and Newt, although the modified versions are still available digitally through Dark Horse Digital.
Dark Horse Comics
Unlike many Aliens comics, the second Aliens miniseries was quite slow in being released in a mass-market form. After its initial comic book run from August to May 1990, the comic was collected as a deluxe limited hardcover edition featuring an embossed hardcover with artwork by Den Beauvais and Smythe-sewn binding, released in September 1990 under the title Aliens: Book Two. Beauvais also created an all-new painting for the illustrated dust jacket, as well as designing special endpapers. Also included were an all-new, full-color painting by Beauvais which serves as a bound-in signature plate signed and numbered by both the author and artist. This 112-page volume was limited to 2,500 copies.
In the United Kingdom, Aliens: Book Two was serialized and reprinted in 6 parts in Aliens magazine, Vol. 1 #1-6, from February-July 1991. A trade paperback collecting the series was published by Titan Books in June 1991, titled Aliens: Book Two (ISBN 1-85286-378-1).
In September 1993, Aliens: Book Two was again collected for inclusion in The Compleat Aliens, a deluxe limited edition hardcover which for the first time collected all of the early Dark Horse Aliens comics into a single volume, including Aliens: Book One, Aliens: Book Two, Aliens: Earth War and the previous trade paperback Dark Horse Presents: Aliens. This slipcovered edition was Smythe-sewn and featured a foil-stamped, bonded-leather binding with specially printed end papers, and included a gallery featuring many of the collections' original covers as well as a signature page signed by many of the creators and featuring new Aliens art from the artists who worked on the original comics. The release was edited by Kij Johnson and limited to only 500 copies.
In October 1996, the series was finally collected and released by itself as a low-cost trade paperback, but in a content-edited form and under the new title Aliens, Vol. 2: Nightmare Asylum. This release was part of Dark Horse's "remastered" Aliens Library Editions series — reprints that attempted to bring the content of all of Dark Horse's previously released Aliens comics in line with the updated continuity presented by Alien3. Thus, the new character names created for the 1992 novelization of the first Dark Horse Aliens series (Aliens: Earth Hive by Steve Perry) were edited into the story in place of the original characters that had since died in the third film. This edition additionally included an extra panel depicting Spears surveying his Xenomorph soldiers that had not appeared in any previous version; it has since been included in virtually all other reprints of the series. The Nightmare Asylum trade paperback was edited by Lynn Adair and featured a new cover by John Bolton and new lettering by Willie Schubert.
In October 2016, a special reprint of Aliens: Nightmare Asylum #4 was published through Celebrity Authentics, featuring exclusive cover art by Corbyn Kern depicting Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, the first time the actress' likeness had appeared in an Aliens comic book. As well as the standard release, Celebrity Authentics offered a variety of signed editions featuring signatures from the cast of Aliens.
In April 2017, the original version of the series was published for the first time in 24 years when it was collected as part of Aliens: The Original Comics Series Volume 2. This version was a hardcover, "oversized" (8 × 12) format collector's edition, featuring the original, unedited 1989 version of the story (including the original characters of Hicks and Newt). The collection also included the sequel Aliens: Female War.
Following Marvel Comics' acquisition of the rights to Alien comic books, the series was collected as part of Marvel's Aliens: The Original Years Volume One collection, alongside many other early Dark Horse stories. The collection was released in May 2021.
Behind the Scenes
As with its predecessor, the second Aliens series was written by Mark Verheiden. Considered a hugely influential figure in the Aliens, Predator and Aliens vs. Predator comics lines, Verheiden also wrote the direct sequel to the miniseries, Aliens: Female War, as well as Predator: Concrete Jungle, the first ever Predator comic, along with several other core comic book stories in the Aliens and Predator lines. Aside from his contributions to those franchises, he has worked on the likes of Superman for DC Comics, and wrote the scripts for the feature films The Mask and Timecop, both of which are based on Dark Horse properties, the latter being a Verheiden creation. In recognition of his contributions to the Alien vs. Predator universe, the mercenary Mark Verheiden in the film Alien vs. Predator was named after the author.
- Several ideas from the comic were later prominently recycled in other media in the Alien franchise. For example, Xenomorphs killing one of their own and using the dead creature's acid blood to escape a contained area, as happens aboard the cargo ship near the beginning of the story, was later used by the Cloned Xenomorphs in Alien Resurrection. Similarly, the manner in which Spears marks his trained Xenomorphs on the head with identifying numbers reappeared in the 2010 video game Aliens vs. Predator, in which the Xenomorph protagonist, Specimen 6, was identified with a number branded on its forehead.
- Aliens: Nightmare Asylum is the first Aliens story to feature USCM personnel serving as antagonists, something of a rarity in the franchise. To date, the only other story to feature marines as main antagonists is Aliens: Defiance, with Aliens: Wraith also featuring antagonistic marines at the very end of the story.
- The Xenomorph Hives seen on Earth towards the end of the comic greatly resemble H. R. Giger's concept art for the Egg Silo, a structure cut from Alien during the film's development.
- Several copies of the Aliens: Book Two trade paperback were given away as part of a contest run in Aliens magazine, Vol. 2 #21.
- Beauvais' cover for issue 4 of Aliens: Nightmare Asylum is one of the most reused pieces of cover art in the Aliens comics franchise, having also been used on Aliens magazine, Vol. 1 #2 and issue 1 of the collected version of Aliens: Countdown, also published with Aliens magazine.
- The back cover artwork from the four original issues of the series form one complete image of a Queen when placed together.