Aliens: Outbreak, originally titled Aliens and also known as Aliens: Book One and Aliens, Vol. 1: Outbreak, is a six-issue limited comic book series that was first published bi-monthly by Dark Horse Comics from July 1988-July 1989. It was the first comic in the company's extensive Aliens comics line (not counting the comic adaptation of the film Alien, which was released several years previously but is not associated with Dark Horse). Originally published in black and white, the story was written by Mark Verheiden, pencilled by Mark A. Nelson and Ron Randall, inked by Nelson, lettered by Willie Schubert, and edited by Randy Stradley, with cover art by Nelson. The series was released alongside the tie-in short story Aliens: Theory of Alien Propagation, produced by the same creative team.
The comic was originally a direct sequel to the 1986 film Aliens, continuing the stories of Corporal (now promoted to Sergeant) Hicks and Newt several years after the events at Hadley's Hope. However, the release of Alien3 in 1992 led to the comic's novelized adaptation and sequential reprinted editions being edited in order to fit with the events of that movie. It forms part one of a three-part story arc continued in Aliens: Nightmare Asylum and concluded in Aliens: Female War.
Released to tremendous fan response, the series became an early hit for the two-year old Dark Horse Comics and spawned an extensive line of Aliens comic books. It was published concurrently with Aliens: Theory of Alien Propagation, and was followed by Aliens: Nightmare Asylum.
#1: In deep space, a salvage crew is attacked by seemingly unstoppable monsters. The Marines are called in, but they need someone with experience. Soon Hicks (the horribly scarred survivor from Aliens) and Newt (now almost eighteen) find themselves on a mission to locate and destroy the Aliens' homeworld!
#2: Hicks breaks Newt out of the mental hospital where she is being held, and the two of them, along with a crack squad of battle-hardened Marines, blast-off for the Aliens' homeworld. But is the Alien menace really as far away as Hicks believes, or is the threat closer to Earth than anyone imagines?
#3: As the ship carrying Hicks, Newt and the company of Colonial Marines nears the Aliens' Homeworld, a strange paranoia begins to grip the people of Earth. Thousands begin to suffer recurring nightmares about the Aliens, leading Dr. Orona to a terrible realization: there is already an alien — a Queen — on Earth!
#4: All hell breaks loose as Hicks, Newt and the Marines arrive on the Aliens' homeworld! While back on Earth, a misguided religious fanatic frees the Alien Queen captured by the Bionational Corp.! Even if Hicks and Newt survive their mission, will there be an Earth to come home to?
#5: Hicks, Newt and their crew of Marines are finding conditions on the Alien homeworld to be more than they bargained for as they discover that there are things even the Aliens are afraid of! Meanwhile, a mad, fanatical preacher has loosed the corporation's captive Queen on an unsuspecting Earth — to force mankind into an unholy "Communion"!
#6: This is it! The dramatic conclusion to the hottest miniseries of the year! Their mission to the Aliens homeworld a costly failure, Hicks, Newt, and what's left of their Marine contingent return to Earth — only to find conditions horribly changed and mankind on the run from ravaging Alien hordes!
Aliens, Vol. 1: Outbreak
Wilks was a space marine with a near-fatal flaw: he had a heart. Billie was a child, the only survivor of a far-flung colony outpost. Thrown together in the last hellish night of an Alien invasion, Billie and Wilks helped each other get out alive. Thirteen years later, Wilks is in prison and Billie lives in a mental institution, the nightmare memories of the massacre at Rim seared into her mind. Now the pair get a chance to be reunited. To go back to that outpost where it all happened, to finally end the business between themselves... and the Aliens.
This is the very first of the remastered Aliens trade paperbacks! Dark Horse is going back through each of its past Aliens graphic novels and revising images and text to bring the entire story into a single line of continuity with the motion pictures and the wildly popular Bantam novels.
Once a black-and-white collection, this remastered edition boasts full-color art, an updated script, a new John Bolton cover, and a gallery of never-before-seen Mark A. Nelson art! Get ready for the remastered line!
Ten years after the destruction of Hadley's Hope on LV-426, Newt is a patient at Feildcrest Home, a psychiatric institution. Hicks remains enlisted with the Colonial Marines, but is alienated by most of the Corps, who shun him on the conviction that he carries an alien infection, after his months-long quarantine upon returning to Earth. Both Newt and Hicks are tormented by nightmares recalling their experiences on LV-426.
Hicks is contacted by a superior named Perkins, who instructs him to report to Colonel Stephens after watching a video disc. Hicks takes the disc and views the recording. It shows a Coast Guard spaceship approach a derelict vessel, the Junket, which drifts abandoned in Earth's orbit. The Coast Guard send out a probe to investigate. Inside the derelict, the probe feed reveals a dead body, holes burned through the ship's interior, and the words "kill us all" painted in blood on one of the walls. Activity is observed on the probe's motion detector.
An explosive charge is set and the derelict is destroyed. The probe returns, and the Coast Guard are shocked to find that it carries an uninvited passenger. The Xenomorph begins killing and the video disc abruptly ends as the ship is terminated with no survivors.
Elsewhere, a technician prepares a camera for a preacher who conducts religious broadcasts for the Church of Immaculate Incubation. As the tech works, the preacher admires a projection of a Xenomorph, referring to it as their "true Messiah".
Hicks visits Colonel Stephens, where he is introduced to Doctor Orona. Orona reviews Hicks' personal record, which consists of repeated drunk and disorderly conduct since his return to Earth ten years ago. The Doctor explains that he has obtained the flight log from the Junket, including all of its course trajectories. He offers Hicks redemption in exchange for his help securing a Xenomorph specimen.
Meanwhile, at Fieldcrest Home, a nurse warns Newt against disclosing information about her treatment. Hicks reveals that he's journeying to the Xenomorph homeworld, and Newt begs Hicks to take her with him. She expresses fear about the hospital's overuse of sedatives, and their effect on her state of mind. She is promptly dragged away by orderlies and the visit is suspended. Hicks calls out after her, to no avail.
In preparation for the mission to Xenomorph Prime, a squad of marines load the Benedict with equipment and supplies, whilst Hicks supervises. Colonel Stephens questions a soldier bringing several crates of plasma rifles aboard the ship, who explains that he is doing so per Hicks' request. The colonel confronts Hicks alone in his office. Stephens reminds him that the mission is to collect specimens, and expresses doubt about the use of highly destructive weapons. Hicks protests, but Stephens orders him to unload the plasma rifles from the Benedict.
Elsewhere, two company men discuss business over dinner. They talk about the emerging international interest in the use of alien lifeforms to advance biological warfare. One of the men tells the other of the government's intent to secure a Xenomorph specimen for patenting. The pair discuss recruiting Patrick Massey, a mercenary who had previously impressed them, to lead a counter-operation of their own.
Meanwhile, at the psychiatric hospital, doctors inform Newt that she will soon undergo brain surgery—an operation which does not require her consent. Newt attempts to make them reconsider, promising an improvement in her behavior, but the doctors insist that they have been forced to take "drastic measures".
Upon learning of her peril, and with less than twelve hours remaining until the Benedict's departure for the Xenomorph homeworld, Hicks breaks into the psychiatric hospital, determined to rescue Newt. He intimidates a member of staff into revealing her location on the fortieth floor, and carries Newt away from her ward. With hospital security closing in, Hicks uses plastic explosives to blast out an exterior wall, and the pair leap from the highrise into the safety of an awaiting rescue ship. After a successful escape, Hicks smuggles Newt aboard the Benedict, putting her into hypersleep in the ship's aft compartment.
The company men discuss a recent mishap: a classified briefing, intended for the mercenary Massey, was accidentally sent via an unclassified channel, and accessed by his son. The men praise Massey's handling of the situation, in which he murdered his wife and son, and staged it to resemble a violent robbery. Sipping alcohol and smoking cigars from the comfort of their limousine, they speculate about how it must feel to be a sociopath.
At his government office, Doctor Orona reviews recent interview transcripts collated from various doctors within a fifty-mile radius. The interviewees all recount horrific visions consistently involving the Xenomorphs. Orona postulates that telepathy might be a mode of communication for the alien creatures, and comments on the peculiarity of the visions being isolated to a specific geographic area.
At a facility operated by the company Bionational, the pilot of the cargo vessel Junket awakens to find himself an object of study, having previously been impregnated by a Facehugger. He is monitored not only by Bionational scientists, but by the two executives, who are eager to observe the development process of the Xenomorph embryo. One of the executives wonders whether the pilot should be made aware of his prognosis. A doctor suggests that it might benefit the study. The executive instructs him to tell the pilot.
Salvaje visits a pregnant prostitute, who is unsettled by his disinterest in receiving her services. Content with watching the woman go about her household chores, Salvaje tells her that she is blessed by pregnancy, and expresses his desire to know how it feels to be connected to another living being. Later, Salvaje meets with Pindar. The technician angrily informs the preacher that his broadcasts have been attracting government attention, and refuses all future work with him. In response, Salvaje throws Pindar to the ground. Raising him up by his hair, Salvaje issues a threat, demanding that he continue the broadcasts.
Aboard the Bionational spaceship K-014, in pursuit of the Benedict, Patrick Massey briefs his crew on their objectives: they will board the government vessel via an airlock on its aft side, hold the crew as prisoners until it reaches its destination, and finally destroy the Benedict, leaving no survivors. Meanwhile, Benedict crew member Benson carries out his routine walk-through of the ship's corridors. He overhears the broadcast of a mysterious transmission. As he proceeds to investigate the source, he is stabbed through the neck by an unseen attacker, and forcibly ejected out of an airlock.
The pilot at the Bionational facility develops a seizure. Eager to witness the birth of the Chestburster firsthand, one of the two executives rushes into the sterile room. He leans in over the pilot, who suddenly breaks free from his restraints, and pulls the executive down over his chest. Holding the man in place, the pilot births the Chestburster, which immediately burrows into the executive's protective suit. The executive flees the room in panic. A security guard targets the Chestburster with his weapon, but before he can fire, he is shot dead by the second executive.
History and Alterations
Conceived as a direct sequel to James Cameron's Aliens, Outbreak 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 Outbreak, Aliens: Earth Hive by Steve Perry, in which Hicks became Wilks and Newt was now known as Billie.
When Dark Horse later came to reprint the Outbreak comic itself as part of the Aliens Library Editions series, it was similarly edited to feature these 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. All subsequent reprints of the comic have likewise used the original identities of Hicks and Newt, although the modified versions are still available digitally through Dark Horse Digital.
Dark Horse Comics
After its initial comic book run from July 1988-July 1989, the miniseries was collected and re-released in trade paperback form under the title Aliens: Book One. This collected edition, released in November 1989, also included the spin-off Aliens: Theory of Alien Propagation, originally published in Dark Horse Presents #24, and featured a new painted cover by artist Dave Dorman.
A deluxe hardcover edition of Aliens: Book One was released in in June 1990. This edition was foil stamped with a dust jacket featuring a brand new Aliens oil painting by Mark A. Nelson and again included Theory of Alien Propagation, as well as all of Nelson's cover artwork from previous printings of the series.
In the United Kingdom, a trade paperback collecting the series was first published by Titan Books in January 1990, titled Aliens: Book One (ISBN 1-85286-276-9). The comics were to be serialized and reprinted in 6 parts in Aliens magazine, Vol. 1 #12-17, from January-June 1992. However, the switch in publisher for the magazine from Trident Comics to Dark Horse International after issue 16 (May 1992) left the rerun of Book One unfinished.
In September 1993, Aliens: Book One was 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 August 1996, the series was edited and republished under the new title Aliens, Vol. 1: Outbreak. 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 comic (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. The series was also colored for the first time, as all previous releases had been in black and white. The Outbreak trade paperback was edited by Lynn Adair and featured a new cover by John Bolton.
In 2016, the original version of the series was published for the first time in 23 years when it was collected as part of Aliens 30th Anniversary: The Original Comics Series; the collection was released on April 26, as part of Alien Day. This version was a hardcover, "oversized" (8 × 12) format collector's edition, featuring the original, unedited 1988 version of the story (including the original characters of Hicks and Newt). The collection also included the related short stories Aliens: Theory of Alien Propagation and Aliens: Lucky, along with a pin-up gallery of the original issue cover artwork, a foreword by Verheiden, an afterword by Nelson and a selection of Nelson's original pitch artwork. All three comics were presented in black and white, with Lucky being specially converted from its original color format for this release. A miniature version of the hardback was also released exclusively as part of the Aliens 30th Anniversary Crate from Loot Crate, released simultaneously.
The series was collected and released again as part of Aliens: The Essential Comics Volume 1, released on October 24, 2018. This release once again used the original identities of Hicks and Newt, but uniquely was also in color, making the first time the original, unedited version of the comic had been published in full color.
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 1 collection, alongside many other early Dark Horse stories, once again using the colorized version of the comic but with the original characters of Hicks and Newt. The collection was released in May 2021.
Behind the Scenes
Series writer Mark Verheiden is a hugely influential figure in the world of Aliens, Predator and Aliens vs. Predator comics, having also written the two direct sequels to the original Aliens miniseries, Aliens: Nightmare Asylum and 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.
Artist Mark A. Nelson has likewise been involved with several other Aliens projects from Dark Horse, although perhaps none as notable as the original 1988 series. In 2016, the year Dark Horse Comics celebrated its 30th anniversary, Nelson was among the artists chosen to contribute to the company's year long anniversary variant cover program, creating a special alternate cover for Aliens: Defiance #1.
Almost a decade on from the release of the original Aliens series, Dark Horse would reunite the creative team responsible for the comic — Verheiden, Nelson, letterer Willie Schubert and editor Randy Stradley — for the short story Aliens: Lucky, produced to celebrate the company's 10th anniversary.