By Matthew Jent
Prometheus: Fire and Stone #1
Script: Paul Tobin
Art: Juan Ferreyra
Letters: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Cover: David Palumbo
Variant Cover: Paul Pope, with colors by Shay M. Plummer
Genre: Sci-Fi/Movie Tie-In
Last year, Dark Horse announced they were rebooting their licensed Aliens and Predator comics, launching the first Prometheus series, and tying them all together in a shared universe. That shared universe has arrived with Prometheus: Fire and Stone #1, to be followed by three more Fire and Stone series for Aliens, Predators, and Aliens vs. Predator, respectively. Each series will run four issues, and will conclude with a single, double-sized wrap-up issue.
Reaction to the Prometheus film was divided. It stands at 73% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, which is a little surprising. Most folks I’ve talked to personally hated the movie, especially fans of the Alien series. But for me, it was a return to form for the series (and universe) launched by Ridley Scott’s initial Alien film in 1979. Prometheus, the film, had retro space suits paired with modern moviemaking sensibilities, themes of cosmic dread and cosmic creation, and questions about where are we going and where we have been. It was majestic and daring science-fiction, populated with compelling characters.
I loved the movie, and I was ready for more.
Prometheus, the comic book, captures the look of its motion picture predecessor, but the first issue isn’t clear about what questions this story is asking. The film wondered where humanity came from, and how its characters would react to the answer. Fire and Stone introduces a new ship (the Helios) and a new crew (including salvagers, documentarians, and an android) who are en route to Moon LV-223, the setting for Prometheus the film. Most of the crew thinks they’re looking for a crashed ship, which the reader knows is the Prometheus of the title. Angela Foster, the Helios’s captain, knows that Peter Weyland himself was aboard Prometheus, and presumably died on LV-223 seeking Engineers, who he believed were the creators of mankind. Angela wants to complete Weyland’s mission.
But why? Captain Foster announces her intention to find answers to one of the many cameras aboard the Helios, but we don’t know why it matters to her. It’s true that Fire and Stone is simply the first issue of not only a four-part series, but also of an entire line of shared-continuity books, but in the first act of Prometheus the film, we understood that Elizabeth Shaw, played by Noomi Rapace, had a belief in God that was sometimes in opposition to her scientific beliefs. Meredith Vickers, played by Charlize Theron, was a Weyland Corporation representative there to enforce the rules even as she clashed with David, Michael Fassbender’s android, who chased after human affectations and modeled his speech patterns after Peter O’Toole’s Lawrence of Arabia.
In contrast, Fire and Stone’s characters sometimes reveal bits of backstory — the captain keeps her true purpose on LV-223 a secret, the astrobiologist has a mysterious illness, the documentarian is romantically involved with a member of the crew — but there are no compelling character moments in this issue. Even if Captain Foster’s job is to simply complete Peter Weyland’s mission, an implied “me too!” is not a very compelling character motivation.
But at least in the absence of rich characters worth investing in, Fire and Stone offers an interesting plot. After a one-page prologue set in the time period of the film, the comic jumps ahead to the year 2219, roughly 130 years after the Prometheus the film and about 40 years after the events of Aliens and Alien³. When the salvage crew of the Helios lands on LV-223 — though there is some uncertainty on their part if they’ve landed on the right moon — they find a world that has been irrevocably changed by the events of the film. It’s different from the LV-223 we’ve seen before, but it’s still recognizable as existing in the Aliens universe. The Helios crew explores with even less care than their Prometheus counterparts, which will surely enrage the same segment of the audience who thought the Prometheus crew were crazy for taking their helmets off, breathable atmosphere or no. But this seems consistent with the Weyland-Yutani protocols (or lack thereof) for exploring new worlds that we’ve seen in the films. The characters make bad decisions, which leads to dangerous situations, which is another hallmark of stories set in an Alien universe.
Juan Ferreyra’s art is another high mark for the book. There are a lot of Helios crewmembers introduced in just a few pages, and their depictions remain clear and consistent throughout. The illustration and coloring styles (and the spacesuits) remind me of European sci-fi comics in the vein of Métal Hurlant. The colors in particular are crisp and bright, which is something I’ve come to expect from recent Dark Horse books. Once the Helios lands and the crew leaves the ship, the book reveals LV-223 mostly through two-page spreads, breaking away from the single-page claustrophobia of the scenes set on the ship, an effective way to pull the reader’s attention across the expanse of a strange and unexplored world.
Paul Tobin is the only credited writer in the advance review copy I received, but much of the press for this shared universe reboot talks about the “writers room” approach to all of the books. Tobin is joined by Chris Roberson on Aliens, Joshua Williamson on Predators, Chris Sebela on Aliens vs. Predator, and Kelly Sue DeConnick on the crossover finale issue, and as the group’s lead writer. Tobin’s Prometheus is designed to be “the warm, beating heart of all of these books,” according to AvP’s Sebela in an October 2013 interview with io9. Which might be true, but in addition to jumping the Prometheus story into the timeframe of the Alien films, the tone and atmosphere of this issue is much closer to stories about xenomorphs than the one we’ve seen about Engineers. “Why are we here?” is replaced with “Get out of there fast!” as the “beating heart” of this story’s engine.
That could be great news if you loved the Alien quartet of films and were disappointed in Prometheus’s ties to the series. But for anyone looking forward to Prometheus, the comic, carrying on the spirit of Prometheus, the film, it’s a disappointment.