Reasons to give a book a chance (incomplete and in no order):
Let’s compare Aliens: Inhuman Condition to the list above:
- Writer: John Layman - yes
- Artist: Sam Kieth - YES
- Character - unknown
- Idea – who cares, its John Layman and Sam Keith!
That clinched it. I tried not to buy Aliens: Inhuman Condition, I really did, but a hard cover book from those two creators for only $10.99. I only have so much will power. Inhuman Condition tells the story of Jean DuPaul, a “socialization specialist” in charge of teaching the artificial persons (androids) how to integrate into human society without coming off as the creepy golems they are. DuPaul’s world is shattered after the artificial facility she works for is attacked by the local xenomorphs (Aliens) and kills her fiancé, Science Officer Harris. Anyone familiar with the Aliens movies knows that a staple of the franchise is that Weyland-Yutani, the company that controls everything, is run by a bunch of insensitive tools, and Inhuman Condition reflects that. Only two days after the attack, the facility is back up and running and everyone else is back to work as if nothing ever happened while DuPaul slides further and further down the rabbit hole and loses her grip on reality. Inhuman Condition is one of those books where there are no good guys, only bad guys, victims, and forces of nature, and it is a fantastic read.
While I was re-reading Inhuman Condition in preparation for this RUview, I was struck by how short the book actually was. In terms of how long it took to read, how much happened, and how long my memory thinks the book was, Inhuman Condition blows away most six issue trades out of the water. John Layman (Chew, Detective Comics) tells a tale of loss, murder, and redemption in such a way that there is no wasted time, everything moves the story forward in a manner that makes the reader feel like they are taking a stroll though the park. There is no sense that the book is rushing the reader, cramming plot points and themes into every page, or in any way forcing the story along; it all flows naturally and freely and when it’s over, the reader knows they were given a complete and very satisfying tale.
Oh, Sam Keith, I’ve missed you. After Batman: Through The Looking Glass and the muddled mess that was, I became afraid that Sam Kieth had lost it and that he decided to phone it in from now on, I am happy to report that Through the Looking Glass was an outlier and Kieth is still one of the best at what he does, and what he does is gorgeous. Always one for preferring to draw and write women, Kieth’s unique vision adds much needed emotional support to Layman’s scripts. Kieth is able to communicate DuPaul’s pain, her boss’s sociopathic nature, and the betrayal felt by the artificial as they are led to the slaughter. Layman didn’t need decompression and six issues to tell his story because Sam Kieth brought his A-game.
Joining Sam Kieth on colors duty is John Kalisz, who complements Kieth’s work as well as any colorist I can think of. The difference in the pages Kieth colors and Kalisz's is subtle, but important. Whereas Kieth’s colors add a sense of cartoony over-the-topness to the situation, Kalisz’s pages are filled with emotion and foreboding that only goes to strengthen the empathy we already feel for the main character.
Aliens: Inhuman Condition collects the Aliens: Inhuman Condition stories from Dark Horse Presents #12-17 and is well worth the price tags and time. Never having read an Alien book before, Inhuman Condition is a perfect introduction to that universe.