By Levi Remington
In loose, belated honor of Alien Day, I decided to read my very first Predator comic. The license has a long history at Dark Horse, beginning in 1989. Most of the stories were published during the nineties, but the character has made a small comeback since the Predators movie in 2010. It was the drought in between where Predator: Hunters found its origins, as editor Randy Stradley and writer Chris Warner discussed plans fifteen years ago for a series that bucked the standard Predator trend – the hunters would become the hunted. After so long in limbo, the story has finally come to fruition. Was it worth the wait? Read ahead to find out while I feed the damn snakes and inappropriately assume your tribe.
This 5 issue miniseries promises to turn the tables on the Predators themselves, giving the human survivors their chance at revenge. A promising concept, but as to be expected the first issue is too busy with setup to fiddle with it. I hope later-on will involve much more rage-fueled Predator slaughtering. What we do get is a classic Predator chase sequence in the first third, some plot establishment in the second, and some meet-the-team flashbacks towards the end.
I'll start with what worked for me. The opening sequence is absolutely gorgeous. Francisco Ruiz Velasco (visual designer for Hellboy II, and concept/storyboard artist for Pacific Rim) is responsible for the art, and it shines brightest in its depictions of tropical landscapes and the Predator itself. The colors are lush, the environments are full of life, and the Predator is a work of sheer terror. Velasco's talent for foggy, grim atmosphere does wonders for this opening jungle sequence, but loses its luster in the second act where it takes on a more dusty appearance and spends too much time portraying a group of wise-cracking cardboard people with a limited spectrum of facial expressions. It's not to say the art is anywhere near bad, it just doesn't come close to the bar it sets for itself in the beginning.
As soon as the art took a turn, the book was forced to lay bare its flaws. There were a few additional stunning panels/pages, but it wasn't enough to keep the story from waning. These characters have nothing going for them. Their personalities are thin at best, and stereotypical at worst (see the humorless dude-bro Tyler for exhibit A). I found it very hard to care about their squabbles, and spent the majority of the comic longing for the excitement of the beginning, or at least wishing for some conversations that don't rival the Predator in lethality with their propensity to bore.
This miniseries has potential, and fans of the license would be making a mistake if they didn't at least keep an eye on future issues. While Warner's writing leaves a lot to be desired, especially in regards to characters, Velasco's utterly fantastic art could prove to be the only selling point this comic needs, even if it's underutilized here.
Predator: Hunters #1
Written by Chris Warner
Art by Francisco Ruiz Velasco
Letters by Michael Heisler
Published by Dark Horse Comics