(Welcome to Comic Book Drive-In, a series where comic and movie fans Jazmine Joyner and Rosie Knight recommend brand new, ongoing, and completed comic book series that tie into classic films and new releases.)

Alien is undoubtedly one of the best films ever made and it has been terrifying audiences for nearly 40 years now. Sigourney Weaver is nothing short of iconci as the xenomorph-beating badass Ellen Ripley, that H.R. Giger-designed creature is a total nightmare machine, and Ridley Scott’s direction is a masterclass in isolation, fear, and suspense.

We’re stoked to bring you a selection of scary, science-y, sometimes sweet, and (most importantly) female-led and female-created comics to fill the Ripley-sized hole in your 2018!

New Comic – Space Battle Lunchtime Vol. 1

The Talent: Natalie Reiss

What It’s About: Reiss’ gorgeous cartooning is put to brilliant use in this space adventure, which focuses on an intergalactic cooking competition and the young Earth woman who’s pulled into the center of it. It’s a triumphant story that celebrates creation, passion, and delicious baked goods!

How It Connects to AlienDeep space adventure and strong female leads, of course! This is a great sci-fi comic for those of us who love Alien but also want to enjoy the lighter things in the genre…or who want to share a cool comic with a young reader.

Rosie: Space Battle Lunchtime is honestly one of my favorite comics of the past few years. I was super-happy when Jaz suggested this as one of our choices because the juxtaposition of Alien and this cute cartooning masterpiece is a perfect representation of my interests. This was the first time I’d discovered Natalie Reiss’ work, and it’s honestly just so charming and sweet. I really love cooking comics, and so this mashup of a food manga and an intergalactic competition is really 100% up my alley.

Jaz: Same! I love a good cooking comic, and I just thought it would be fun to show a cute, deep space adventure with a strong female lead. I am in love with Reiss’ art – the bright colors and the scale of her book was something that immediately pulled me in. I love the different types of aliens and the fun character designs. Reiss’ attention to Peony’s different outfits is something straight out of a fashion manga and I love that, with each costume change, Peony gains more confidence in her cooking.

Rosie: That’s such a great point. Reiss’ attention to detail means that you can reread this comic over and over again, which I have. Space Battle Lunchtime’s humorous, colorful, all-ages feel might make it seem like a weird choice for our Alien edition, but I think that it’s actually a wonderful example of how eclectic and varied the sci-fi genre can be. Where Ridley Scott’s seminal film is dark and streamlined, Reiss creates a world bursting with technicolor creations. Alien is consumed with the horrifying isolation of being trapped in outer space, whereas Space Battle Lunchtime creates a cosmos filled with fun, friendship, and occasional non-fatal threats!

One of the most brilliant things about comics as a medium is how there really is something for everyone, and if you’re someone who loves a sweet story as much as scary one, then Space Battle Lunchtime is the perfect sugary dessert to Alien’s very savory entrée. Even if you’re not a fan of cutesy comics, Space Battle Lunchtime is a must-read, with enough cosmic conflict and brilliant, engaging storytelling to keep even the most cynical reader hooked.

Jaz: pace Battle Lunchtime is not only a gorgeous, fun comic centered on an intergalactic cooking show, but a wonderful tale about self-discovery and love. I ran through this series in one sitting and I immediately wanted more. I love how diverse science fiction can be; this list alone covers a wide array of great comics, each on a different point within the genre.

Ongoing Comic – Southern Cross

The Talent: Becky Cloonan, Andy Belanger, Lee Loughridge, and Serge LePoint

What It’s About: This space thriller focuses on Alex Braithe, a young woman who heads into outer space to discover just what happened to her recently deceased sister.

How It Connects to AlienA startling space horror story, this book is a perfect complement to Ridley Scott’s classic. Alex is a Ripley-level heroine, and the story is filled with just as much intrigue, terror, and suspense as Alien itself.

Rosie: I remember picking up the first collection of this in my old comic shop on a quiet afternoon and being totally blown away. I’m a huge fan of Becky Cloonan anyway, so this radical locked room space mystery was immediately something I really enjoyed. Pretty much as soon as you turn the first page, you’re thrown straight into the action, as we join Alex on the Southern Cross, a tanker flight to the refinery moon of Titan, the last place in the galaxy that her sister was seen alive. Dealing with massive grief, loss, and a dedication to discovering just what happened to her sister, Alex’s journey is immediately relatable even though she’s in the middle of outer space.

Jaz: I love how this comic, like Alien, plays up the horror and claustrophobia of being in the middle of space with a danger you can’t quite get a handle on. What’s great about Southern Cross is how it wavers between horror and science fiction. It flows effortlessly into each genre, making you feel just as confused but determined as Alex to find out what’s going on and how it’s connected to her sister’s death.

Alien and Southern Cross both share badass heroines trying to uncover a mystery wrapped in a shroud of corporate conspiracy, encompassing some of my favorite themes. The art in this book is phenomenal – Andy Belanger does a wonderful job creating the winding halls of the Southern Cross. The detail put into the character designs and the clothing is impeccable. Belanger’s attention to detail and Lee Loughridge’s incredible colors immerse you in the tomb-like shell of the Southern Cross, in which Alex is trying so hard to unearth the secrets of its strange gravity drive.

Rosie: Jaz is right. The visual world of Southern Cross is really something special. Berlanger and Loughridge never let up when it comes to intense visuals and an ever-encroaching sense of dread. Though that sounds pretty bleak, the story is never anything other than completely easy on the eye with the pair doing some really splendid work that leaves the audience with something beautiful, dirty, and often pretty darn scary!

Jaz: The cast of characters in Southern Cross is really reminiscent of Alien. Like the classic film, Southern Cross’ characters are surprisingly diverse. And once Alex gets on that ship, you can tell immediately that there might be a traitor in the midst. I like that Cloonan created a vibe that made you distrust everyone but Alex from the moment the book begins, even though Alex isn’t the most trustworthy narrator, with her secretly sordid past and connections to nefarious and shady organizations. Cloonan isn’t afraid to make a flawed character the center of the comic. But what makes Southern Cross even better is that no one is without their dark past and questionable behavior. Basically, everyone is untrustworthy and flawed, which makes this a thrilling read.

Finished Comic – Weird Science (Collected in The EC Archives: Weird Science Vol. 1)

The Talent: Marie Severin, Harvey Kurtzman, Al Feldstein, Harry Harrison, Wally Wood, Jack Kamen, and many, many more

What It’s About: These sci-fi anthology stories span from intergalactic adventures to spooky scientific mishaps. Imagine the Twilight Zone in comic book form and you’ll have a good feel for the stories that fill the pages of the comic so notorious that it ended up sparking senate hearings that saw the publisher shuttered and the Comics Code Authority created to censor future comic books.

How It Connects to Alien: EC Comics was notorious for their gory, grim, and often explicit books. Weird Science was their science fiction title, and we selected it not only because the twisted and violent stories are the forbearers of modern genre storytelling, but also because many of them were colored and occasionally drawn by the marvelous Marie Severin, one of the most famous women to have ever created comics! Alien is all about its tough female lead, so it felt only right to include some radical sci-fi comics by an amazing woman.

Rosie: It’s an honor to talk about a book by the late Marie Severin. In a world that often forgets trailblazers if they aren’t men, Severin carved out a legendary career for herself in the male-dominated field of comics. The first place she found a home was EC, the publisher of these radical science fiction stories that always surprise with a sting in their tail. This collection includes colors by Severin in some of her earliest work, and you really get a feel of just what she brought to the controversial pulp publisher. If you haven’t read these stories before then you’re in for a treat. They’ve been so parodied, homaged, and ripped-off over the years that you’ll almost certainly find something familiar in them.

Jaz: I love these comics. It’s like going through a secret season of the Twilight Zone every time I open one up. I got into Weird Science comics back when I owned a comic book shop. A customer came in and gave us a box of his father’s old issues and he had a whole bunch from this series. I dove in and got hooked immediately. The stories were always fun and fantastical. Full of great art, wonderful colors, and intriguing writing, you can’t go wrong with these classic science fiction tales. 

Rosie: This volume is huge at over 200 pages, combining the first six issues of the once-banned comic. It’s hard to underestimate the impact that these newsstand stories had and the controversy they caused which changed the comics industry forever. It’s pretty strange to read them with that knowledge now as they seem relatively tame, but at the time they were – aside from being widely popular – considered offensive.

I adore The Twilight Zone, Tales From the Darkside, and The Night Gallery, so I’ve always adored these short stories about strange men who can change shape and size, scientists whose experiments drive them insane, alien invasions, and of course MURDER!!!!! There’s always an abundance of murderers getting their comeuppance in EC tales and Weird Science is no different! So if you enjoy some good heavy handed morals and karmic justice, you’ll love every page of these outrageous comics.

Jaz: I had no idea that they were banned, that makes it even more interesting to read them now. I can see how the themes of the first issue could be seen as subversive for their time, but I love to see something that was once scandalous become tame in comparison to comics even on this list. Movies like Alien and many of the science fiction films of the past wouldn’t be around if it wasn’t for pulp comics like Weird Science and the work of creators like Marie Severin. That’s what makes them so great to revisit; you can recognize the homages that’ve paid to this series in comics, film, and literature.

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You can find all of the comic books mentioned online or at your local comic book shop. Alien is available to purchase on Amazon, VUDU, and anywhere else you buy your movies.

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