Marvel Explained is our ongoing series where we delve into the latest Marvel shows, movies, trailers, and news stories to divine the franchise’s future. This entry examines the new Marvel Comics Predator series by Ed Brisson and Kev Walker and how it aligns with the franchise’s gory four-color history.
The first Predator sequel did not occur on a screen but on a page. Two years after Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Dutch tangled with the Yautja, Dark Horse Comics launched the first issue in their sequel series. Predator #1 removed the alien hunter from Earth’s Amazon and dropped him in a nameless city’s concrete jungle, where Dutch’s brother roams thuggishly as a police detective. Written by Mark Verheiden and penciled by Chris Warner and Ron Randall, the comic is a brutal and bloody assault on the reader’s eyes. Dark Horse Comics leaned into filmmaker John McTiernan’s overly-machismo aesthetic and slathered it with a few more coats of red.
Thirty-three years later, Dark Horse no longer holds the Predator license. After Disney’s 20th Century Fox acquisition, the Alien and Predator franchises were absorbed into the mouse house. Marvel Comics released their first Alien title last year, but Predator screenwriters Jim and John Thomas prevented them from doing the same with Predator when they sued Disney to recapture their rights to the screenplay. Disney then countersued. The dispute eventually settled out of court, and Marvel dropped their Predator #1 this week.
Initially, when I realized Disney owned Predator, my heart sunk a little. How could their brand mesh with a storyline caked in gristle and gore? It’s easy to forget how many limbs Wolverine and Deadpool slice through each month. And as the Predator prequel Prey proved on Hulu, Disney owns enough realms where they can let their freak flag fly. They’ve slapped a “Parental Advisory” warning over the barcode. The new creators, writer Ed Brisson and artist Kev Walker are free to go nuts with the mythology.
Day of the Hunter
Predator #1 opens with five nearly wordless pages. We’re on an alien planet with no name, just the designation X14432-B. The year is 2056. We think we’re watching two Predators go at it, trading blows, slicing into each other’s fleshy bits with recognizable alien hardware. One Predator eventually gets the upper hand and takes the other’s head. She then whispers, “Dammit.” On the opposite page, the Predator removes their helmet, and we see a human face screaming in anger.
We soon come to realize that the titular Predator hails from Earth. Her name is Theta, and she’s determined to transform the hunters into the hunted. Without spoiling too much, Brisson and Walker’s first issue establishes our hero’s revenge-based motivation. She’s stalking the cosmos looking for a particular Yautja killer. In partnership with her ship’s AI, “Sandy,” Theta is closer to her goal than ever before, but when stalking one monster, she stumbles into the habitats of creatures who could cause equal harm.
Using a Previously On page, Brisson links his story to the same timeline where the first two Predator movies occurred as well as Predators and the most recent Shane Black fiasco. There is no mention of Prey‘s Naru or either entry in the Alien vs. Predator series. Nor can I find any reference or connection to the Dark Horse Comics material. Granted, we’ve probably got many more issues in our future with all kinds of secrets to unravel.
If It Bleeds, We Will Read It
Marvel’s Predator is not as aggressively violent as its late eighties twin. The Dark Horse tiles reveled in their depravity, with Chris Warner lavishly spotlighting wounds over story. As a kid, I often read those comics with a hand hovering over the panels. If mom or dad ever wandered behind my shoulder, I’d slap my palm down and eject, “Nothing to see here!”
Kev Walker’s art is inherently less gruesome, hiding the impalings and decapitations in shadow but delivering inventive acts of bodily harm. You still wouldn’t want to read Predator #1 on a subway unless you were ready for a few passenger glares. A bit involving the Predator’s Smart Disc, aka the deadly Frisbee, coughed an “Ouch” from my throat.
The primary pain, however, belongs to Theta. From her screaming introduction to the issue’s climactic crash, Brisson and Walker center the narrative on her torment. They’re taking the Ripley and Sarah Conner route, gifting their extremely capable badass with a broken heart. Theta dominates at every turn, but her vicious effectiveness stems from an insufferable loss. One issue down, and I’m already invested in her working through the trauma.
A Pretty Predator Comic
Mostly, Predator #1 is a pretty comic. Those Kev Walker shadows are not detractors. He gives the opening brawl a gothic quality, creating pages that wouldn’t be amiss in a Hellboy comic. Walker’s pacing is crackerjack, littering the pages with razor-thin panels until blowing up the action into these thick, chunky, mini-splash-page reveals.
Our investment in Theta’s quest rests exclusively with Walker’s acting ability. The expressions he renders hover between cartooning and realism, and every emotion is brilliantly communicated. Yes, even those belonging to the beasts with the mandibles.
Colorist Frank D‘Armata is probably responsible for making Predator #1 feel like a Marvel comic. The sheen he layers over Kev Walker’s art psychologically connects this story to those stories populated by Avengers and X-Men. There’s not a hint of spandex in this first issue, but we’ve already seen the variant cover mash-ups. We know someday Spider-Man will tangle with the Yautja, and D’Armata is preparing us for such a possibility with his house style. Considering how fantastic Conan the Barbarian has been within the Savage Avengers comics, you can’t tell me you’re not a little excited to see these worlds collide.
A Marvelous Predator
We’re flush in IP these days. A Predator comic in 2022 is not as exciting as a Predator comic in 1989…unless that comic is pretty damn exciting, which Predator #1 most definitely is. Expanded Universe stories are addictive because they expand. Dan Trachtenberg’s Prey is a story you could have seen on a comics page in the early nineties. It delivers a few key ingredients that the original film established but then rapidly wanders off in its own direction. Predator #1 does the same.
What Brisson and Walker do differently is put Stan Winston’s beautiful beastie on the run, making the humans the hunters for a change. Theta is probably just as out-muscled against her opponent as Schwarzenegger and Danny Glover were, but her determination provides unparalleled strength. She may lose a limb or two, but she’ll come out on top in a fight. Will her soul remain intact? That’s the uneasier question.
Predator #1 is now available at your local comic shop or via digital.