A funny thing happened to me as I read this book. At first I kind of resisted the stories. After all, they were created in the early 1980s and contain all the regular characteristics of a book from that era. The stories are rather verbose compared with comics in 2008, the art is less dynamic than we’re used to seeing today, and there’s much talk of a long-lasting Cold War.
Yet, as I read on, this book grabbed me.
Alien Legion is often referred to as “the French Foreign Legion in space,” the story of how headstrong creatures from all over the galaxy come together to fight a nasty alien war. Indeed, there are compelling and dynamic scenes of war and devastation in this book but, at the same time, this book is tightly focused on the characters it depicts
Oddly, for a story focused on alien creatures, I found the humanity of the characters in this book to be its most compelling aspect. I was surprised to find that some of the most alien creatures showed some of the most human frailties imaginable: excessive pride, drug abuse, lack of loyalty to friends, and more.
Chapter five, “Chain of Command,” contrasts two characters with each other. Legion Captain Sarigar is obsessed with discovering the truth about an invasion by the Harkilons, the enemies of his army. Sarigar is so obsessed with finding this truth that he neglects the men who serve under him as well as the chain of command. Sarigar is acting correctly in his own opinion, but those actions cause him to fall short from being the soldier he needs to be.
A Legionnaire called Skob is the other side of the coin. His partners in the Legion believe Skob to be a coward because of actions he took to abandon a member of his battalion during battle. Skob believes every word of his fellow soldiers’ complaints about him. This leads to a very nasty turn of events that result in an incident that will have great reverberations in future stories.
This chapter presents a nice contrast between the too-arrogant Sarigar and the too-humble Skob. Sarigar’s failures help head to Skob’s misery, while Skob’s misery highlights Sarigar’s lack of attention to his solders. Pride goeth before a fall, but so does self-loathing.
Of course, appropriate for a series about the military, there’s plenty of action to go along with the character stuff. The first chapter, for instance, presents a pretty pointless battle in the midst of a pretty pointless war. Legionnaires die for no reason other than that they’re fighting with all their skills to survive a horrific battle in a place where they simply do not want to be.
There’s a certain amount of heroism in such a story, but also a certain amount of despair at a system that forces creatures to essentially die for nothing.
This is all pretty heady stuff for what looks on the surface to be a mere sci-fi action comic, and that’s what really won me over with this book. I found it interesting and ultimately quite compelling to read a book like this that operates on more than the most obvious level.
Most of the art in this book is by Frank Cirocco, who was well-known in the 80s for his nice work depicting alien civilizations. It should be no surprise, then, that he seems right at home in this comic. He does a nice job at conveying both the strangeness and normalcy of the alien creatures, and does a fine job with the battle scenes.
There are some moments that are confusing under Cirocco’s pencil, but he generally does an effective job of presenting a comic with a unique and creative feel to it.
I was happily surprised by how much I enjoyed this book once I allowed myself to. I’m glad that Checker rescued this series from comics limbo and gave it a nice collection.