Saturday, March 18, 2017

A Look at Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report




With Alien: Covenant inching closer to its May release date, I thought I would take a gander at one of the Alien franchise's more ambitious publications: Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report by S.D. Perry, with illustrations provided by Markus Pansegrau and John R. Mullaney.

The WY Report recounts the events of the Alien movies (including 2012's prequel Prometheus) from the perspective of Weyland-Yutani itself, the seemingly omnipresent megacorporation that has been hell-bent on learning the secrets of the parasitic, biomechanical Alien (which is referred to as "Xenomorph XX121" throughout the book).

A book has already been published that included all four Alien movies in a single volume: Alien: The Archive, which was published in 2014 by Titan Books. However, that book detailed the real-life production of each of the movies; in contrast, The WY Report provides a fictitious, in-universe examination of the many details both within and between the movies, thus creating an overarching meta-narrative that pulls the movies' characters, settings and technology together into a coherent and engrossing whole. Read on for my complete review.

The WY Report is more than just plot summaries of a series of films with pages of glossy, full-color stills (although those are definitely present). It provides bios of each of the characters, detailed schematics of the many vehicles and weapons, and a selection of reports, interview transcripts and other documentation from the Alien universe. These details add much more background to the saga, answering many (but not all) of the questions that were not addressed in the movies.

As its title suggests, the book is organized as if the reader is a high-level employee at Weyland-Yutani (complete with occasional lines of redacted text). Before the book delves into the characters, locations and events in the movies, it provides an overview of everything the company knows about the lifecycle of Xenomorph XX121. This introductory section also provides a summary of the company's history and a list of its technological achievements in the fields of space exploration and colonization. Also included is a review of Weyland-Yutani's AI technology and the differences between the various androids that appear in the films (i.e., Ash, Bishop, Call, and David).




Events from the movies make up the bulk of the book and it concludes with a summary of what the company believes will be "practical" applications of knowledge extracted from a genetically stable Xenomorph XX121. Since this is an in-continuity book, each of the movies are given their own unique identifying name (e.g., “Encounter on LV-426”, “Incursion at Hadley’s Hope”, etc.). Perry does a good job at capturing the voices of the various characters from the movies in the extra reports, interviews and transcripts, as well as providing the singular "voice" of Weyland-Yutani. Likewise, the artwork contributed Pansegrau and Mullaney is gorgeous--their work alone enough to recommend this book.

The WY Report is very comprehensive in its retelling of the Alien saga, although there are some omissions. Even though most of the vehicles and weapons in the movies get detailed diagrams, the Narcissus escape shuttle from Alien and the scientific research vessel Auriga from Alien Resurrection don't get the diagram treatment. I was also hoping for maps or diagrams for the terraforming settlement on LV-426 in Aliens and the refinery/prison on Fiorina 161 in Alien 3, but neither are provided.




In terms of the "extended universe" side of the Alien franchise, the book makes brief references to the events and characters from three titles: the Alien: Isolation video game, the Alien: Out of the Shadows novel, and Dark Horse's Fire and Stone comic book miniseries. While those tidbits are a treat to fans who have been paying close attention to the franchise over the years, they do have their own problems when comes to fitting in with the book's narrative. For example:

  • If you're looking for answers regarding the fate of Ripley's daughter Amanda immediately after the events of Isolation, you won't find it in this book.
  • The book specifically attributes the events of Out of the Shadows as the reason why Ripley's shuttle took over 50 years to find, but it doesn't say anything about what happened on the Marion and LV-178 (the space ship and planet that were featured in the novel, respectively).
  • Given how drastically LV-223 changes between Prometheus and Fire and Stone, you'd think that Weyland-Yutani would devote more time to the incidents of Fire and Stone in its report outside of a brief mention on the company's timeline. Furthermore, the Predators play a key role in Fire and Stone, but The WY Report neither confirms nor denies the existence of Predators in the Alien universe.

When The WY Report was first published in 2015, it was a Sideshow Collectibles exclusive that cost $325 because of its sculpted slipcase. I enjoy the book enough to recommend it to other die-hard Alien fans, but I also recommend that they stick with the much cheaper, slipcase-free version that costs around $25 to $30. Since the events of the upcoming Alien: Covenant promises to shake up many fan assumptions about Xenomorph XX121, $25 is the right price for a book that might receive a sizable re-edit in another few years.


Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report, with its Xenomorphic slipcase.




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