Aliens: Countdown was a black-and-white story from Dark Horse Comics initially published in one-page installments in issues of the promotional publication Dark Horse Insider from Sept.-Dec. 1991. Countdown probably started in Dark Horse Insider Volume 1, #14 (Sept. 1990) and continued for an unknown number of issues until Dec. 1991. The story was then collected in issue form and received a second printing in the UK as a two-part mini-comic included free with Aliens Magazine, Vol. 2, #9-10, in March-April 1993.
The story was written by Mike Richardson and illustrated by Den Beauvais. Each of the mini-comic issues featured new painted color covers by Beauvais.
Released in issue form only in the Aliens Magazine in the UK, the first mini-comics was 7 pages long and the second was 10 pages (though instead of being published as a separate, removable mini-comic, part 2 was actually included in the contents of the issue itself). With no other reprints ever produced, Countdown is currently very hard to find in the United States. Though it can be found as an online download through certain sites.
In the Aliens comics line, during its initial release Aliens: Countdown was published concurrently with Aliens: Earth War (June-Oct. 1990), Aliens: Reapers (April 1991), Aliens: The Alien (Nov. 1991), and Aliens: Genocide (Nov. 1991-Feb. 1992). It was followed by Aliens: Hive (Feb.-May-1992).
Official description from the inside-from cover of issue #2:
Their mission had gone from bad to worse...and it just deteriorated. Three marines, now officially designated 'non-vita's, have been left behind by their buddies to deal with the marauding aliens who have set up home in an abandoned police precint. Their predicament appears hopeless, and to make matters more desperate, one of the earlier survivors of an alien attack has triggered a nuclear self-destruct device in the complex with no over-ride.
Their only chance is to make it to their ship on the other side of the precinct, but they have to run the gauntles of alien ambushes and even face a group of 'non-vital' marines-turned-mercenaries, to get there. The Xenomorphs take care of the renegades, allowing the trio to escape into the bowels of the base...only to confront an angry alien Queen and her drones. Yet again they manage a narrow getaway, this time to find that their rig has been trashed and the police are anxious for some straight answers...
After the abandoment of the Earth by the government seen in Aliens: Book One and Book Two, three remaining Colonial Marines who have set up base at an abandoned police precinct building in New York City search a nearby Bio-Research Company building for answers to the invasion. The marines are an officer named Sylvia known as "Silk", who could have evacuated the Earth to one of the Colonies but chose to stay and fight the bugs, and two other grunts who have been declared "non-vital" and left behind during the evaction: Tom, and Phil Sandberg, the story's narrator. Instead of clues, the trio find that the building is infested with aliens and a dying employee has set off a nuclear self-destruct device before killing himself. The three race to through the complex and back to the nearby police precinct to try and reach their ship and get away.
After fighting their way through the Aliens in the building, they first meet a group of fellow Marine 'non-vita's who have turned mercenary scavengers, then stumble upon the lair of the area's alien Queen, and finally meet a former policeman named Robertson next to their wrecked ship. Robertson, who now lives a few miles away with some families trying to survive, offers them information about the base that gives them a chance at shelter from the blast.
Unfortunately, things proceed from there in typical Aliens story fashion...
Behind the Scenes
Aliens: Countdown basically serves as a companion piece to Aliens: Book Two and features the same artist, Beauvais. As in Book Two, his work again seems to be airbrushed throughout Countdown, but appears only in black-and-white in the story.
Mike Richardson is the founder and publisher of Dark Horse Comics. Richardson has created the story premise or worked as writer on a number of projects for the company over the years. He started out as a comic book store owner in the Portland, Oregon area before establishing Dark Horse in 1986.
The company in the story is at first simply refered to as "The Company," and later refered to by the name "Bio-Research". "Bio-Research" may be a confusion of "Bio-National" the company that first brings the aliens to Earth in Aliens: Book One, or may be a reference to a division of "The Company" first mentioned in the story. "The Company" could also be Weyland-Yutani, the first "company" mentioned in the Aliens universe.