Warning: contains spoilers for Alien #6!
Marvel’s Alien recently revealed the grand, cosmic purpose of Xenomorphs within its universe, but while fascinating in its own right, this plot twist also sets up a dark origin for the Predator race. The deadly aliens have a long history battling and killing each other both on and off the screen, and as of 2020, Marvel Comics has acquired the rights to both.
First seen in 1979’s Alien and 1987’s Predator respectively, Xenomorphs and Predators first clashed in Dark Horse Comics’ Dark Horse Presents #34-36, with their rivalry coming to cinemas in 2004’s Alien vs. Predator. The two franchises fit together perfectly, as Xenomorphs are the perfect predator – so deadly that even their blood burns like acid – and Predators are the perfect hunters, traveling the galaxy to find alien species worthy of their abilities. But while 2012’s Prometheus and its sequels revealed the origin of the Xenomorph species, far less is known about how the Predators came to be.
In Marvel’s recent Alien #6 – from Philip Kennedy Johnson and Salvador Larroca – the synthetic human known as Iris reveals that the Xenomorphs act as a cosmic test for spacefaring races. “When organic species grow arrogant enough to travel the stars… they find it waiting,” she explains. “It’s always the same after that. First, you tried to harness the fire as a weapon, like all the ones before you have done. Next, you’ll try to join with it… use it to make yourselves better.” Iris’ words suggest the Xenomorphs aren’t merely a challenge faced by humanity, but an eventual hurdle that any organic race will face when it heads for the stars, and she implies that each species eventually fails this test, generally because of their desire to first harness the Xenomorphs and then to merge with them. To escape this process of destruction, a spacefaring race would have to avoid beginning this cycle… perhaps by coming from a society which would instead kill Xenomorphs on sight.
While the process Iris describes serves to kill off any and all organic life which leaves its own solar system, it could also serve as a selection process which weeds out any species not inherently and immediately hostile to Xenomorphs. Iris describes a seductive process where each civilization that encounters the Alien monstrosities tries to use them, and eventually – through accident or malice – is destroyed by that decision. But one of the few things known about Predator culture is their absolute veneration of hunting, and it’s possible this would exempt them from the cycle, as their first and last instinct would be to destroy Xenomorphs wherever they found them. This would allow hunter species – but only hunter species – to escape the natural limit the Xenomorphs place on spacefaring civilizations. The Predators haven’t remained obsessed with hunting despite their incredible technological advancement: they were able to continue advancing because they’re hunters.
This theory complements the clashes fans have seen so far between Xenomorphs and Predators, where the latter tend to take heavy casualties but come out ahead. In Dark Horse’s Aliens vs Predator, it’s revealed that Predators habitually seed alien worlds with Xenomorph eggs in order to cultivate hunting stock, having found them to be the ultimate challenge. With what fans now know about Xenomorphs, this suggests a twisted escalation where one of the few (possibly only) races not to fall to the Alien scourge nevertheless chose to spread it across the universe.
While all of this is speculation so far, Marvel’s Alien #6 does otherwise create a plothole that needs to be answered, namely how Predators survived (and thrived within) a process which killed off so many civilizations before them. The theory also doesn’t necessarily close the door to Xenomorphs one day gaining the upper hand, since 2018’s The Predator revealed that the hunter civilization has begun to experiment in hybridizing with other species, suggesting the deadly Xenomorph cycle may have been delayed rather than fully escaped. Hopefully, it’s an idea Marvel intends to explore in future Alien and Predator stories, giving the hunter species the same ambitious treatment that Xenomorphs have enjoyed in the series so far.