Alien 3 #1
Writer: Johnnie Christmas & William Gibson
Artist: Johnnie Christmas
In one sentence: This needs more track and polish but I am interested in seeing it out.
William Gibson is one of the preeminent poet-prose authors of the last 30 years. His original Sprawl Trilogy ushered in a dystopic but technologically aspirational future; It became a genre reference standard. Gibson continued building on futurist concepts through his entire career and while Neuromancer is his best-known book, Pattern Recognition is the best.
In the comics world, the Gibson model to world building has been emulated by such authors as Greg Rucka with his Lazarus series. In most attempts to visualize a future where technology drives culture, Gibson is the unseen hand.
The movie Alien came out in 1979 and remains one of the best examples of a truly alien creature movie. It directly influenced William Gibson’s own writing. If you haven’t re-experienced the movie in some time it is worthwhile doing so as it truly is a masterpiece of slow-moving space horror. Alien, like Gibson himself, seats itself at the head of everything that came after.
When the sequel Aliens came out it was so popular the producers immediately sought to build on the fervor with a trilogy. They approached Gibson and he wrote them a screenplay. Given how circular the creative process all was It should have been a slam dunk. Only it wasn’t. And Gibson’s screenplay was shelved for other visions.
Now, years later, Dark Horse has brought that original screenplay to life. I was very much looking forward to this but early on had to concede that this isn’t a perfect start. The dialogue and pacing are missing the trademark Gibson approach and flavour and that is to be expected. After all, this is an adaptation of a pretty dated screenplay. I’ll get into the basics of what doesn’t work but I think what hurts it the most is the decision to publish this serially. This should have been a trade release.
Johnnie Christmas has the heavy task of both adapting the screenplay and art. Johnnie Christmas is familiar with adaptation. Check out Margaret Atwood’s Angel Catbird (Dark Horse)and you’ll see that the Vancouver based artist is up to the task of challenging work. Or get your hands on Pisces (image) and there is no mistaking the man’s talent. He’s great and I was very excited about this pairing.
Alien 3, takes place after the movie sequel Aliens. Ripley, Newt, Hicks, and the android Bishop all survive in cryosleep and drift through space. A navigational error means they are intercepted by the Union of Progressive Peoples. The UPP are unprepared for what they will discover and the cycle of Facehugger to Xenomorph begins again. Weyland Yutani, the company, makes an appearance in the comic and you know these things will all come together in some grand finale.
I want to like this. I expected to like this but for me, the effort seems flat. Johnnie Christmas’ style fits but doesn’t engage. The plotting and dialogue easily set up the world and the pieces on a board I’m already invested in. There’s a lot to unpack early on as the Alien 3 world unfolds but without any sort of tension or dynamic. Even the end reveal, is narrow and feels languid, boxed in. All in all, it looks nice but reads exactly as it is: A capable adaptation of a 30-year-old screenplay.
I would have loved for this to come sooner. I would have loved for Gibson himself to have been more involved, maybe re-writing it from scratch. It’s not like he’s a perfect author where movies are concerned and this could have used more polish. Serial publication will be where it gets advertised and finds viewers but I feel that it needed to be published in one hard go without forced stops. Lovers of the Alien franchise will likely feel decently satisfied with this first issue but I suspect that it would read much, much better as a complete trade paperback release.
Alien 3 #1
Well executed by Johnnie Christmas but the source material is maybe thirty years too late. Lovers of the Alien Franchise will enjoy this but I found myself wanting it to be better.