Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Story: William Gibson
Artwork: Johnnie Christmas
Colours: Tamra Bonvillain
Release Date: 14th November 2018
In 1992, 20th Century Fox released the eagerly-anticipated Alien 3. Plagued by studio interference, numerous writers being brought in and then sacked, endless rewrites (and in some cases no script at all), even director David Fincher disowned the film and it became incredibly divisive among franchise fans, primarily because of the offhand treatment of certain key characters from the previous movie. Personally I love it, and for me it’s easily the best of the sequels and prequels and most like the first film in tone and style.
What a lot of people don’t realise however is that the film we got isn’t the originally intended story. It’s not even the story that writer Walter Hill and producer Gordon Carroll originally pitched to the execs. Back in 1987 Cyberpunk author William Gibson (Neuromancer) was asked to come up with a script for a third Alien film. What he produced has widely been proclaimed to be the film that should have been made. Unfortunately the studio wasn’t sold on Gibson’s script and dragged their heels. After the WGA strike in 1988 Gibson was brought back and asked to rewrite his script, an opportunity he declined, and the rest as they say is history.
Gibson’s story sees the survivors of the ill-fated rescue mission to LV-426 caught up in a Cold War between Weyland Yutani & the Union of Progressive Peoples, with both sides desperate to get their hands on the xenomorph in an attempt to control the ultimate final solution.
While I’m extremely excited to see an adaptation of Gibson’s script hit comic book shelves I think that releasing it in single issue format was a mistake. This is clearly not a story that lends itself to a single issue format and with the recent run of beautifully presented Hard Cover Anniversary reprints of the Alien, Predator and Terminator comics I can’t help but feel that Dark Horse have really missed a trick.
I know that if they stay close to Gibson’s original script then there’s plenty of tension and horror to come but the delivery of the first issue for me just lacked the edge it should have had and even the most basic set pieces lacked the tension you’d expect.
My next problem is the artwork. When you think of the Alien movies you’re primarily thinking dark, foreboding and tense, an environment where death could be hiding literally anywhere. While Johnnie Christmas’ sci-fi credentials are well founded (Angel Catbird, Island, Pisces) and in some ways reminiscent of the work of Chris Burnham (Nameless, Batman Incorporated) I find his style too clean and lacking the edge and tension that Burnham brings to his work.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of Christmas’ work generally but I definitely feel he was the wrong pick for this particular project. Where the artwork is really let down for me though is Tamra Bonvillain’s colouring (Alters, Doom Patrol, Angel Catbird). Again, I have really enjoyed Bonvillain’s work on other projects but for an Alien story it’s way too bright and garish where it needs to be dark and subdued. It’s also too flat and plain where the bright neon pallet used elsewhere would make some scenes feel more alive. Christmas and Bonvillain are great artists, but this clearly doesn’t feel like the right project for either of them.
So, with my reservations about delivering this story in single issues and my problems with the art, this unfortunately and ultimately is a disappointing delivery of what should be a celebration of what could have been. If you want to pick this up I’d recommend waiting for the trades to hit the stands, as the graphic novel format may give you a better experience in reading it as a whole. For me, I’m currently 50/50 as to whether I even want to pick up the rest of the issues.
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek