Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Within the realms of comic book fandom, there has been a bit of a Walt Simonson resurgence, and rightfully so. Beginning last year with the release of both the The Mighty Thor Omnibus and the Thor: Artist's Edition and hitting even bigger this year with his work on The Avengers and the release of his own study into the history of the DC Universe, The Judas Coin, there is little doubt that Simonson and his body of work is finally getting the attention someone of his artistic stature truly deserves. One of the things that collected editions do that single issues just can't is effectively grant immortality to the creators by giving the future generations the opportunity to discover great bodies of work that they never would have been able to do before, not that Walt Simonson needs such help, currently working on one of Marvel's flagship titles. As a man who has worked in the industry for over thirty years you can imagine the sort of body of work that Simonson has amassed, as have other publishers, ready to capitalise on a modern master by bringing his work to the masses. The latest of these is Titan Publishing, who have obtained the rights to Alien: The Illustrated Story, the comic book adaptation of one of the most loved sci-fi and/or horror movies of all time. Is it any good? (Yes.) Find out after the jump.
Written by Archie Goodwin
Art by Walt Simonson
Published by Titan Publishing
It's strange to think that, in terms of the realms of entertainment, it wasn't that long ago when the world was a completely different place. A world where if you didn't go and see a film at the cinema, you never saw it, and more fool you because it was on for about four months. The rapid rise of VHS and then DVD has seen us get to a point where films released into different formats ten weeks after they have finished their cinema runs. Whether or not this is a good thing can be debated forever but there is one thing that the accessibility of film has for a time, effectively killed off, and that is the comic book adaptation. Marvel were making big money doing titles such as Star Wars, and it can be argued that Dark Horse was initially built on movie adaptations. Heavy Metal, the United States sister publication to the seminal French Anthology Metal Hurlant, wanted to get in on the act too and managed to get the rights to Alien, handing the duties off to respected writer and editor Archie Goodwin and one Walter Simonson. (As a quick aside, comic book adaptations of movies are strangely gaining traction again with DC releasing both The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo and the sure to be wonderfully drafted by R.M Guera, Django Unchained later this year.)
Alien: The Illustrated Story is a very literal adaptation of the original Alien script by Dan O'Bannon so ultimately there is a strong chance you will know the story on display but for the uninitiated, Alien is a tale of the crew of the Nostromo, prematurely awakened part way through their journey back to Earth to investigate audio beacon emanating from a small planet. Often cited on lists for both the best sci-fi and best horror films of all time, Alien is a triumph in pacing and atmosphere. Archie Goodwin doesn't take any liberties with the original story and the pacing of Alien: The Illustrated Story is virtually the same as the film, yet due to the fundamental differences between the mediums of film and comics, the atmosphere can be quite different between the two. Goodwin knows this and makes up for the lack of score and 'jump' moments by focusing the progression of atmosphere elsewhere, such as really pushing the creepiness of Mother to the forefront of the comic. Being able to read the story rather than being told it also leads the brain to latch on to other themes that just lurk underneath the surface of the film like the greed of both individuals and corporations.
Verdict - Buy It
One for fans of the film but more importantly fans of Walt Simonson, Alien: The Illustrated Story is fascinating insight into both one of the important films of all time and one of the most exciting and dynamic creators the medium has ever seen. Expertly paced and richly detailed, Alien: The Illustrated Story is a must buy and at fifteen dollars, (with a more expensive, Artist's Edition to follow soon,) a more enriching and cost effective experience than whatever Crisis on Infinite House of M's is going on this week.