Dark Horse Reclaims A Lost Classic With William Gibson’s Alien 3 #1
by Brendan M. Allen
This is the official adaptation of the original screenplay for Alien 3, written by William Gibson, the award-winning science fiction author of the cyberpunk cult classic Neuromancer. You’ll see familiar characters and places–but not all is the same in this horrifying Cold War thriller!
After the deadly events of the film Aliens, the spaceship Sulaco carrying the sleeping bodies of Ripley, Hicks, Newt, and Bishop is intercepted by the Union of Progressive Peoples. What the UPP forces don’t expect is another deadly passenger that is about to unleash chaos between two governmental titans intent on developing the ultimate Cold War weapon of mass destruction.
I’ve more recently viewed Alien and Aliens than Alien 3, so the context I’m working with is how well this book plugs into the end of Aliens, rather than any sort of comparison to the film that ultimately replaced it. Fair? Fair.
Dark Horse Comics has shown us time and again how well the Alien universe translates to comic book media. Johnnie Christmas not only has the challenge here of adapting an existing script by a well-known, visionary author to a new medium, he also has to take a script that was originally written more than three decades ago and keep it topical for modern tastes.
This first chapter of William Gibson’s Alien 3 #1 feels like it flows right out of the end of Aliens. There’s an interesting new dynamic with the “Cold War” theme of the story. Weyland Yutani has always been pretty awful, and now we’re seeing this whole other entity in the Union of Progressive Peoples, who also don’t seem like a very wholesome group. Both sides have pieces of the Xenomorph puzzle, and now they’re racing to weaponize the beasts.
The analogy is right out there for the Cold War. I can’t even say “thinly veiled.” The terminology used in the solicit is pretty blatant. Cold War, governmental titans, weapons of mass destruction…The name of the communist ship is even UPP Rodina. (UPPR?) An evil corporation in the US is racing to control new weapons technology against a communist threat. (Mister Gorbachev…tear down this wall!)
So, is it a good comic? I almost don’t even feel like that’s a fair question. It’s faithful. This is clearly a script written for the franchise thirty one years ago. I watched these films in the eighties. This would have come out when I was ten. I loved this book because ten year old me would have loved this book. I’m not sure a ten year old reading this book in 2018 will get the social context. Nostalgic? Yes! Beautifully drawn and colored? Absolutely! I just don’t know how well a modern audience will connect.
Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay #1, Dark Horse Comics, releases 14 Nov 2018. Story by William Gibson, adaptation and art by Johnnie Christmas, color by Tamra Bonvillain, letters by Nate Piekos of Blambot, variant cover by Paolo and Joe Rivers.