Can a graphic novel possibly muster the intellectual and aesthetic gumption to match the caliber of a science-fiction classic? Or is this adaptation doomed from the start? Read on to find out.
The official description from Titan Books:
Vacant. Two space helmets resting on chairs. Electronic hum. Lights on the helmets begin to signal one another. Moments of silence. A yellow light goes on. Electronic hum. A green light goes on in front of one helmet. Electronic pulsing sounds. A red light goes on in front of the other helmet. An electronic conversation ensues. Reaches a crescendo. Then silence.
And when the silence is broken… the crew of the Nostromo must grapple with a terrifying life force they cannot leash, nor even comprehend – the Alien!
I remember when I was a kid (yes I was under 10) when I first gazed upon the majesty of the cinematic masterpiece, Alien. For a movie that came out back in 1979, I can attest to the fact that it still had enough visual punch to captivate and scare me. I know I was a kid, but to this day it still excites me every time any television screen lights up with the Nostromo in focus. From the Alien ship to the iconic last supper scene this property had such a successful launch that it has withstood the passage of time. I honestly can’t help but stop what I’m doing, sit down and watch it to completion no matter what part it’s at. The visual design, the pacing, the excellent portrayals from several of Hollywood‘s soon to be stars highlight the strengths of this beyond memorable jaunt in space.
With that history established, I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to review the original graphic novel for UTF and I jumped at the chance. What I ended up reading was something that represented a rather archaic yet compelling release, that highlighted the old ways of how comic books used to be made. It’s an amalgamation and a somewhat paradox as it encapsulates the unmistakable style of its time while offering something that was simply beyond its 1979 release. The way the panels were rendered, how the dialogue drove each scene forward offered a faithfulness that is absent from most adaptations today. The creative team works hard to establish their credibility while offering more than a few nuggets of their own to sell this intriguing rendition of the storied flick.
Walter Simonson effortlessly weaves the screenplay into a graphic novel, as characters go on the same journey as they do on screen, with just a few minor alterations. Now I know when someone says alterations it usually means a bad thing, but not here. The brief yet slight tweaks inform the plot in a way the elevates more than a few side-characters while humanizing our leads. Perhaps the most astounding thing about the script is the fact that the pace is kept so controlled that the end result makes you feel like you just sat down and watched the movie in its entirety The only issue I had here, is the fact that the one thing that made the movie so memorable was the tension and to be fair the author tries to establish it here but it just doesn’t translate well.
Archie Goodwin hits the art out of the park, his quirky and irresistible designs perfectly encapsulate the set pieces and actors from the film. Nothing is left out as some insanely original interpretations force a visceral yet vibrant experience on any willing readers. I can honestly say there were moments where the pencils mirrored the established world so well that it was easy to remember the lines as delivered by these actors. With all that said the shots of the Alien were masterful, in a way that ebbs and flows with both chaos and a destructive ferocity that should echo throughout any interpretation of this romp.
Alien: The Illustrated Story is a masterpiece, that offers fans a shinning example of how good a movie adaption needs to be. It’s not better than the flick but it’s right up there as it attempts to deliver the terror that has made people scream ever since eager moviegoers took a chance and entered their local theaters in 1979. Highly recommended.