Out this week, Dark Horse Comics is releasing a new comic book adaptation of Alien (with Predator on the way soon). This comic is adapted from the original 1976 Dan O’Bannon screenplay (with notable works like Total Recall under his belt) by Cristiano Seixas, giving readers a new look and interpretation of the original concept before it ever got filmed. With art by Guilherme Balbi, this book allows readers a glimpse at what Alien could have been under a different creative team and with the limitless budget of comic book storytelling.
The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up this book is how well rendered it is. Balbi draws with a thin, detailed line that is perfect for starships and the technological dashboards of future space travel. He also has a gritty rendering style not unlike Mitch Gerads, which likely uses photographs to create hyper-realistic technology on the page. Backed up by color artist Candice Han, the book’s sickly greens and touches of blue help create an atmosphere in every scene. There are even purples used to render the spaceship Snark, in which the characters are awakened to start the book. The art looks close to what you’d expect from a film version, never straying away from realism or cinematic qualities. Simply put, it’s a half step away from looking like a film.
Further making this feel like lost version of the film, there are great effects. Lighting is key, but there is also good use of motion blur and sound effects. It helps the usual mix static imagery up so it looks like moving images on the page. The general look and feel of alien tech are also different enough to look hyper-futuristic and different from the film.
The story is good, too. I’ve never read the original script, but Seixas does a good job establishing the characters and getting the story moving. By the end of the issue, I felt satisfied with how much happens. Yes, the story follows rather closely to the original film, but it’s still paced a bit differently. It takes time to establish each character and the ship itself. I haven’t watched Alien in a while, but I can safely say this feels entirely different from the film thanks to the pace, plotting, and attention to characters in each panel.
Letters by Michael Heisler are also great. There’s a scene where we get to see an alien language, a key element lost without sound in this format, but Heisler nails it. Utilizing a caption to show the sound also helps make the transmission look like it was sent via the technology in the ship, further alienating the characters from the strange symbols.
I was skeptical going into Alien: The Original Screenplay, largely because it could have easily been a cash grab. Thankfully, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Dark Horse Comics has a worthy adaptation of a classic horror movie script on their hands, and it serves to show different creators can deliver a different vision that’s well worth consuming. The approach is meditative and haunting because we know what is going to happen, and yet visually sharp and unique in its approach to the point where it should be held up and shown as something to be emulated with other films. Visually stunning and a worthy read for Alien fanatics and casual sci-fi fans alike.