Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay #1
Tamra Bonvillain (colors), Daniel Chabon (editor), Johnnie Christmas (story adaptation, art), William Gibson (story), Nate Piekos (letters)
Dark Horse Comics
November 14, 2018
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
When James Cameron introduced some badass marines in his follow up to Ridley Scott’s Alien, he shifted the entire dynamic of the franchise. Following the 1986 Cameron movie, Dark Horse has been consistently publishing comics about our favourite xenomorph species, including the 1988 series that reunited Newt, Ripley, and Hicks to fight off an alien invasion on Earth. But the subsequent 1992 movie, Alien 3—written by David Giler, Walter Hill, and Larry Ferguson and based on the story by Vincent Ward—had numerous problems, not the least of which was that the film immediately and rudely offed Newt and Hicks right at the start. The only thing that could have been worse would have been letting Burke survive. (It’s taken me until season two of Stranger Things to mostly forgive Paul Reiser.)
As a fan of the franchise who will happily and obnoxiously GIF tweet the entire Aliens film any time it comes on, Alien 3 was definitely a disappointment, but I watched it and Alien: Resurrection with reluctant grumblings. Now we have the opportunity to read the screenplay that the world was meant to see.
Following the success of Aliens, producer David Giler and his partners, Walter Hill and Gordon Carroll, wanted to explore the corporate evil of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation with a story from cyberpunk author William Gibson that delved deeply into Cold War analogies. The relevance of that aspect fell apart with the fall of communism. Before we got to where we did with the film, there were also monks on a planet made of wood. But we’re here for Gibson, with Dark Horse finally releasing his unproduced screenplay.
Unlike the original sequel comic, which takes place ten years after the second film, Ripley and the survivors of LV-426 are still in hypersleep on the Sulaco, which has been nudged off course. Members of the Union of Progressive Peoples board the ship and make an unfortunate discovery. Meanwhile, Weyland-Yutani still has its eyes on harnessing the biological power of the xenomorphs to create deadly weapons.
The story takes its time to introduce us to a plethora of new characters, though it doesn’t spend a lot of time with any particular one of them. If there are going to be aliens running around, then it’s a good idea to have lots of fodder for them to deal with, before we get back to our heroic trio. While the multitude of other characters doesn’t give us any particular one to care for, knowing that Ripley, Hicks, Newt, and at least one half of Bishop, are still around, along with the looming threat of the xenomorphs, keeps things moving forward.
The issue opens with a very distinctive style that immediately immerses you into the feel of the films with a credit page that calls back to the high tech computer screens of the Sulaco. Christmas’ art is clean and details are clearly defined, switching to shadowed faces and alien silhouettes to darken the mood or heighten the suspense as needed.
Because the subsequent Alien films don’t quite satisfy, as a fan still craving more xenomorph goodness, I am admittedly very biased when it comes to the lore behind these characters and species 426. A new reader ought to know enough about facehuggers and the general alien menace to understand the danger going on, even if they don’t quite grasp the significance of the major players in the game. This first issue offers a reasonable amount of action, suspense, and just enough character development to make fans old and new want to know more.