The 1979 story of Alien begins with a quote from Joseph Conrad. Not the mining ship Nostromo, named after one of Conrad’s novels, but the other direct quote, from his Heart of Darkness: “We live as we dream – alone.” Then, we see the unmistakable Alien title font: an H. R. Giger-inspired melange of indeterminate limbs, gnashing teeth, curvaceous techno-pipes, and shadowy apertures. This is followed by the omniscient narrator offering in fragments that “It starts with a ship… The ship… And the silence… Then… …The silence ends…” The USCSS Nostromo whirs into life through a series of repetitive clicks and concussive binary metres; the fateful crew wake up for the last time. Chattering, clattering, and complaining about full shares.
During the final climactic moments of Alien 3, the franchise’s hero, Ellen Ripley (tragically impregnated with the larva of an alien Queen) is approached by a mysterious figure, offering to surgically remedy her fatal condition and give her a chance at the peaceful domestic life she never had. This individual, referred to simply as “Bishop II” in the film’s credits, is portrayed by the enigmatic Lance Henriksen (who also plays the role of the heroic android Bishop). The finale of Alien 3 gives little explanation as to the true nature of Bishop II, allowing, in a massively cinematic fashion, for those questions to be pushed aside in service to Ripley’s final, ultimate sacrifice: the taking of her own life in order to eliminate the alien threat inside her and thwart the Company’s attempts to acquire the species.
Italian genre cinema has a rich history built on imitating other successful films. In the heyday of Italian cinema during the late '50s and '60s, the studio production machine of Italy cranked out cycles upon cycles of derivative films: Hercules (1958, Pietro Francisci) setting off a wave of sword and sandal films; Goldfinger (1964, Guy Hamilton) starting the Eurospy trend; the spaghetti westerns were based off the success of Leone’s work; and so on. With the advent of the big budget, summer blockbuster films from America in the '70s, such as Jaws (1975, Steven Spielberg), the Italians followed suit as best as possible: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, Steven Spielberg) led to Hunters of the Golden Cobra (1982, Antonio Margheriti); Jaws became The Last Shark (Enzo G. Castellari); Escape from New York (1981, John Carpenter) became 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982, Enzo G. Castellari); and Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985, George P. Cosmatos) became Strike Commando (1987, Bruno Mattei). If there was a blockbuster or a hit film, the Italians had an answer for it.
The trading cards were what did it. Almost everything else made sense, but why the cards? Why market stuff for an R-rated movie to kids who are not actually allowed to see it?
“Fundamental Comics,” a monthly editorial series that introduces readers to comics, graphic novels, and manga that have been impactful to the sequential art medium and the comic book industry on a foundational level. Each month, a new essay will examine a familiar or lesser-known title through an in-depth analysis, exploring the history of the title, significant themes, and context for the title’s popularity since it was first released.
Penny White is embarking on a new phase in her life: With her wedding to Peter looms on the horizon, Lloegyr sends a vampire curate to her parish, and her various charges begin growing up and moving beyond complete dependence; however, the whiskey-loving reverend struggles with her increasingly strained religious convictions, plus the more practical tasks of keeping Lloegyr’s residents from crossing through the thin places into her backyard. (A manticore finds her weeds quite enticing.) When Sue Harkness requests her help in investigating the migration of vampires into England, Penny jumps at the opportunity to deal with a problem that doesn’t affect her personal life. But, will the answers she finds serve as another reminder of how cruel the world can be and how heartfelt beliefs can’t provide complete protection?
You can tell Cullen Bunn is out to have some fun with The Damned. Yeah, there’s some serious goings on with demons and life and death, forgiveness, guilt, and all that, but with issue #9, Bunn digs in his heels and leans into the whole 1930s mafia world. We’re introduced to two new characters: Sophie and Wyrm, a brother-and-sister thieving team who are along for the ride with Eddie and Morgan. Eddie is the anti-hero of this world, and when he’s not tending to his mother brought back from the dead, he’s a cursed human who can’t die and who gets himself caught neck deep in trouble at every corner. His brother Morgan is the muscle, but smart, though - smart enough to know when Eddie is leading him by the nose. Eddie and Morgan can see the demons; Wyrm and Sophie can’t.
The most surprising thing about this issue was on the final page reading "To Be Concluded." Nothing in this issue or the issues leading up to it gave me the distinct impression that this was to be the penultimate issue. Grass Kings, from chapter to chapter, has broken from your typical storytelling structures. In some ways, that’s benefited the story; you really have no idea where it’s going next. In other ways, it’s made it difficult to build a continuing sense of tension, stakes, or drama. Grass Kings is part murder mystery, part political allegory, and part snapshot of a type of people. The story doesn’t always capture all of these elements in a balanced way, but as you snake back and forth between stories and characters, there are those moments of brilliance that make the series worth reading.
If you don’t already know, I’m a huge fan of military sci-fi. From Jack Campbell to John Scalzi to Orson Scott Card to Elizabeth Moon, they all have something to offer. But now, it looks like Joe Haldeman has jumped into comics once again with an ongoing series from Titan Comics. I had the pleasure of getting a signed copy of The Forever War, Vol. 1: Private Mandella at Forbidden Planet in New York in 1990. The new comic series is based on his second series of novels set in the same universe.
The final issue of Giants showcases the big, epic battle between monsters and brothers that the previous issue promised. It’s visceral, cinematic, and emotional. The outcome isn’t necessarily unexpected. The story has veered slightly away from the complex world the first issue created in exchange for a more good vs. evil showdown, or at least enlightened vs. led astray showdown; that delineation feeds into the emotional gravitas of the final moments. So, while the outcome isn’t unexpected, it is satisfying. Every twist and turn in this sci-fi actioneer calls upon elements of everything from Evangelion, Akira, and Godzilla. Every story element has been crafted beautifully into the story. Nothing feels inauthentic. Now, I will give a book the best compliment it can get: What would have made it more satisfying is if this series had a much longer run. Comic books, more than cinema and even television, have the ability to world build to the Nth degree. They can take their time and really delve into the characters, who they become, and why. Where Giants falls short for me is literally in the fact that it fell short…issue-count wise.