The third chapter of the Alien franchise has always been a divisive film and, thanks to Charles de Lauzirika’s fascinating and exhaustive behind-the-scenes documentary covering the making of four original films, the studio’s troubled and treacherous path to the final product is well known among fans. Author and pioneer of the cyberpunk genre William Gibson delivered one of the first drafts commissioned for a third Alien film and, while the screenplay never made it to the silver screen, Dark Horse Comics (and the talented Johnnie Christmas) have now breathed new life into this “alternate history” for the characters of survivor Ellen Ripley, Colonial Marine Corporal Dwayne Hicks, and young Newt.
MINOR SPOILERS BELOW
The first issue of Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay picks up shortly after the events of James Cameron’s Aliens. The marine spacecraft known as the Sulaco (which is carrying Ripley, Newt, Hicks, and android Bishop) wanders into prohibited space controlled by the U.P.P. (or Union of Progressive Peoples). U.P.P. forces their way aboard the Sulaco, stealing Bishop and encountering some stowaway aliens, as well. While the U.P.P. team manages to escape with the android despite withstanding casualties, what becomes increasingly clear over the course of the first issue is that the alien threat still exists and is likely spreading in multiple directions.
For diehard fans of the franchise, Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay is a hypersleep dream come true. While, personally, I have fantasized for years of a graphic novel adaptation of Vincent Ward’s wooden planet Alien 3 concept, there’s no denying that Gibson’s Cold War-flavored story is gripping and thrilling and dabbles in themes of the human race’s self-destruction through its search for the perfect weapon, a subject that is unsettlingly timely given the current political subterfuge and nuclear tensions between our nation and others. Some story points seem somewhat different than the Gibson screenplay I read years ago, but, ultimately, Christmas does nothing short of a phenomenal job adapting the unproduced work. The pacing is solid, the characters and dialogue feel like they belong in the world Cameron and Ridley Scott created, and Christmas’ stellar artwork makes it a nostalgic joy to revisit the characters, spaceships, and universe that has so many fans miss.
– Interestingly, according to the wiki for Gibson’s screenplay, his take on Alien 3 is the only version that gives a definitive answer as to how the alien egg found its way on to the Sulaco:
“…an Egg develops from Xenomorph genetic material inside Bishop’s remains, presumably deposited there when he was ripped in two by the Queen. From this Egg, a Facehugger then emerges and attacks a member of the U.P.P. team that boards the vessel.”
This has yet to be confirmed in the comic book version of the story, but this kind of interesting, little tidbit from Gibson’s script is exactly why hardcore Alien fans won’t want to miss one issue of Christmas’ awesome adaptation.
Final Verdict: Dark Horse delivers another phenomenal addition to its impressive Alien comic library and the mythos as a whole. If you’re a fan of the franchise and you’re not picking up this series, that’s a Carter Burke-style “bad call.”
Creative Team: Story – William Gibson, Adaptation Script and Art – Johnnie Christmas, Color Art – Tamra Bonvillain, Letters – Nate Paikos of Blambot, Cover: Johnnie Christmas with Tamra Bonvillain, Variant Cover: Paolo and Joe Rivera
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
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