Comic book adaptations of movies used to be associated with the big summer blockbuster – in the days before video, my shelves were lined with adaptations of Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Alien is a less obvious film to adapt, since it’s designed for a mature audience, and even the bits that aren’t supposed to scare you have something of an adult menace about them.
This adaptation captures this metaphorical darkness well. In a comic, dialogue comes to the fore, and you get an increased appreciation of what the crew of the Nostromo are thinking about each other, and the general lack of regard and trust they have for one another.
What doesn’t work quite so well are the action sequences and the presentation of the alien. Ridley Scott’s shadow-soaked space hulk oozes terror, while the looming monster’s lightening-fast strikes are what makes it so deadly. In the comic this isn’t captured to the same extent, making the end result a lot less intense.
However, it’s shortfalls in cinematic moodiness are countered with a surprising flash of colour. With an impressionistic blur, Walter Simonson’s painted panels bathe the characters in light and colour, bringing out a new dimension you won’t have seen in Alien before.
In the modern world, where we can pick up digitally perfect renditions of our favourite movies and play them on vast screens at home, the more sedate pace of a graphic novel adaptation seems quaintly old-fashioned. However, this book takes you back to a time when comics were the only way of reliving cinematic experiences outside the movie theatre.