Hello! You can blame this one on a conversation I had at a party. I say party but at my age that's four men in a suburban living room with some nibbles and tinnies with the conversation always one slurred word away from movies. At that point it's all about ALIEN from my end of the couch. And so is this huge block of stale drivel. It's a bit wayward but if you stick with it I do mention comics eventually. Dedicated to the enduring magic of the wrestler, teacher and actor Mr. Brian Glover (1934-1997).
Anyway, this... In The Interest of Clarity & Fairness John Tells You What He’s Up To This Time Out
Bodged together with duct tape as they may be my sensors indicate a sudden flurry of micro changes in air density in the Dark Horse licencing department lately. Either this is to soften the sting of
Weyland-Yutani Disney-Marvel nabbing back the licence to the children’s entertainment STAR WARS or because there’s a new ALIEN videogame out. Not actually being employed by Dark Horse I don’t really know. But it turns out that there’s a fat batch of interconnected limited series capped off by a finale issue. If I’ve got it right you’ve got four issues each of PROMETHEUS: RON & NANCY, ALIENS: PORK AND BEANS, ALIENS VERSUS PREDATOR: GREEN EGGS AND HAM, PREDATOR: FLARES & BEADS (or maybe they are all subtitled FIRE AND STONE, but where’s the fun in that, eh?) To top it all off there’s some bow tying by Kelly Sue DeConnick in a finale issue. No, I don’t know who’s drawing the finale but, yes, I know who’s writing it because that’s how comics (a primarily visual medium) works these days. So, you know, it’s been a while since I tried your patience so I thought I’d do something special for you. I ran the numbers and apparently in dollars the cost of all these comics comes to, let’s see, carry the one, and…a fuck-ton of money. It’s certainly a bit rich for my palate. So I’ll tell you what: I’ll look at the first issue of each. Financially it’s still a bit racy but that’s how much I love you. Hopefully the prospect of all this will grab you a bit more pleasantly than a big hand-crab trying to face rape you. Having actually read some of my writing I can’t guarantee that though.
It All Starts Promisingly enough But Then John is Immediately Side-tracked Into Talking About Movies he Hasn’t Watched For So Long He’s Really Just Talking About Memories And We All Know How Reliable That Jackass’s Memory Is
The idea was if nothing else I’d have a good time because, well, I’m enormously selfish and also because I really like ALIEN movies. Except after a moment’s thought I realised I didn’t. You can skip to the comics if you want at this point. It’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure Review!
Do you want to listen to an old man moan about movies turn to page 2.
Turn to page 243 and hear him complain about comics.
If you roll a 6 go and spend time with someone you love.
Take A Picture To Capture That Magic Moment Where He Shows Enthusiasm Rather Than Belittling Disdain or ALIEN (1979)
I do like ALIEN; ALIEN is great. No complaints on that score. ALIEN is the movie that comes for you in the night. ALIEN is one of those movies which you watch for the first time and you feel something click firmly home and you know you will be watching this movie for as long as you are watching movies. I have been watching ALIEN for about thirty years with the odd break here and there to live this life thing and I still never get bored of ALIEN. ALIEN is. ALIEN. ALIEN. ALIEN. Jeff “Altered States” Lester wrote about ALIEN here because Jeff Lester is a man of great taste. (Although in his characteristically dazzling piece he forgets that the big difference between ALIEN and STAR WARS is STAR WARS is for children.) Some of you might remember Jeff Lester and his partner in wonder Graeme McMillion$ from before. Before they set out for the new life which awaited them in the off-world colonies. I wonder how their new Patreon funded life of steak and fine wines is working out for them. Watch out for that gout, guys! Anyway, ALIEN; the pinnacle of people trapped in a hostile environment being picked off one by one movies. ALIEN; crew expendable: story of my life; story of all our lives. The massive (I’m talking creative not financial; sheesh) success of ALIEN is all very odd because ALIEN should just be a piece of enjoyably trashy genre hokum, but it is in fact far better than that. Decades after it burst into cinemas it still leaves me feeling soiled and twitchy after every viewing. And that’s hardly because I don’t know what’s coming; it’s because ALIEN has real power. ALIEN has the power of nightmares; the power of the poorly suppressed thought; the power of the suspicion that the Universe never got the memo about you actually mattering. In ALIEN as soon as they answer the distress call everything doesn’t just start going wrong, everything starts becoming wrong. I’m not even getting into all the stuff about the leathery egg sacs, organic openings and mobile, fanged phalluses (Phallusi? Phalluseseses?). ALIEN is. And it remains so to this day.
A Superficial Look At The Last James Cameron Movie He Enjoyed Ends Up With Us All In An Arcade In Cornwall or ALIENS (1986)
After that it’s ALIENS which is still good stuff. It’s James Cameron and the big thing about James Cameron is that the more money and freedom he has then the less interesting he gets. Luckily, with ALIENS he’s just about at the outer limits of my interest so I still have a good time. And that’s not bad for a movie that old; it still thrills and I still jump but it doesn’t wound like its progenitor does. There’s something redundantly comforting about ALIENS’ desire to explain (there are eggs; there is a Queen; they are like insects; I have killed the magic!) ALIEN doesn’t want you to understand what’s going on; some mystery stubbornly remains because, well, that’s unsettling. ALIENS explains things too much and becomes an action movie rather than a horror movie. It’s a very good action movie but it’s only a pretty good ALIEN movie. Experience tells me things get contentious quick with ALIENS but let me be clear here: I don’t mind ALIENS. The woman whose life I soil daily with my very presence thinks it has dated horribly. I don’t know, I think ALIENS still rocks. James Horner's urgent bin lids clatterthon of a score helps more than people admit. Could do without the kid though; Isn’t she plucky, now bugger off. Mind you, whenever the family unit goes on holiday we check out the arcades and have a pop on that ALIENS arcade game; the one with the mounted guns. That game is always somewhere in every arcade. I saw a new game where you shoot animals like an American but I don’t think that’ll catch on in Cornwall. Animals, no. Xenomorphs, yes. Stands to reason. Since I am a wholly regrettable human being I can only guess that the secret of a long lasting relationship is hunting down the ALIENS arcade game and playing it together. So, yes, I don’t mind ALIENS but it isn’t ALIEN. And, yes, someone out there will prefer ALIENS to ALIEN because the world will always need people who are mistaken.
“Thus arse RHEUM-ARE CuNDRoll!” or ALIEN3 (1992)
I’ll be uncharacteristically direct: ALIEN CUBED isn’t exactly a good movie. People let it off a lot because of its ‘troubled production’ and because David Fincher went on to do FIGHT CLUB. Me, I like it better than I probably should because it is filled with British accents. If ALIEN is HP Lovecraft’s BLUE COLLAR in space then ALIEN CUBED is HP Lovecraft’s PORRIDGE in space. It’s both comforting and amusing to think that in the far flung future no matter how far you go from Earth your lugs will still rattle to a Yorkshire bark. ALIEN CUBED is even more special to me because one of the accents is bellowed by Brian (KES) Glover, who not only looks like my Uncle Kenneth but, better yet, once pulled his car in on North Bridge to ask me and a mate directions to the digs he was due to stay in while treading the boards at the Civic Theatre. Yes, later in the ‘rub-a-dub-dub’ over some ‘laugh and titter’ we did both wish we’d told him to “stick to the road and stay off the moor”. I guess that’s not really my anecdote as such because I hung back in my usual fear of life but I nicked it anyway. Sorry, Justin. If you ever look up the unused scripts for ALIEN CUBED by William “Neuromancer” Gibson and David “PITCH BLACK” Twohy you’ll appreciate the filmed ALIEN CUBED even more as neither of the rejected scripts seem too concerned with the Alien. In fact they seem to begrudge the Alien’s contractually obliged interruptions of, respectively, the cold war analogy and the space prison hijinks which form the bulk of them. Both scripts continue the shift started by Cameron in ALIENS from movies about the Alien to movies about other things which happen to have the Alien in them. While ALIEN CUBED fails to be the former it at least struggles like a good ‘un not be the latter. Sure, like Twohy’s script, there’s a prison setting but, endearingly, Fincher & Co are clearly trying to make the Alien central again. The movie works hard not to have the Alien secondary to a larger analogy but to be integral to any analogies which might be occurring in the movie’s vicinity. I mean, it is a bit of a mess so I don’t quite know what it’s on about but I can tell it’s trying to be on about something; that always gets points in my book. I just looked and there’s a rejigged version on my Blu_Ray (I know; swanky!). It’s supposed to be well different with the Alien coming out of an ox rather than a dog and Brian Glover telling a protracted joke about remembering the Alamo (not really). I was surprised that, apparently, none of the dropped footage included Steven Berkoff as the movie largely consists of sweaty bald Englishmen shouting in thick accents so he seems an odd omission. Anyway, I should give that a decco. I’ll come back and edit this bit if I’ve had time to watch it. (I guess I didn’t get time.)
For The Entertainment of Children And The Easily Amused Faecal Matter is Referenced To Excess or ALIEN RESURRECTION (1997)
Similarly ALIEN RESURRECTION had a ‘troubled production’ but no one lets it off because it’s shit. It’s very pretty but it’s still shit. Here all ALIEN CUBED’s spirited resistance to the insistent trend of the Alien movies away from the Alien was steamrollered into the dirt. The result is a glossy action movie with a great cast (Brad Dourif!) and spectacular set design saddled with a script so shitty it smears everything about it. Worse, it might as well have had irradiated shih tzus in it as the Alien. My favourite reaction to this movie was that of the late and very great H R Giger in a documentary where, commenting on the Nu-Alien, he said something roughly on the lines of: “It was a piece of shit. Quite literally a piece of shit.” This terrible, terrible waste of everybody’s time, money and effort was written by Joss Whedon, but apparently it’s not his fault. He also did CABIN IN THE WOODS which I watched last week and that was also a piece of shit; this time because it was too busy being impressed with itself to actually be a movie. It was a lot like someone who thinks they’re above horror movies telling you about a horror movie they’d seen rather than, you know, watching an actual horror movie. It would have made a decent five minute skit, basically. Of course that’s because I’m old and certainly not because 90 odd minutes and several million dollars is a bit excessive for what is basically a smug joke about Scooby fucking Doo. Anyway, I’m sure that isn’t Joss Whedon’s fault either. So, yeah, where we? Oh, while ALIEN started it all off by beggaring expectations ALIEN RESURRECTION ends things by beggaring belief.
“I Ain’t Got Time To Bleed.” Or All The Other Stuff He’s Not Really Going To Bother Pretending He’s All That Interested In or PREDATOR/PREDATOR2/PREDATORS/ALIEN vs PREDATOR and PROMETHEUS
You shouldn’t really look so surprised when I tell you I really like PREDATOR, after all it is another people in a hostile environment being picked off one by one movie. It also has a script that’s as tight as a nut and just rolls like the goddamn thunder. Everything about it is great except the guy starring in it, but everything about PREDATOR is so great I can put up with him. Ugh, that guy; not even ironically, you feel me? PREDATOR 2 is okay; if it came on I wouldn’t leave the room but I wouldn’t seek it out either. People who know about science (“science-tists”) have told me that PREDATORS is a bit dodgy on the old science front. I’ll take their word for it but I thought it was a great-stupid pulp premise which, sadly, stubbornly refused to ignite the expected flares of delight in my hind brain. Maybe it’s because Adrien Brody is as convincing an action hero as Rod Hull. Also, Laurence Fishburne looked like he was in more danger from gout than predators. Maybe he was Patreon funded too. Now, you all know me and how I live in fear of being called an elitist but, holy fuck, really, I mean, those ALIEN VS PREDATOR moves sure suck. I’ll admit I’ve only seen the first one as that was enough; it was like an uncharismatic jumble of cut scenes from a video game. Perhaps the second one is the SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS of people in a hostile environment being picked off one by one movies. After all, at our works’ Christmas do (pies in a pub; the glamour of it all!) last year a gentleman in his twenties revealed these AvP things were his favourite movies. EVER. Yes, even better than COLOR OF NIGHT. I know! Basically though it’s hard to feel I was at fault in my dislike since by this point it had not escaped my notice that the Alien franchise was reduced to the level of ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. Oh, and I haven’t watched PROMETHEUS. Can I go out and play now?
Meanwhile Back At The Point or THE COMICS!!!!
PROMETHEUS: FIRE AND STONE #1 Art by Juan Ferrya Written by Paul Tobin Lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot® Cover art by David Palumbo Dark Horse Comics, 22 pages, $£3.99 print/digital or $1.99 digital after a period of time (2014)
This begins oddly with a prologue featuring a probe which is mobile enough to travel billions of miles through space and smart enough to analyse an entire environment but is neither smart nor mobile enough to avoid somebody’s foot. This foot is either a shout out to the movie (which I haven’t seen) or a secret to be revealed at its own sweet pace; it’s hard to tell because the story then jumps forward around 129 years whereupon Tobin proceeds to treat us to, well, a rerun of ALIEN basically. Sure, Juan Ferrya busts his talented nuts trying to disguise this by draping everything in the high-end hotel bathroom aesthetic of PROMETHEUS as opposed to the bedsit squalor of ALIEN, but it’s basically ALIEN all over again. That’s not a bad idea but unfortunately everything’s kind of pumped up to the extent that it starts to undermine things. There are a lot more characters here than in ALIEN but they are a lot more unlikeable and a lot more stupid, particularly as most of them are scientists and particularly as the ALIEN crew were verging on the suicidally daft in the first place. These Prometheans just sort of wander around blithe at the sight of all these “phenomena” (bit of science jargon there, cheers) which at best should necessitate a reconsideration of some of the more fundamental assumptions humanity has made about the nature of existence, and at worst strongly hint that the whole place is more dangerous than a jumper made of those bloody lethal Japanese kitchen knives.
These great minds of science find weird goop displaying the qualities of everything ever in chaotic flux and then casually slip a bit in their pocket for later; requests like “Can I take these alien ants which have displayed unprecedented ferocity back on the ship?” are met with “Oh, go on then.” These geniuses would play Twister in a room full of bear traps. The comic ends when they discover just such a room and decide to open the door without, I don’t know, “scanning” it or whatever science can do by 2219. I’m pretty sure by 2219 science will be able to tell us what’s on the other side of a door. Something to look forward to there. Anyway, some dude who is dying of an unspecified illness, maybe space-gout, is going to do something really stupid, a lot of people are going to die screaming and, er, Juan Ferrya sure draws pretty. He’s got this colouring thing going on where it looks like he’s done it all with really hard coloured pencils (yes, I know but with a computer; thanks) and I found that interesting. His attractive and sedate visuals are quite appropriate to what is basically a set up cum travelogue issue. It may have taken a whole lot of stupid to get things moving but PROMETHEUS: FIRE AND STONE is professional enough stuff: OKAY!
ALIENS: FIRE AND STONE #1 Art by Patric Reynolds Written by Chris Roberson Coloured by Dave Stewart Lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot® Cover art by David Paulmbo Dark Horse Comics, 25 pages, $3.99 print/digital or $1.99 digital after a period of time (2014) This series takes place before the events of PROMETHEUS: FIRE AND STONE #1
If you’re anything like me (and for your sake I hope not) you’ll often wake up in the night wondering what happened to that bunch of colonists we didn’t see in ALIENS. Well, rest easy, pilgrims, because this comic is all about what happened to those colonists we didn’t see in ALIENS. Basically they got attacked by Aliens flew to the moon where that PROMETHEUS: FIRE AND STONE comic took place and got attacked again. If this bunch had any luck it would be shitty. This series starts off with a bang and rarely lets up; consequently it’s all largely running and screaming like a someone’s thrown a load of Aliens into a January Sale. So it’s to Chris Roberson’s credit that he still manages to introduce his cast and demonstrate the characteristics which will define them for the duration of the mini-series. However, it’s to his demerit that this is all largely just running and screaming because that relies on the art being strong enough to stop it all feeling a bit breezy; a bit lightweight. Before I get stuck in I would like to say that the artist, as with all modern artists working from other people’s scripts, has my sympathies. I imagine the script probably read a lot like this: (Obviously I have no idea what the script looked like. Maybe Chris Roberson described everything to the last detail and even provided breakdowns and sketches. I’m just assuming here which is always a really excellent idea; I’m having second thoughts about this bit now. Hope no one notices.)
ALIENS: FIRE AND STONE
PAGE 1 (3 Panels)
We are on that planet from ALIENS or something.
PANEL 1: The colonists are running and screaming.
PANEL 2: An Alien gets a colonist. (Have fun with it!)
PANEL 3: There are now less colonists but they are still running and screaming.
That type of thing is good for an artist because they can do what they want but it’s bad because the multiplicity of options is just as likely to paralyse. It takes quite a bit of work and talent to make something like the above visually impress on the printed page. Here the art is by Patric Reynolds, the guy who did CITY OF ROSES in DARK HORSE PRESENTS. I didn’t like his art there but it works a bit better here. A bit. His line is still unsettlingly flakey suggesting everything in the world he’s depicting is inordinately friable (I’ve probably said that before; it’s still true). I don’t have some beef with the guy, he can clearly draw but he’s not really the best choice to illustrate a lot of running and screaming. Mostly because conveying motion would be handy but his panels resemble movie stills. And while everyone looks human and has a definite look it’s another case of the Amazing Photo Faced People. There’s a very real difference between someone pulling a “oh noes!” face and someone actually scared shitless; ask your dentist. He’s gamely attempted to adapt his photo referenced style to Aliens but it looks a lot like he’s got some photos of apes lunging about and scratched out an Alien shape over the top. However, since the script calls for the Aliens to be out in the open a lot Reynolds does have a tough remit. A lot of the threat, the unsettling otherness, of the Aliens just dissipates when you can see them (which is why you don’t see it properly until the end of ALIEN; basics, people!) In a further bid at appeasement I will say his space scenes are pretty nice, but they are few and far between; mostly it’s just running and screaming which he’s not really suited to. Again though, his art isn’t terrible; most of the issues I’ve sadistically outlined as problematic are ones shared by a lot of comics artist. Doesn’t mean I have to let ‘em past! As harsh as all that sounds none of the book was woeful so ALIENS: FIRE AND STONE #1 gets OKAY!
ALIEN VS PREDATOR: FIRE AND STONE #1 Art by Ariel Olivetti Written by Christopher Sebela Lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot® Cover art by E.M Gist Dark Horse Comics, 25 pages, $3.99 print/digital or $1.99 digital after a period of time (2014) This story takes place between the events of PROMETHEUS: FIRE AND STONE #4 and PREDATOR: FIRE AND STONE #1
This one picks up after most all the cretins in PROMETHEUS: FIRE AND STONE are dead. Most of them probably forgot to breathe, or maybe set fire to themselves because they were cold or tried to eat some live tigers. To avoid spoilers as to exactly how stupidly they died the book keep things vague, but it looks like the sickly dude did in fact do something fantastically ill-advised. Understandably then the unlikeable security guy has locked him up while they and all the other survivors fly off in the unattractively designed ship. It quickly becomes apparent that whatever the stupid thing the sickly dude did was it involved a Synthetic, Kevin Eldon. The effect on Kevin Eldon is a bit of a mixed bag; he now appears to be caked in a thick coating of icing but, balancing this, he can control it to make deadly fondant limbs. And while he’s now mentally inclined towards the more batshit end of the scale he can also control Aliens like they were hunt dogs. God giveth and God taketh away, is my take away there.
Most of the issue is Icing Covered Kevin Eldon casually strolling through the ship while talking and setting his Aliens loose on all the survivors. As if that weren’t a big enough pile of trouble some Predators take a break from killing wildlife on a garishly hued nearby world and decide to join in. Ariel Olivetti illustrates it in his usual style; the one which lurches unpredictably from genius to godawful. Sometimes even doing so between elements within the same panel. I think I was a bit tired at this point because both the art and story seemed a bit confusing really, but I did like how they solved the problem of getting Predators into the mix; they just show up! I know that might seem a bit simplistic but I don’t know how much sophistication you should realistically expect at this point. It’s ALIEN VERSUS PREDATOR after all not ALIEN VERSUS MACBETH. (Give it time though.) OKAY!
PREDATOR: FIRE AND STONE #1 Art by Christopher Mooneyham Written by Joshua Williamson Coloured by Dan Brown Lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot® Cover art by Lucas Graciano Dark Horse Comics, 25 pages, $3.99 print/digital or $1.99 digital after a period of time (2014) This series takes place after the events of PROMETHEUS: FIRE AND STONE #1-4 and ALIEN VS PREDATOR: FIRE AND STONE #1
This gets off to a strong start with a cover showing a Predator sneaking up on young Frank Miller who is apparently clutching what appears to be a severed Alien penis. Nothing inside lives up to that promise but I’d still argue this is the best of these comics. And I’d argue that despite the fact that this one has the slenderest wisp of a premise of any of the books I bought. Here, the unpleasant security dude has escaped from the confused mess of AVP:F&S#1 into this comic where he and his two chums are hunted by a Predator. That’s it. Three dudes on a spaceship get hunted for 25 pages. Then there’s a bit of a twist because there’s another three issues to go. As basic as the setup is (it’s Predator and people being hunted is what Predator fans pay for) I’d still argue that it’s the best comic here. And not just because I’m an argumentative **** but because it’s the best at being a comic. And I’m betting that’s all down to Christopher Mooneyham. I imagine the script he received wasn’t much in excess of:
PREDATOR: FIRE AND STONE #1
PAGE 13 (3 Panels)
We are on-board THE SPACESHIP PERSES. It’s dark because of course it is, but we can still make out space ship stuff like corridors, ladders and stuff and things. It’s dark but not that dark.
PANEL 1: Unpleasant Security Man, Cocky Cannon Fodder Boy and Bald Lee Van Cleef Walk along the corridor.
UNPLEASANT SECURITY MAN: It’s hunting us.
COCKY CANNON FODDER BOY: Dude, your Mom is hunting us. BURRRN!
Unpleasant Security Man, Cocky Cannon Fodder Boy and Bald Lee Van Cleef Walk along the corridor.
BALD LEE VAN CLEEF: How jolly.
COCKY CANNON FODDER BOY: We’re on an express elevator to Kitchenware! Going Down!
They stop walking suddenly because Cocky Cannon Fodder Boy explodes in a shower of guts. (Have fun with it!)
COCKY CANNON FODDER BOY: Ack!
BALD LEE VAN CLEEF: Tsk!
UNPLEASANT SECURITY MAN: Ooh! We’re in a tight spot now!
But, unlike the unfairly maligned (by me) Patric Reynolds, Mooneyham makes every page pulse with pulp energy and an almost loutish swagger entirely appropriate to the subject at hand. Dude sure likes his Klaus Janson but there’s plenty that’s purely himself here. I enjoyed looking at Mooneyham’s Predator so much that that alone was worth the admission price. His Predator is just perfect, like a scarred spider carved from the pith of an orange. There's real impact on the page turn reveal when that dude shows up. BOO! This is genre comic book art from a time when comics didn’t bow and scrape before television. A time when comics didn’t tug their forelock in the presence of movies but instead revelled in their very nature. It’s genre comic art from a time when comics were proud to be comics. There is a feast of storytelling devices within this comic that put the polite “cinematic” devices of the rest of this bunch to shame. The comics above all largely work in long shot, medium shot and close up; they work largely in landscape panels with a daring inset to pop the monotony. And if its coincidence that all those terms are interchangeable with movie making then, well, it isn’t is it? And I get why it’s legitimate, to an extent, that the comics above treat the pages as screens (because after al I read them on a screen) I should stress that Mooneyham’s pages treated as pages worked just as well. If not better. By embracing the native skills of his medium Mooneyham provides a comic far more akin to movies than any of the placid and pretty offerings preceding it. Basically compared to any of the other Dark Horse comics above PREDATOR: FIRE AND STONE #1 is like a box of fireworks going off in your face. It is very much not that the comics above are bad as such ,and they certainly aren’t wrong with how they go about things, it’s just genre comics are such weird things now, they come from such a weird place that I am just so grateful to find a comic that’s happy being a comic. Hell, one which exults in being a comic. It’s hardly Human Diastrophism but it’s bloody well done so: GOOD!
Phew. Believe you me no one is more glad that's done than me. Cheers and all that.
You still don't understand what you're dealing with, do you? COMICS!!!!