Wednesday, May 20, 2015

CBR The Thing from Another World (Comics)

Before I finally review the recent The Thing prequel, let's have a look back at a far creepier closer in tone adaptation as it always should be.

It's Dark Horse Comics original comic book continuation of Carpenter's classic film.

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Comic title: The Thing from Another World (1991) #1-2
Art by John Higgins
Written by Chuck Pfarrer

Published by Dark Horse Comics
From 1991-92
Lineup John Carpenter's The Thing series
Format: Two-issue limited mini-series.

Dark Horse Comics made a name for themselves in the 1990s with their huge success with all these numerous Star Wars comics Buffy comics, Aliens Vs. Predator and all kinds of superheroes you've probably never heard of (like Ghost, X, etc. aside, obviously, from The Mask).

What helped them quickly establish between the big two was publishing countless comic books adaptations based on all sorts of movie proprieties (before Dynamite Entertainment sort of took that title from them nowadays).

Thanks to the great reception their comics based around Aliens and Predator where having in the early 90s, they decide to venture into other similar scifi/horror-themed franchises. One of their most underrated series many fans still demand a Omnibus collection to this day (which they can't since they don't have the rights to the license anymore, it's a complicated mess..) is The Thing. John Carpenter's The Thing, that is!

Which had to be retitled to The Thing from Another World, after the classic 1951 Howard Hawks film in order to both avoid confusion and any possible legal conflict with Marvel's Fantastic Four member, the Thing. and as a reference to the ortiginal first film adaptation, to avoid with ever loving blue eyed Thing.

The Thing is no stranger to comics, since actually long before John Carpenter's iconic remake it had already been adapted into a first comic book adaptation, in the vintage scifi anthology series Starstream #1. Which was strangely enough pretty decent (aside a few odd designs such as the creature's original ridiculous look).

These new Dark Horse comics act as a direct continuation to Carpenter's film, a sequel of sorts.

Four mini-series would be published. One 2-issue limited series simply titled "The Thing from Another World", which was followed by the 4-issue mini-series "The Thing from Another World: Climate of Fear" and "The Thing from Another World: Eternal Vows", bringing the creature from the Antarctic to a New Zealand island! An alternate story if Kurt Russel's protagonist hadn't been present in the events of the film was published on the side in Dark Horse Comics #13-16 as "Thing from Another World: Questionable Research". And much later around the 2011 prequel, one final story was published, "The Thing: The Northman Nightmare".

The story is set immediately after the film. After blowing up what was left of the thing, we left MacReady and Childs for dead on the ice.

Picking up from there, MacReady is seen wandering around the Antarctic, looking for help (in what appears to be a direct homage to the film's original poster).  He passes out, before being rescued by a Japanese research vessel.

Once he wakes up, he's afraid to see things degenerate once more and immediately panics. He even tests his own blood just to be sure. (Which doesn't make that much sense, but he's clearly panicking so it's best to just go along with it.)

After running off he decides to go back to Outpost #31 to burn what's left of the frozen remains of The Thing and his old colleagues. An American marines unit comes along and puts a stop to MacReady. Suddenly one of the soldiers gets infected and starts lashing out on everyone in sight. They kill it and bring MacReady to the nearby Argentinian base. The place is huge! MacReady fears the worse is about to start all over again!

He finds Childs there! It turns out none of the two were actually infected! They carry some blood tests just to be sure.

One huge Thing is found hiding in some crevasse, where it collected and absorbed various bodies. They use explosives. They catch a submarine, but The Thing hijacks the trip!

They're forced to blow it up to be sure to get rid of the alien! The oxygen was running low anyhow. They blow the hatch. MacReady is the only one left for dead, on the ice...

It's a fairly straightforward and simple enough story, but at least it's appropriate and works for the series.

The story was written by screenwriter Chuck Pfarrer (Darkman). Sure there are some inconsistencies (The Thing appears to contamine someone through a gloved hand), but overall it's a decent follow-up to the movie that tries its best to keep the fitting tone of paranoia.

John Higgins's art makes such a great job recapturing both the tone from the film and a serious enough gritty look that works great in the comics' favor. The art is pretty darn good. A painted look perfectly suiting The Thing. Just great work all around. The covers are also simply gorgeous.

There's a sort of tonal shift from the more slow-paced huis clos horror atmosphere from Carpenter's film, and the story couldn't simply follow the same tone of surprise since it's a sequel here. Keeping things confined to the Antarctic certainly helps this story, setting a The Thing sequel anywhere else brings way too many problems (since the creature would only need to infect something like a fly for things to go straight to hell).

The story only asks for some suspension disbelief, if you're a huge fan of the film. The whaling boat sort of comes out of nowhere. It's never that clear how and if The Think controls the way it takes over people, if they know they're "infected" or not. In the film it left the interpretation up to the audience, but here they had to take some decisions for the story. The final act is also kind of all over the place with the huge submaring breaking through the ice.

The story ends on a great ambiguous cliffhanger again, only now MacReady is even worse, half-frozen, and we don't know if the The Thing is even dead.

This first short story would be followed by a second miniseries, Climate of Fear.

Overall, it's actually a pretty damn good The Thing comic.

The story is a bit more cliché than Carpenter's film. And compared to the movie, it's not clear how The Thing works things (no pun intended!) seem even more confusing in this book. But at least that kept the aspect of mistrust and paranoia from the film, even if things got turned into a slightly more action horror-direction.

All in all, check it out! Highly Recommended for fans of the original film(s) and horror in general, it's well worth a look!

No doubt John Carpenter went on saying of all The Thing comics, games and the new film, this comic is his personal favorite spinoff/adaptation.

Following Carpenter's classic, there's been several attempts at a continuation of the series. After these Dark Horse Comics, there was a video game in the early 2000s. A mini-series was planned for SyFy, where The Thing would start to spread outside the camp and arrive at a small town in New Mexico, to make things bigger than the original film. But instead we only got the recent prequel. Finally, there also was a new short story, titled The Things by Peter Watts, easily one of the best The Thing spinoffs. A fun twist on the original film, taking place entirely from the alien's point of view.

I give it:
2.5 / 3 ManThings!

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