Tuesday, July 21, 2015

CBR The Thing from Another World: Climate of Fear

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: Climate of Fear #1-4
Art by Jim Somerville
Written by John Arcudi

Published by Dark Horse Comics
From 1992
Lineup John Carpenter's The Thing series
Format: Four-issue limited mini-series.

Dark Horse Comics made a name for themselves in the 1990s with all kinds of cult favorite comics such as Aliens Vs. Predator and all kinds of superheroes you've probably never heard of (like Ghost, X, etc. aside, obviously, from The Mask). What quickly helped establishing the publisher apart from the big two was publishing countless comic books adaptations based on all sorts of movie proprieties (before Dynamite Entertainment or Boom Studios 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.

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 sequel of sorts to Carpenter's film, kind of like a direct continuation where the film left off.

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 would be published digitally, "The Thing: The Northman Nightmare".

The Thing from Another World: Climate of Fear was a 1992 4-issue mini-series written this time by Dark Horse regular John Arcudi, with art by Jim Somerville.

The story picks up where the last comic left. With MacReady now left for dead in Antartica, before being finally taken to the mainland...!! As The Thing creature tries to spread out ever farther in new zany adventures! No, seriously. That's what this comic felt like at times, seriously...

It all begins in the familiar Antarctica setting. With the Argentinian picking up MacReady's body before he dies from hypothermia. One of the guys sees a baby seal and tries to pet it down... only to find out The Thing in the process of assimilating the poor creature!!

Some time later, MacReady wakes up in the Argentinian base... Looks like we're not in Kansas Antartica anymore. MacReady was taken to South America! They brought him over there when he was left near dead.. only problem is The Thing came along!

And yes, I can already hear you say - The Thing was brought to another continent? Looks like we're dead. Game Over. It can now easily hijack all kinds of living form and infect the entire world. But it seems like the creature can't infect plant life...

MacReady wounds up this former military base. He prevents them from calling for help and starts killing all the sheep they had in stock. The story ditches the paranoia angle for a more brutal frontal assault, Climate of Fear takes the form of a more pro-active action story.

The creature's goal is not to kill everyone but simply escape. It creates all kind of diversions while it starts building another ship.

Childs is back with American soldiers. They test everyone's blood.... and MacReady appears to be infected? Surely he would have known..?

There are some twists. Some good moments too. But overall it feels like a big retreat from the film. Trading the claustrophobic Antartica for a warmer climate is an interesting idea on paper, but the execution is a complete different story...

Climate of Fear is a very.. divisive tale. It's not the worst of Dark Horse Comics continuations of the film, but it's certainly the breaking point where these comics start to suffer from a lack of direction and coherent vision of the alien creature's assimilation process.

Usually John Arcudi is a pretty decent writer who can come up with pretty interesting stories and characters, but here he just does the bare minimum. And hence the story suffers from a writer that had clearly no idea how The Thing infecteds people in the film (as you can clearly witness from his answers to the fanmail in the "Readers from Another World" segment of the issues).

Jim W. Somerville's art is a bit generic and rushed. Nothing you could compare to the painted pages of the first comic. Very distinctively 1990s.

Where the film was a clever slow-burn, a psychological tale as much as a huis clos, where The Thing adapted its strategy to remain hidden amongst the humans, here it often goes berserk before splitting off a smaller bit to return later in another attack. There are some nice ideas. I like the idea of The Thing trying to mess with the blood tests, since it already saw that before. There are some poor attempts at more paranoia. But in the end people just act too stupid, even The Thing appears significantly dumber.

The jungle setting should offer new higher stakes, but it just feels like a smaller retreat from the first movie with very little to no repercussions. They try to explain how the creature can't contaminate plants, but surely it could escape easily through an ant or a smaller mammal...? Or do we have to guess it can't neither assimilate insects..?

What really ruins any attempts at doubts and paranoia, aside from the so and so artwork, is that the story relies way too much on thought bubbles. Something inherent to the comic book medium, and it only serves to distance The Thing even further from the film where we couldn't know what any character was thinking. Never knowing who was still human or not really made the atmosphere of the film. Here you always know what a handful of characters are thinking, it really prevents the story to build any tension (or doubting if MacReady's really a "Thing").

The best part of this entire series? Easily the painted covers by John Higgins.

Overall, The Thing from Another World: Climate of Fear is far from being the best possible continuation to John Carpenter's The Thing. But it could have been easily worst. The real problem is that nothing is done with the same care and attention to the details Carpenter did his own film.

All in all, while it's certainly not as good as the film, or the previous comic to begin with, it was just "okay". And that's maybe the main issue I have with this. It wasn't particularly that well drawn nor written. It has some more original ideas than the previous comic, but it's not as fun.

I can agree with the idea to try a different setting, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. For all the good its tries by shaking things up, I have the same problems with it as I had with the recent 2011 movie prequel. It feels really lackluster, rushed, there's no tension whatsoever in favor of fast-paced over-the-top action - which is a far cry from Carpenter's classic. The Thing unusually opting to quickly lash out in the open, all over the place, instead of cleverly buying its time and building up the sense of paranoia and hiding out in plain sigh...

Give it a Read if you're a fan of the film/series. But I wouldn't exactly recommend this outside hardcore fans of The Thing.

Climate of Fear would be followed by one last mini-series set in this same "What if" continuity, The Thing from Another World: Eternal Vows. Which would completely ignore and mess up with the nature of "The Thing" as we know it... (Someone didn't bother watching the movie, I see...)

I give it:
1.5 / 3 ManThings!

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