Tuesday, September 29, 2015

CBR The Thing from Another World: Eternal Vows

Another The Thing comic book mini-series! Although I kept the worst for last.

I originally wanted to keep this review for October's Halloween-Marathon, but it wasn't worth it really...

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Comic title: The Thing from Another World: Eternal Vows #1-4
Art by Paul Gulacy 
Written by David de Vries 

Published by Dark Horse Comics
From 1994
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 comics act as a direct sequel of sorts to Carpenter's film, continuing from 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 finally "The Thing from Another World: Eternal Vows", bringing the creature from the Antarctic to a New Zealand island! There's also an alternate story if Kurt Russel's protagonist hadn't been present during the events of the film published in Dark Horse Comics #13-16 as "Thing from Another World: Questionable Research" and in 2011 Dark Horse finally made out last Thing comic in the form of a prequel for the official movie prequel, one final digital comic "The Thing: The Northman Nightmare".

This third and final series "Eternal Vows" was published late 1993, this 4 issue mini was written by David DeVries and illustrated by Six from Sirius artist Paul Gulacy.

What would have sounded as an outstanding pitch for a Thing miniseries gets completely wasted in this story.

The story follows a piece of The Thing creature that hijacked a fish in the previous comics. Be warned, it has very little to do with The Thing as you knew it...

It all takes place in this little fishing island in New Zealand, called Stewart Island. The Thing was was able to take over the body of this fisherman Simon Powell and it has now breached civilization! What will happen now? Is it the end of our world as this creatures infects the entire planet? Nope. Because it discovers love...

The Thing!Powell killed some crewmembers aboard this American ship called the Gettysburg, anchored in Wallace Harbour. And this cop is now investigating the murders, Detective Sergeant Rowan. With the ship docked nearby, The Thing!Powell took the occasion to go see Powell's girlfriend, Jennifer Powell. But apparently such strong memories of his beloved made this Thing act unlike anything we've seen before. The Thing!Powell turns Jenny into another Thing, but instead of infecting people left and right they decided to stay together and only kill to sustain their shape-shifting cells.

Meanwhile the police is closing in on them, founding dead bodies and getting closer and closer to the Thing lovers.

The Things are having weird awkward Thing-sex. They want to settle down instead of infecting the Earth.

Finally MacReady arrives in town and locates the boat anchored in town.

MacReady starts torching Thing creatures, turns out anyone The Thing!Jenny and Thing!Powell infected instead of leaving dead behind is turned into a more classic Thing killing and spreading anyone they come across. Aboard the ship MacReady forces a blood test for everyone, the Captain flees into the night.

MacReady and Rowan are forced to burn the whole place down and sink the entire ship. Rowan gets cornered by Thing creatures. Burning the entire place has a very strange effect - the Things try to eat each other or starve and die. It seems they forgot they could take over any life form like a bird or a fish to escape somewhere else...

Finally The Thing!Jenny shows her true colors, but MacRead is able to kill it.. or did he? The Thing gives birth to one final form and the "Thing couple" is able to be reunited in another lifeform as a small Thing-fish escapes in the Ocean...

At the time this comic was purposely left open for an eventual other series, which would never happen - thankfully!

You know what's the problem with Eternal Vows? It absolutely doesn't seem like a The Thing story. In fact I'm positively sure this started as an entirely different comic, but Dark Horse might have been looking for a writer for their next Thing comic and found David de Vries with a perfectly generic alien invasion that could be repurposed as a Thing feature. It seems closer to a pitch for a Species story easily.

It completely misses the point of The Thing. First up it completely downplays the core element of both the original 1950s film and the 1980s horror classic - the paranoia. Putting it in a civilian setting would have been nice for a story that dares going forward with the license, but here it's barely used.

And then it's also completely inconsistent with both the film and the previous comics. Where The Thing seemed to be a slow calculating creature taking over humans one by one before, here it instantaneously "infects" people by stabbing them with tentacles! Our main Things protagonists (who would have ever imagined to write these worlds before?) only attack to replace dead cells and seem completely distanced from the whole previous Thing interpretations. While all the other Things don't even bother being stealthy and instead brutally assimilate people around town.

There's a ton of continuity errors or retcons, depending how you see it. The Jenny!Thing and Powell!Thing retain their whole humanity because they shared a very powerful love, which means they wanted to stay together more badly than anyone in the film wanted to live. The comic is also mostly written from these Things' point of view - which was a huge mistake in my eyes.

MacReady is now a Thing specialist! By now, the army was possibly informed and briefed about this creature in the last story, yet he's the only one badass enough to come to New Zealand to stop this invasion!

And the reason these Things don't spread faster? They apparently don't want any competition. And the assimilation process now leave skeletons behind! MacReady keeps referring to the Norwegian camp as Swedes for some reason! And love can be so powerful to let you override the Thing's assimilation... Nothing seems to work!

The other comics might not have been that great, but at least they had some decent ideas! This here doesn't try to pass itself for a good story. The writer clearly had never seen the movie.

Why doesn't The Thing simply start infecting the entire mainland from this city? No idea... Also this comic gives the explanations why it absorbed people in the first place - to eat people!

It contradicts a lot of the rest of the series. Things eat and don't absorb here. And these used to leave the other infected alone.

And the covers from Gulacy are pretty horrendous despite his usual skills. Just look at the awfully cartoony purple Things above!

Overall, this might have been a better story if it had been a simple little standalone horror comic. But it wasn't. And it was a ridiculous, awful Thing comic instead.

The creature shouldn't be "eating" but infecting others to spread itself like a contagion! The Thing here wasn't just taking different identities but letting its victims retain their minds!! The eating aspect doesn't make much sense and reduces this terrifying unknown creature into a very silly B-movie grade concept.

It feels like someone really didn't bother watching the film in the first place!

All I can say is Avoit It At All Costs! It probably was some other unrelated horror comic that really got rebranded at some point during production. Who The Thing assimilates or infects is so random. People retain their identities instead of being infected into one big alien entity. And the whole concept is just plain stupid - it really is The Thing falling in love! And it even leaves the door open for more sequels for no reason... 

It's true most Thing comics simply missed the point of what made the original so great, but at least they kept the paranoia feeling on remote isolated places with relatively smart cast of characters...

Speaking of other Thing comics, there also was a back-up feature published in Dark Horse Comics #13-16 called "The Thing from Another World: Questionable Research", which rightfully ignored the previous comics.

Dark Horse would finally return to the franchise decades later with a digital comic called "The Thing: The Northman Nightmare" as a prelude to the entire series, working as a tie-in for the 2011 movie prequel, taking place a millennium before the events of the films. It's about The Thing infecting Vikings in a remote village.

While that was all the comics there were published, it wouldn't be the last we saw of the franchise. Despite talks about a sequel or a TV series going nowhere, we would finally receive a survival horror video game in 2002, on PC, PS2 and Xbox.

And while we're at it, the scrapped SyFy TV series "Return of the Thing", which was meant to be a TV miniseries direct sequel of the 1980s film by Frank Darabont was actually taking some direct notes from these comics, such as the different appearances of The Thing popping up once destroyed.

But we would finally receive a proper new installment in the series with the 2011 film prequel directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. More on that next time!

I give it:
0.5 / 3 ManThings!

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