Graphic Novel Review: Cowboys & Aliens

After waiting quite a long time for this, I just finished reading Cowboys & Aliens by Andrew Foley, Fred Van Lente, Dennis Calero, Luciano Lima, and Scott Mitchell Rosenberg (Yeah…there are that many author credits…). The upcoming film is really what drew my interest, though I’m intrigued enough by the subject matter that I was pretty sure I’d enjoy it. It just felt gaunt. What should have been incredibly exciting was merely mildly intriguing.

While this was not bad, I think that it works a lot better in concept than in execution. I mean come on. If you’re going to do Cowboys and Aliens–make it outrageous and wild. Make it epic. Really sell it. This actually seemed like a series of concepts tied together with a loose story. I think that the only way to do this justice would be through a longer, more elaborate narrative. The end is set up for something like that, but maybe because the initial run was not so successful, they have not pursued anything further. Maybe with the upcoming film adaptation interest will renew.

That being said, I think that, just from the previews, the film will be much more interesting, fleshing out the story a bit more. I mean, come on, look at the authors, producers, and director. With a staff comprised of Steven Spielberg, Jon Favreau, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Damon Lindelof (just about as many contributors as the graphic novel!), I suspect the film will fare better than its source material

On top of a rather meager story, the prologue was an incredibly heavy-handed juxtaposition of the colonization/conquer of North American and the imperial conquests of this alien race that has now come to Earth. It’s effective, I suppose, though I think she metaphor should be implied through the story itself, particularly with the setting in “The Old West, 1873.” It might have been better to provide a vignette or backstory of the alien race, “showing” rather than “telling.”

Furthermore, they tried to bring the story to a more emotional place than I was ready for. There was a bit of crying at some near-death experiences that just was not yet necessary because they had not yet taken the time to get me invested in the characters. It felt a bit like a Michael Bay graphic novel–TONS of explosions and flashiness with little to no substance or conceivable story. This had a great deal of potential, but the story really suffered.

I enjoyed it overall, though I would have liked some further depth and a more complex story. I might get this, if not in subsequent installments, then most likely in the upcoming film adaptation. Again. Seriously: Orci, Lindelof, Kurtzman, and Favreau (not to mention all the producers)–the film will be huge and fun, and I look forward to one of the only times where a film greatly departs from the source material.

That’s only allowed when you’re actually improving things. It doesn’t need to happen all the time. Here, it does.

Take that, Chris Columbus.


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