March’s installment of Alien 3 concludes the five issue arc comic book adaptation of William Gibson’s unproduced screenplay. Intended as a direct followup to James Cameron’s Aliens (not to mention the Ridley Scott original that preceded it), Gibson’s vision ultimately was ejected out the proverbial airlock, left to float aimlessly amongst the other unproduced cinematic space debris such as Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune and David Cronenberg’s Total Recall. And, much akin to Ripley at the beginning of Aliens, Gibson’s concept for a third installment in the Alien franchise could’ve been floating out there forever were it not for the salvage team of Dark Horse and Firebug artist Johnnie Christmas who brought the material to visual media life. The question is, would Gibson’s Alien 3 have faired better at the box office than David Fincher’s theatrical effort?
Issue 5 picks up with Hicks, Spence and the rest of Anchorpoint’s remaining crew hightailing it toward the docking bay whilst our trusty android Bishop sets the station to blow (“it’s the only way to be sure”). As our prudent protagonists ready the escape vessel (spoilers) they’re met by two foaming at the double-mouth aliens, one being the standard drone xenomorph we all know and love, the other a beastly hybrid. After wiping out half the remaining survivors, the two xenos go head to elongated head with our OG alien reigning supreme. Out of ammo, Hicks, Spence and Bishop appear to be xenomorph fodder when, all of the sudden, rival U.P.P. Pilot Chang shows up in a drop ship and guns the bug down. In the wake of the station’s blast and en route to the Kansas City colonial ship, Bishop informs Hicks that the war between he the United Progressive People’s is over. They must unite against their common enemy from beyond the stars, an enemy that “is to biological life what antimatter is to matter.” They must trace the nefarious xenomorph back to its place of origin deep within the farthest reaches of space, all setting the stage for a potential future Alien tale far more interesting than the one told here.
While William Gibson’s Alien 3 isn’t awful per se (it’s not Alien: Resurrection), perhaps its greatest sin is it’s just kind of meh. It’s little more than a rehash of Cameron’s Aliens only with less weapons, less suspense and less actual Aliens. While Fincher’s Alien 3 also lacked guns and hordes of aliens, Fincher’s film manages to sidestep comparison by going for something different. Fincher’s Alien 3 sets aside aspirations of being a mere action film in favor of the minimalist suspense of the first feature. Offering none of the cyberpunk insight found in his novel Neuromancer, Gibson neither seems intent on a minimal approach nor is he eager to ramp up the thrills and as a result, fans are left with a story that wallows somewhere in the middle.
While Fincher’s Alien 3 was largely panned back in the spring of ’92, the film has grown a steady and devoted following in the years since (myself included). Though there are those within the fanbase that’ll always look to seek out one of the half dozen other alt-Alien 3 stories out there (see the doc Wreckage and Rage for more on this, it’s delve into the early development process of Alien 3 is a fascinating must for fans), Fincher’s theatrical third installment remains undoubtedly more unique and innovative than anything Gibson had to offer, warts and all.