I know there has been a lot of ‘hype’ surrounding the upcoming film “Cowboys and Aliens” so I figured perhaps it is time for me to review the actual graphic novel written by Fred Van Lente and Andrew Foley, with art illustrated by Luciano Lima. When I first saw the trailers for the film, I have to admit I wasn’t very excited since the source material created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg (the chairman of Platinum Studios and co-producer of the Jon Favreau film) needed a lot of development and I wasn’t very impressed (I actually never intended to review It before). I thought that the concept of the graphic novel wasn’t very inspired; but hey, this can be a good thing since it gives the movie more material to expand on.
The graphic novel (2006) was inspired by the cartoon by Gary Larson and resembles the 1995 16-page ashcan by Tom Arvis and published by Sureshot comics. Rosenberg loves creative writers and championed Lowell Cunningham’s “Men in Black” to be published under the label Malibu comics; this then went on to become a successful film and a cartoon series in the 90’s. Wonder if “Cowboys and Aliens” will have the same success?
A chaotic time in American history, 1873, the native Americans are constantly in a struggle with the white men who had colonized their land. But when an alien spaceship crash lands on the Arizona desert, a strike force led by Commander Rado Dar mounts an assault on the people of Earth and both white men and the Apache Indians are their intended victims. Dar’s forces have taken down a contingent of the union army and even decimated a part of the Apache tribe. Zeke, a woman named Verity and the townsfolk of the once-booming “Silver city” must join forces with the Apache (Warhawk and No-name included) so they could fight off the alien invasion. They find an ally with an alien named Ra Chak Kai, but can she help them overcome Dar’s forces with their more advanced technology?
Jon Favreau (director of Iron Man) has his work cut out for him. Truth be told, I wasn’t that impressed with what he did with the movie adaptation of Iron Man (the sequel was pretty mediocre) and the upcoming “Cowboys and Aliens” film would be a test to his mettle. But let’s focus on the graphic novel shall we? “Cowboys and Aliens” should’ve been “Cowboys, and Indians Unite” since it has the theme of a civilization being threatened of being dominated and their right to exist eliminated. There is nothing special about the premise. It touches on some themes ‘being conquered” and how the white men applied similar rules of dominance as the alien forces; as in using their superior technology and resources to bend anyone to their will.
The alien technology used by the Caste are advance but there is nothing majorly different to what we have seen before. They have anti-gravity tech that allows them to fly with their small vehicles, energy that is so malleable that it can be formed into other things such as a net, a whip and other things. The aliens have explosives too, and of course, they do have a special firearm that has numerous settings. (The Setting used at the climax is pretty cool). I am not sure, these aliens looked like bulls-crossed with Predators and linebackers; they are intelligent but they rely more on their power than on strategy. These aliens aren’t very bright, and makes me wonder how they managed to conquer other worlds.
Truth, be told, the way the alien weaponry is portrayed seemed primed to be used by the humans. The humans’ only chance would be to use their advance tech and I found this so convenient that the way they came across them were so unimaginative. I am not sure, parts of the writing felt a little too predictable and way too easy. I know that perhaps it was just following the groundwork of past alien-western films (ahem) but I found this a little lazy. There is also the possibility that the graphic novel was intended for the casual comic fan, who’ll rave about anything they come across. Being a comic book veteran I found myself looking for more. There is nothing imaginative as to how the script flows, it was all too easy and I am very afraid for the plot of the film. My only hope would be that it will be dark and gritty, otherwise why even bother?
The graphic novel feels too formulaic and the characters are mere staples of the ones we’ve seen in westerns; aliens and humans alike. The graphic novel does try to inject a darkness to it, but the art by Lima (while good) wasn’t intended to be dark, gritty or even intense. The book feels very cartoonish and lacks the ‘punch’ needed to portray a species under the threat of being decimated. The dialogue was alright, it tries to exude that western ambiance and while it did, it resembled something more of a Saturday morning cartoon.
I really am not certain how optimistic I can be to the film adaptation. It does show promise and I saw several changes to the plot already from its trailers. Only time will tell. I do hope that the film would expand a lot more to its concept and make it a more believable film. But with what I’ve seen, Favreau may be the right one for the job. After all, this graphic novel wasn’t as engaging as the Iron Man film’s source material. I am betting on a highly commercial film bent on displaying special effects. I am hoping for the best and there is a lot of room to expand on this somewhat juvenile premise.
The “Cowboys and Aliens” graphic novel gets a 3 out of 5, I cannot fully recommend it for real comic book fans, but it can be fun for teens and kids. Here's hoping the movie will be better!
A Little Too Juvenile and Uninspired for my tastes, but I have to admit it can find its audience. However, veteran comic book fans will be better off looking elsewhere. Good News is: it gives the movie a lot of room to improve on the concept and premise. So the movie can be better....
Cowboys and Aliens: Worlds at War (or Cowboys & Aliens II) is a 2007 online-only extension of the graphic novel. It is written by Alana Joli Abbott.
Inspired by a Gary Larson cartoon, the title matches that of a 1995 16-page ashcan, published by Tom Arvis and Sureshot Comics. In 1998 Platinum Studios trademarked the name, and in 2004, through a separate agreement, negotiated all rights to the title from Arvis, who changed the name of his book to Wayout West