In Threes and Fours: Christmas Alien

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I’m really impressed with Johnnie Christmas’s Alien 3 from Dark Horse. No doubt they’ll lose their Fox licenses to Marvel, who should just have Disney buy Dark Horse at this point, since it would simplify reprints and give Marvel a better back catalogue.

Because someday Disney and AT&T having a big back catalogue of mainstream but indie genre comics will be important.

Anyway, Christmas is doing an adaptation of the William Gibson A3 script, which has probably been floating around the Internet since Usenet. I know I’ve downloaded it a couple times and never read it, separated by large swathes of time, getting it the second time because I was nostalgic for being a teenager who thought he’d someday have time to read unproduced screenplays, like it would be important.

Crying emoji.

But it’s not a bad story. Elements have come through in the subsequent sequels, though Christmas also appears to be doing some knowing homage, which is cool. Christmas never gets lost in the homage, just the occasional nod. It’s well-executed.

Unfortunately I read the first four issues without realizing it was a five issue series. I would have just waited. But depending on how it wraps up, I’m considering doing a focus on it. I watched about half of that “Alien: Isolation” digital series and so maybe I’m just more aware of how easy it is to do this kind of thing poorly—this kind of thing meaning to insert breaks into a narrative to serialize it—Christmas’s adaptation is more impressive.

I imagine it’ll all hinge on how it wraps up, but so far it’s all very character-focused. Christmas isn’t doing an Aliens comic so he can do a lot of Alien drawings. He always works with the characters, making it far more like Aliens than one would assume. Depending on that last issue, who knows… maybe I’ll finally read that Gibson script. Though I would need to download it again.

If this adaptation ends up being one of Dark Horse’s best Aliens comics… well, the best Robocop comic is the BOOM! Robocop 3 so….

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Sheltered 12 (October 2014)

Sheltered #12

Can Sheltered work if Brisson doesn’t have any actual sympathetic characters left? He’s bringing in the police, he’ll be bringing in the FBI, the ATF, some kind of child protective services–the issue reads real fast as Brisson and Christmas get to the ending, which sets up the grand finale arc–but he’s taken the “good guy” out of the equation.

So now it’s the man versus a bunch of brainwashed teenagers who killed or helped kill their parents. Who cares. Let them die; the drama is gone.

It’s still a well-executed issue, with the cops not listening to the good girl–who started the series as the protagonist but now I can’t even remember her name–until it’s a little too late. And there are likable cops in danger and all, but… who cares.

Sheltered’s successes aren’t insignificant but the traditional narrative finish is going to hurt.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer and letterer, Ed Brisson; artist, Johnnie Christmas; colorist, Shari Chankhamma; editor, Paul Allor; publisher, Image Comics.

Sheltered 10 (July 2014)

Sheltered #10

I’m all for some manipulation for the sake of narrative effectiveness, but Brisson takes this issue too far. He’s got his two plots going–the kids in the compound and then the freight delivery guy trying to get to civilization–and he tries to have his cake and eat it too.

Or however the saying goes.

Worse, Brisson pushes too hard with the kids. Way too much immediate foreshadowing, way too much effort in getting the reader to try to guess what’s coming next. That cliffhanger is actually something of a surprise because it’s such a pointless one, it’s unclear why Brisson would bother. Except to try to manipulate the reader. And he’d already done it with his other plot so why go for both? Especially when one cheapens the other.

The issue does have some of Christmas’s best art; he’s getting better and better. But the comic’s a mess.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer and letterer, Ed Brisson; artist, Johnnie Christmas; colorist, Shari Chankhamma; editor, Paul Allor; publisher, Image Comics.

Sheltered 9 (May 2014)

Sheltered #9

My only hesitation with this issue is how Brisson ends it. For almost six issues, it seems like the comic has been on a frantic pace with the dissenting girl–who started out as the protagonist but she’s really not anymore (the series doesn’t have one–on the run from the other kids.

And this issue ends with the promise of a calm. It’s impossible to determine if Brisson is sincere. At the same time, he’s introducing another element into the mix and it’s not calm. There’s been so much intense focus on the infighting–with the exception of the done-in-one setting up that other element–who knows where Sheltered is going.

Regardless, it’s a great issue. There’s some fantastic art from Christmas. He and Brisson pace out the issue beautifully.

There’s a lengthy action sequence in the middle and it’s just fantastic.

Brisson and Christmas excel here.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer and letterer, Ed Brisson; artist, Johnnie Christmas; colorist, Shari Chankhamma; editor, Paul Allor; publisher, Image Comics.

Sheltered 8 (April 2014)

Sheltered #8

Brisson has hit a plateau with Sheltered. He’s already established he’s willing to have the kids be awful, he’s already established there aren’t many limits, so where’s there to go? The story can’t leave the compound–though this issue has a bit of a field trip from it–and he’s also not getting rid of any of the main characters yet.

This issue doesn’t feel like a bridging issue, even though the soft cliffhanger promises another big shoot out soon, and there’s some definite progress with the supporting cast. The progress just feels like more of the same. Brisson has started developing the supporting players a little more, which is sort of predictable. Limited cast, you do closer looks at them.

Yawn.

It’s a good enough comic and Christmas’s art is really solid throughout, but the story is starting to run out of fuel. The gimmick might be run out.

B 

CREDITS

Writer and letterer, Ed Brisson; artist, Johnnie Christmas; colorist, Shari Chankhamma; editor, Paul Allor; publisher, Image Comics.

Sheltered 7 (February 2014)

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It’s another good issue. I think Brisson’s gift for Sheltered is how well he’s able to keep the plot moving along. He does just enough talking heads to show the characters thinking about what to do next, he makes those decisions the micro-cliffhangers along the way. And then, of course, he has excellent cliffhangers for the end of the issue.

Not sure how he’s going to get out this one resolved in an ongoing.

Then there’s the Christmas art. I haven’t been particularly gung-ho on the art, but one of this issues plot lines–oh, yeah, Brisson manages to have three plot lines in the issue, which is awesome–features an intruding adult on the run from the kids. So Christmas has to make the kids vicious killers while still making them somewhat innocent looking. He does an excellent job with that aspect.

Brisson and Christmas are excelling.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer and letterer, Ed Brisson; artist, Johnnie Christmas; colorist, Shari Chankhamma; editor, Paul Allor; publisher, Image Comics.

Sheltered 6 (January 2014)

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And here we get the first issue outside the compound. A guy has to deliver some solar panels and Brisson spends the issue going through his troubles, his friends’ troubles, his family’s troubles–when he finally gets to the last issue’s cliffhanger to resolve it, he only has time for a few pages before the next cliffhanger.

One might wonder where Sheltered is going now. There’s a lot of character work this issue, a whole lot, and it’s all on new characters. It’s probably Brisson’s best work because he’s not trying to show nutty people, just regular ones.

Similarly, the regular life stuff, which accounts for at least three-quarters of the issue, is very nice as far as the art. I don’t expect Brisson and Christmas to flex their creative muscles–the series seems very confined in where they can take it–but this issue pleasantly proves me wrong.

B 

CREDITS

Writer and letterer, Ed Brisson; artist, Johnnie Christmas; colorist, Shari Chankhamma; editor, Paul Allor; publisher, Image Comics.

Sheltered 5 (November 2013)

289578 20131120131933 largeIn some ways, it’s the best writing Brisson has done on the series–he’s taking a wide view of events, not focusing on his initial protagonists, and it’s working. Sheltered now feels very full, even though it takes place in such constraints. Plus, Brisson is frequently able to use character names naturally in dialogue. Helps with such a large cast.

However, it’s probably Christmas’s weakest art so far on the book. There’s a fair amount of looseness throughout, but the action packed finale feels incredibly rushed. It’s particularly bad since it’s during the action sequence and things get confusing. The whole visual pace of the final sequence seems off; Christmas is dragging things out to get to a splash page hard cliffhanger.

The issue’s really talky, with Brisson using the conversations to build subplots. It’s also giving him a more sympathetic cast.

Thanks to Brisson, Sheltered might have some legs.

CREDITS

Writer and letterer, Ed Brisson; artist, Johnnie Christmas; colorist, Shari Chankhamma; editor, Paul Allor; publisher, Image Comics.

Sheltered 4 (October 2013)

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It’s an unexpectedly rough issue. Brisson and Christmas save the roughness for the finish–even going through a vicious fight scene with more eventual humor than anything else–but then Christmas has a two page spread and stuns.

Brisson’s doing something interesting with his main villain. He makes the kid more self-aware of his faults, which makes him even more dangerous. His actions, cruel and unusual, all make perfect sense. At those moments, Brisson has the reader identifying with him.

The issue splits between the main villain, the goofy villain, the two renegade girls–gone from active protagonists to inactive prisoners–and some of the other kids around the compound. As usual, it’s a fast read, though Brisson does follow something of a three act structure.

Brisson also uses a lot of dialogue to slow the pace, but then will switch over to visual storytelling. Sheltered is feels predictable.

CREDITS

Writer and letterer, Ed Brisson; artist, Johnnie Christmas; colorist, Shari Chankhamma; editor, Paul Allor; publisher, Image Comics.

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