In light of the feature film hitting theaters tonight, I thought I’d check out the original Cowboys & Aliens graphic novel. While at Comic Con, I picked up a copy, a nice hard cover edition that was signed by the book’s creator, Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. Cowboys & Aliens opens on a westbound wagon train surrounded by an attacking tribe of Indians. Just as the natives are about to deal the cowboys a deadly blow, an alien craft suddenly rips through the sky, crashing not too far away. The crash puts the Indians’ attack on hold. Now the settlers and Indians must team up to fight off a race of technologically advanced alien beings. Sounds pretty awesome, right? Not necessarily.
Unfortunately, with all grace of a bad 90s Saturday morning cartoon, Cowboys & Aliens misses expectations. The fun B-movie concept of frontiersmen battling extra terrestrials is the only thing this book has got going for it, apart from that, the story is rather dry and airheaded. The book seems it was constructed to be suitable for audiences young and old alike, an admirable thing to shoot for, but the story’s lack of depth makes its audience spectrum zero in somewhere in the pre-teen crowd. The art is just okay. It is a little sloppy, which suggests it was rushed. The pencillers for Cowboys & Aliens may have not been industry specialists, but even so, they could have done a better job. The color work was decent, but the use of textures was not handled well at all; the result looks unprofessional. Besides the open, “question mark” ending leaving room for possible sequels, a positive element is that the book is a complete 100-page story, no real cliff hangers in sight. I do like the concept of the old West mixed together with space aliens, like A Fistful of Dollars meets Independence Day, but the execution left much to be desired. I actually feel proud of Rosenberg and Platinum Studios for all their success even though their graphic novel is not even close to spectacular. Altogether, Cowboys & Aliens is an okay read, but it is missing the “wow” factor and the imagination that this breed of story should have.
Seeing that the Cowboys & Aliens graphic novel was such a disappointment, should that dampen expectations for the film adaption? No. On the contrary, it is clear that the movie is going to be different. Just by viewing the trailers, it would seem the filmmakers have gutted the book’s premise and shaped it into a completely new story, most likely for the better. The movie is bursting at the seams with talent like Jon Favreau, Daniel Craig, and Harrison Ford. I trust the film is in good hands. Though I am not crazy about the book, I am still looking forward to the motion picture it inspired.