Anyone expecting to see Kurt Russell throwing dynamite in the pages of this latest release of The Thing is going to be disappointed. This is all Viking warriors battling the shape-shifting monster from another world.
Set in Greenland in 1121 AD, The Thing follows a group of Vikings whose ship has become ice-bound in the frozen sea. They abandon their ship and decide to walk for it across the icepack, heading for a village settlement they know of. Along the way, they find strange bones of animals merged with humans, and when they finally reach the settlement they find nothing but corpses. Only four women managed to survive the slaughter. Or was it five women? It is hard to count when the numbers keep changing.
Like most people with good taste in movies, I have always loved John Carpenter’s The Thing. It is a kick-ass movie mixing horror and sci-fi, and still stands as one of Carpenter’s best. This comic is being released as a promo to the new version of The Thing which should be hitting theaters soon. The comic and the film aren’t really connected; the movie is a prequel to Carpenter’s flick and takes place in Antarctica, while this Viking epic takes place in Greenland.
I have no idea why Dark Horse thought “Hey! Vikings!” instead of doing a more directly related movie tie-in, but I am glad they did. Steve Niles and Patric Reynolds put together an awesome story that stands on its own, and would be a cool comic even if the film versions didn’t exist. The story, Vikings vs. Aliens, could have been cheesy as hell but Niles plays it straight and builds up the horror and tension innate in a creature that can take any shape and imitate your best friend.
Patric Reynolds draws nice, subdued artwork with a realistic touch that suits the tone of the tale. His Vikings don’t wear big horned helmets or chug mead. He also does some pretty phenomenal landscapes that capture the frozen wasteland. As always, Dave Stewart’s colors accentuate Reynolds’ art work and contribute to the bleak tone of the issue. Frozen Greenland is not a nice place to battle monsters.
The weakness to this comic is the ludicrousness of its plot. It is cool to think that there is one frozen spaceship sunken under the Artic ice, its inhabitants waiting patiently in their millennium-long hibernation. But then when you have two such ships you just have to think that the alien pilots are just not very good at their jobs. And why do they always conveniently land in ice fields? There isn’t much Reynolds can do about that. That’s the monster.
The Thing is ultimately an effective, if straight-forward, period piece/horror comic. I don’t know if the story here will be referenced in the movie or if this is just an isolated one-shot. Either way, it is good comics.
Zack Davisson is a freelance writer and life-long comics fan. He owned a comic shop in Seattle during the ’90s, during which time he had the glorious (and unpaid) gig as pop-culture expert for NPR. He has lived in three countries, has degrees in Fine Art and Japanese Studies, and has been a contributing writer to magazines like Japanzine and Kansai Time-Out. He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife Miyuki. You can catch more of Zack’s reviews on his blog Japan Reviewed or read his translations of Japanese ghost stories on Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.