Review: The Thing: The Northman Nightmare

John Carpenter's classic film is getting a movie prequel, but Dark Horse is even giving the prequel a prequel.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

The Thing

This week Hollywood continues its driving need to defecate all over anything truly wonderful by releasing The Thing, an unnecessary prequel to John Carpenter’s brilliant remake of the 1950s classic. I suppose we should be happy the upcoming film is a prequel instead of a bastardization of Carpenter’s work in the vein of Rob Zombie’s vile Halloween remake. That being said, Dark Horse has decided to jump onto The Thing bandwagon by releasing a comic book telling an even earlier account of the alien that can become anything. Instead of a team caught out in the arctic, it’s Vikings.

If you take swaggering Vikings and combine their bloodlust with a giant menacing alien creature, the logic follows that you’ll have an epic battle with tons of gore and lots of split skull Vikings. Instead, veteran comic writer Steve Niles gives us a lengthy walk in the snow, a few burning bodies and a lot of “Viking” dialog. For instance, after one Viking cuts his hand off (because it spent five seconds in freezing water) he looks at his severed hand and valiantly cries “I’ll wear it as an amulet for our friends and enemies to see”. It’s that kind of lame Highlander meets SyFy movie of the week stuff that makes this Thing story hard to get through.

After their long walk through the blustery winter, the Vikings fall upon the carcasses of animals that have been burned up. Shockingly, the bone structure looks nothing like anything they’ve ever seen before. So what’s the best move now? Well, if you’re Steve Niles’ Vikings, you head into the creepy town where everybody appears to have vanished. I’m sure you can figure out where things go from here. Niles even throws in a little nod to the John Carpenter film at the end, as the two lone Vikings wait for the cold to take them neither knowing if the other is actually the Thing!

Steve Niles has a great way with mood; I’ll give him that. He really sets up the isolation for the Vikings and how desolate and scary the area can be. The problem is he doesn’t back it up with action. Nothing happens in this one-shot, so much nothing that when something does occur it’s too little too late. Why not show the town being attacked, why not give the Vikings something to battle? The Thing is always shown creeping around, mimicking people and staying in the shadows. Wouldn’t it be more fun to see what happens when it gets cornered? The entire premise of the alien copying people and taking them out one by one is a slow burn. To cram that idea into a comic just leads to a lot of panels about nothing and then action that’s meaningless.

The art isn’t anything exciting either. Patrick Reynolds uses a pretty standard combination of thin pencils with a touch of fine art impressionism to give it that weathered and spooky look. Nothing going on within the pages of The Thing is awful, but it doesn’t really stand out either. The characters all look very similar and the backgrounds are one note. The whole thing feels really phoned in. The Thing one-shot, and probably the upcoming film, is proof that you just ought to leave well enough alone.