I have good news for you if you hated the movie adaptation of Cowboys & Aliens! Other than the title, the graphic novel and the movie have absolutely nothing in common. The characters are different, the story is different, the aliens are different, their motives are different, the weapons are different, it’s a completely different story. Makes you wonder why they adapted the movie at all if they were just going to throw the entire story out the window and start over.
In the book we meet Zeke and Verity, a male and female team of gunslingers hired to protect a wagon train in Arizona. During a pursuit with some American Indians, Zeke sees a huge spaceship crash to the ground. The Indians, making the same mistake twice, greet the aliens and are promptly shot with a laser gun. Zeke escapes and heads out to warn the nearby town of the arrival of the aliens, who start blowing up the town a few minutes later. The residents flee and take shelter with a nearby group of Indians, including the studly lead warrior Warhawk, who takes a shine to Verity and she to him. But there is no time for love, Dr. Jones, because the conquering aliens are radioing to the stars for reinforcements. With the help of an alien resistance agent named Kai and salvaged alien technology; Zeke, Verity, Warhawk, and the rest have to take out a massive transmitter or the Earth is going to fall in to the hands of the evil Rando Dar.
The story is fun and silly at the same time. The aliens have real personality and talk quite a bit, something completely missing in the movie. I’m sure you are thinking the book is a heavy handed allegory for the European conquest of America. That is not the case. Its not an allegory at all but overt point of the story. The first few pages are panels split down the middle showing conquerors in America against the worlds being conquered by Rando Dar. It’s not subtle. Later one of the settlers gets all fired up about how these aliens are coming in thinking they can kick us off our land with better guns. He stops mid speech when he meets the glares of the Indians who I half expected to do a Picard facepalm at his cluelessness.
Cowboys & Aliens reads like what it is: a by the numbers pitch for a movie. The rights were shopped around before the book was even finished, making it even stranger the screenwriters jettisoned the existing plotline entirely. As a book, the story is enjoyable. It moves very quickly, its entertaining, and has some nice art. It’s very much a meat & potatoes book. What you see is what you get. As long as you don’t expect complex themes or a wildly inventive storyline you should have a good time with it.