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Another issue of Dark Horse International's UK version of Jurassic Park hit newsagent shelves 25 years ago to the day and the front cover saw a bit of a change, one it would continue with each month from now on. The American cover by Michael Golden is enhanced by a new border, the large logo and a better use of headlines than last month, that's for sure. Inside, it's a mix of gloss and matt paper totalling 32 pages so it's definitely on the increase again after last time, though not back to full capacity just yet after the break resulting from the beginning of Dark Horse International's dissolving. At this moment the comic still seemed to be published by them, but in reality the company's titles were in the process of being saved by another publisher, which I'll get into more when the transition is complete. For now, let's concentrate on the issue at hand.
There are again two strips inside, with the Jurassic Park continuation and the phenomenally entertaining Age of Reptiles getting a chunkier 50% split each of the interior pages.
JURASSIC PARK: RUSH! - PART ONE
Writer・Steve Englehart Penciller・Armando Gil
Inker・Fred Carillo Letterer・John Costanza
Colourist and Story Editor・Renée Witterstaetter
This even split means we get half of this particular American story, the most we've had printed this side of the pond so far in one issue. In a couple of months, after Rush!'s finale we'd get even more per month but, again, we'll get to that later. This month's story kicks off exactly where we were precariously left last time, with the cargo plane carrying Dr Alan Grant, Dr Ellie Satler and the juvenile velociraptors about to crash somewhere in Southern America. Apart from the title page above that's all we see though, as on the next page we find Grant waking up in an unknown bed, his arm and leg in plaster, talking to a mysterious man on a small television screen who, initially at least, appears to have saved their lives.
But as is normally the case in any Jurassic Park story, be it comic book form, the movies or Michael Crichton's original novels, human greed has a key role in the proceedings. The man in question is called Rafael and is referred to by politicians and media as the "Columbian Criminal", so it's clear what he is. He also believes he's not responsible for his crimes, the demand for what he provides would continue with or without him, so he just chooses to profit from this inevitability. But he also feels he has to protect said profits.
That's right, he's placed collars on the remaining 'raptors (one is still recovering after Ellie saved its life last month) and is going to train them as guard dogs to both protect him from the government and to attack his competition. Of course, we all knew when reading this that it would never work out that way, but it's interesting to read this today after seeing the first two Jurassic World films. What's yet to come in one of the following issues in particular will really surprise fans of the newer movies (and surely there can't be anyone who isn't a fan).
But back to the issue at hand and those collars are for more than just attaching to what must have been pretty thick leads. They're electroshocks.
While the U.S. Army hunts down the crashed plane we get a few pages of Rafael trying to get the 'raptors to sit like obedient dogs, but they're having none of it. Continually trying to jump up to the platform the humans are on, they're shocked and fall back to the ground with a thud over and over. But then we get a close up of one of the creatures seemingly too tired to try again and a grin appears on its face (again, reminding me of a scene in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom). They seem to submit to the torture and look obediently towards their master in a sitting position, but it's just a ploy to throw Rafael off his guard and put the dinos in a better leaping position.
But it doesn't work and they get electrocuted one final time before collapsing, exhausted, in a heap. The story ends with Grant's and Satler's objections forcing Rafael to bring his guards in and instruct the doctors to go and take care of the dangerous animals they seem to care so much about. We're left with them being led to the enclosure and there's no sign of a young Owen Grady to help them!
The artwork has definitely gone up a grade or two since last time, in particular the dinosaurs look like what they're supposed to again, and the story itself was fascinating to us young readers. The dinosaurs were on the mainland for a start and this was long before the Tyrannosaurus rex terrorised San Diego in the second film, there were also interesting new characters being introduced and a real feeling of these being desperate times for our heroes, a real sense of danger and foreboding that suited the franchise perfectly. It was a great cliffhanger and the whole story was finally going somewhere after the previous issues seemed to be laying a lot of essential, interesting background work to establish the comic as the official sequel, while also establishing that it'd be doing its own thing. Great stuff.
AGE OF REPTILES: CHAPTER SEVEN
Writer and Artist・Ricardo Delgado
It's hard to believe we're only seven parts into the simply brilliant Age of Reptiles, the connection the reader has with these silent comic stars feels like we've known them for a lot longer. The grandiose setting and stunning artwork also makes it feel like it's been going for a lot longer, such is the epic nature of Ricardo Delgado's strip.
This gorgeous opening scene sees the pack of vicious deinonycuses tagging along behind an ultrasaurus who soon collapses and dies from the wounds the smaller dinosaurs had inflicted upon it. But it soon transpires they're not the only ones who were out hunting, as a pack of mismatched animals soon appear, seemingly led by carnosaurus Hades.
If you're wondering how I know their names check out the review of #9. So Hades and his pack, or gang, interrupt the feeding of the stars of the strip and it's all very moody stuff.
But what I didn't expect was for this to lead to a fantastic one-on-one fight between two of the deinonycuses! It appears most of them want to make a quick getaway to save their own hides against what is a seemingly superior force, but Quetzal is having none of it and wants to stand and fight for the giant meal they've killed. One of the others makes a gesture for them to leg it and pack leader Dark Eye agrees and makes the call to scarper, leaving Quetzal as bait for Hades etc. while they make their escape.
But Quetzal (the one with the spikes coming out the back of his head) jumps the other deinonychus who gestured to leave (unnamed, the the one with the brown mark further down their nose) and they end up in a fight to the death inside the skeletal remains of another long-dead giant. This fight scene is quite a few pages long and is simply spectacular, this double-page spread below being a particular highlight.
Age of Reptiles isn't a strip for those that like to rush through their comics, this is for people like myself who really take their time, who savour every little detail in each and every panel before moving on to read the next one. Especially since this strip contains absolutely no words at all, changing scenes, times of the day and handling transitions all through visual queues. There's so many little details that tell this story, you'll spend just as long with it as you would with a wordy strip from any modern comic. The only downside this time is that it ends with "Next issue: The Final Battle", meaning we've only one more chapter to go. I'm going to miss these characters.
A consistently great title, Jurassic Park has evolved and changed as it went along. My favourite format was definitely when we had three semi-related strips but for the rest of its run we'd have the main JP story and one back up. But that's not to say there's no more changes afoot. Whether its constant changing was because of the situation the publisher found themselves in, or whether Dark Horse were just more flexible in their approach to comics we'll deal with later. But for now, once again I highly recommend you track these down on eBay or the like, they're definitely worth the effort and you'll love the entire series.
The next issue will be joining us here on the blog on Sunday 4th August. August already?!