Don’t let the rather playful, pet-like Tyrannosaurus rex on the cover put you off, this is not a sanitised version of Spielberg’s monster movie. Things really do kick off for Dark Horse International‘s UK version of Jurassic Park comic this month, as Dennis Nedry puts his plan into action just as the unfortunate coincidence of a tropical storm hits the remote island of Isla Nublar.
But before we get to that let’s take a look at some of the other bits and bobs from this issue. The full comics checklist returns, featuring all five of the publisher’s UK titles and an extensive list of imports. You’ll notice the next issue of Jurassic Park has no specific date and I’ll get to that at the end of the review. There’s also an advertisement for possibly the worst idea in clothing ever to grace anybody’s chest. It’s difficult to make out but those of us who are old enough will remember these ridiculous t-shirts with a horrible rubber dinosaur sticking out, Alien-style. I remember there being Yoda ones in the shops too and they were just as garish.
But the issue opens up with the biggest competition yet on page two and oh, how this takes me back. My friend had a Sega Mega Drive back then and, while we never played this game, I’m reminded of the weekly trips to the local video store to rent the latest games. The writer certainly seems just as enthused. (It’s definitely a step up from glow-in-the-dark stickers.) If only this kind of hype were evident on the editorial page every month instead of the straight contents list we got instead. It’s not like there wasn’t a lot of Jurassic Park news to get hyped about after all.
Clearly there was an excited human team behind the comic. Readers who had seen the movie a few months previous in cinemas would definitely have been looking forward to this issue too. Things kick off with the sick Triceratops scene now playing out like the movie after last issue’s cliffhanger. As it turns out, the supposedly terrifying creature (which wouldn’t have harmed them anyway) just collapses when the story begins, which makes that cliffhanger a bit of a cheat.
The scene uses more dialogue from the book that didn’t make it into the final cut of the movie, specifically the resolution of what made her sick in the first place, which really showcased Dr. Ellie Satler so it’s nice to have these details back in the comic.
While Nedry’s ultimate fate isn’t played out yet we do at least get some extra characterisation for the man whose greed would ultimately lead to the park’s destruction. He’s actually worried about turning off the park’s security before the tour gets back. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone, he actually cares and his intention is to sneak off to the boat, hand over the embryos and get back before anything bad transpires from the temporary deactivation of the electronic gates.
Of course, the storm would put a rush on things and we all know the outcome for everyone involved. Despite his worry he’s still an annoying hacker at heart and his “hacker crap” still keeps Ray out of the system long enough for his plan to be put into action.
The build up to the main event is superbly handled. The constant presence of rain in the background and Tom Smith‘s subdued colours envelop the reader in the cold, wet nighttime scene. Iconic moments such as Dr. Alan Grant and Dr. Ian Malcolm‘s chat and that famous moment the giant T-rex stares in at them, looking for a moving meal, are brilliantly captured.
Gil‘s and George‘s version of Ian continues to exude a darker presence, his humorous lines reading a little more cutting than Jeff Goldblum‘s perfect delivery. It’s such a shame then how Walt decided to change a key moment in a way which has a detrimental effect on the character, but we’ll get to that in a minute. For now, let’s back up a little to the first appearance of the issue’s big selling point.
Three issues in the comic team finally get to have the big reveal and their first bit of proper dinosaur action, something they’ve only been able to hint at thus far. This was a key scene to get right and just as the tension rose to its crescendo in the movie, here we’ve got pages of rain, booming sound effects and progressively more frightened characters until we turn a page and are confronted with this next image.
Timing is everything and editor Dick Hansom made sure to add an additional advertisement page after the editorial so that later in the comic this would work as intended. Of course, on closer inspection you could critique this image and say the size of the T-rex means she could easily chomp down on cars even with the fence electrified (and also, that’s one huge goat), but then we’d be missing the whole point of this glorious splash page.
Sure there’s some artistic licence at play here but you can’t deny its impact. Those proportions are corrected for the rest of the attack scene and to be honest it was only upon the second reading that this reader picked up on it, such was the impact of this atmospheric rendering.
“It is a beautifully-designed killing machine!”Panel caption (Walter Simonson)
What follows are an intense few pages which I believe would work just as well on their own merit even without the memory of the movie. In the film the juxtaposition of the giant predator and the kids Lex and Tim made for a genuinely terrifying moment in cinema history. Conveying that to comics panels was never going to be easy but the simple addition of descriptive captions ends up being the perfect solution.
With the attack in full swing, every few panels we get a direct, to-the-point fact about the T-rex‘s size and strength. The attack spans four pages and each of these little captions brings another level of tension until they culminate in “It is a beautifully-designed killing machine” as it stands on the upturned car, its weight squashing the metal down into the mud, Tim still trapped inside. It’s a genius move.
What comes immediately after these superb pages is the first big disappointment in this adaptation.
As you’ll remember, in the film Ian lights a flare to get the T-rex‘s attention away from the kids and only starts running once he knows he’s being hunted down. This gives Alan the chance to rescue the children. But here he just runs away, leaving everyone else to their fate. There’s no indication he’s doing it as the foolhardy yet heroic gesture of the film. It’s completely out of character and if this had happened in the movie it probably would’ve turned the audience against him for the rest of the story.
A very odd choice and one I definitely do not like.
The end result is the same however, with Malcolm being tossed through the walls of the public toilet where lawyer Donald Genaro ran earlier to hide when he abandoned Lex and Tim. The ending to his particular story happens out of frame with only a scream in a speech balloon pointing off the page (in letterer John Workman‘s unique style). This seems like another rather odd choice seeing as how the vast majority of readers will have witnessed the scene play out in the film. Why censor it?
A couple of dubious choices by Walt and story editor Jim Salicrup aside the story rockets towards its cliffhanger. In America this would’ve been the penultimate chapter in a four-issue mini-series but here in the UK we actually still had two parts to come. How so? You’ll find out next month. (I have to try to get you back here somehow!) In the meantime this final page brings things to an end but the issue has more to give before we place it back on the shelf.
Last month the behind-the-scenes feature introduced us to the various special effects departments and their roles in bringing Michael Crichton’s creation to the screen. This time the focus is fully on the mechanical dinosaurs themselves created by Stan Winston and his team in Building a Better Dinosaur.
We all know how the film led the way in its use of computer graphics, but what can’t be forgotten are the wonderfully lifelike creations that the cast actually got to interact with. As a huge fan of Jaws (which gets a humorous mention here), Jurassic Park always felt like a descendant of that original mechanical predator movie and this brief write-up is an interesting look at how they were created and operated. It’s just a shame it doesn’t contain any accompanying design or set photos of the details covered in the text.
The back cover is a double whammy of information on Dark Horse’s range, beginning with a subscriptions page and then a colour advertisement on the back. The company was making real inroads into the UK comics market, bringing international comics to our shores on bigger, better quality paper, chock full of strips and features. It’s unfortunate that the whole market was shrinking rapidly and ultimately there wasn’t much time left for the imprint and its titles. But we’ve got plenty of issues of this comic to go so we’ll not get bogged down with endings just yet.
For now, we’ve got a bit of a wait until the next issue. As explained last time the comic’s schedule was changing. Initially releasing on the last Thursday of each month, this issue came out a week early for some unknown reason and then from September onwards it would be out on the last Tuesday of every month. With all this jumping back and forth is it any wonder the comics checklist didn’t have a finalised date?
So Alan and Lex will have to stay completely still all the way until Tuesday 28th September 2021 and the review of Jurassic Park issue four! Will it be worth the wait?