Another exciting Gil Kane cover that bares absolutely no resemblance to anything that occurs inside, or any other issue or even the movie. It’s the second of two covers from the American preview comic, the previous one shown off last month. That Topps Comics preview contained two small strips set before the events of the movie and the first was underwhelming to say the least. The second, which is the headline story inside this issue, is far better and concentrates on the man we all loved to hate, the person behind all the chaos, Denis Nedry.
Portrayed by Wayne Knight in the film, Gil produces a great likeness here while not getting so hung up on it that he ends up expressionless. Betrayal is written by Walter Simonson and tells the tale of Nedry’s arrival on Isla Nublar to work on the computer systems that would be so instrumental in the creation and eventual downfall of the park; networking of computers, park systems, zoological simulations and crowd control measures all make up his complicated job. Dick Giordano (Detective Comics, The Sandman, Superman vs The Amazing Spider-Man) joins Jurassic Park to ink Gil’s pencils, John Workman returns as letterer, as does Renée Witterstaetter as colourist (and Story Editor for this and the sequel story later in the issue).
Some fans online have mistakenly said there’s an error in Nedry’s and Hammond’s relationship in the film. Hammond‘s favourite phrase was, “Spared no expense” and yet Nedry is constantly saying he’s underpaid, his boss unwilling to negotiate. Here, Simonson picks up on this plot thread from the novel that the film touched upon (and those fans missed) and elaborates on it. Nedry’s bid was very high, no expense was spared, but it was made before he knew the secret of what the attractions on the island actually are. Once he finds out he thinks he underbid, but Hammond is a man who honours his word and expects others to do the same.
Realising the fortune Jurassic Park is going to make Hammond, Nedry constantly tries to spin that his work is going to be far more complicated than first estimated, but really it’s not true and he’s just pushing for more money. Hammond doesn’t budge. His computer experts perfectly relayed to Nedry what was required, the fact the animals are dinosaurs doesn’t change anything. Six months in however, Nedry begins to realise extra money will never be forthcoming from his computer work and in a moment of clarity, when he overhears Henry Wu discussing the embryo laboratory, he clicks that’s where the money is, in the dinosaurs, and their embryos are tiny, perfect for smuggling off the island.
The story ends with his first attempt at reaching out to Ingen‘s competitors but for me the real meat of the story is seeing the beginning of the relationship between these two characters. Also, unlike the previous prequel story, Genesis, foreshadowing isn’t shoved in our faces, instead it just concentrates on telling a good story based around a key plot point in the movie and the characters at its heart. Hammond comes across as a bit too cantankerous at points compared to Richard Attenborough‘s charming portrayal, but in the end it’s an interesting little prequel and a nice addition to the comic.
There’s no Xenozoic Tales this issue so all three remaining strips get more room to breath, although I do miss Tenrec and Hannah. They’ll be back, though. Alongside the eight-page Betrayal and the ten-page Dark Cargo for a meaty 18 pages of Jurassic Park, is Ricardo Delgado‘s stunning-as-always Age of Reptiles which makes up 11 pages, sandwiched in between the other strips. It starts off serenely with a large Ankylosaurus enjoying some bark from a monstrously sized tree that dwarfs even this huge dinosaur. But then they hear a noise and step to the side to have a look around the tree; I think the way this simple gesture is drawn is just so full of character.
I was beginning to feel sorry for the peaceful beast who now found themselves outnumbered three-to-one against our favourite predatory rascals, the Deinonychuses. As you can see from what happens on the next page I needn’t have worried. This is enough to make the smaller dinos run off, beaten with one swipe of a tail. I just love this big action shot though, especially since the build up was so peaceful, it’s such a surprise! We get another little respite when we check in on the Tyrannosaurus rex pack as Long Jaw arrives back and nuzzles the noses of his mate Talon and their baby, with the other male Blue Back and his mate Climber looking on.
The whole pack is angry and soon Long Jaw sees why. The large circular nest is empty of all its eggs except for a few pieces of broken shell and one last intact egg, tucked in next to Talon. We then get a double-page spread and a really brilliant moment as he looks down at evidence of who robbed their nest and, even though a T-rex‘s face shouldn’t be that emotive, we can tell he knows exactly who were responsible. The way Ricardo lays this out with his face in between the footprint and those same feet now on a nearby beach is just genius.
Look very closely at that big panel in the middle of the page where we see the Deinonychuses arrive on the beach, where they’ve taken all the eggs they’ve stolen from various other creatures. Have a look up into the cliffs and, amongst the silhouettes of the craggy terrain you should spot the shapes of a head and a tail. I’ll admit I don’t think I ever noticed this the first time around back in the 90s because it surprised me when I spotted them now. It’s so subtle, I love it. It also leads on to the climax of this issue’s chunk of story.
After filling their bellies the three thieves start making their way up a very narrow path along one of those cliff faces and come face-to-face with our two female Tyrannosaurs. The size and power of these dinosaurs in comparison to the smaller ones is perfectly captured here and I particularly like the overhead view showing just how trapped they really are. There’s even a tiny bird looking on. Little details like this amongst all the action and drama is a trademark of Ricardo’s and one of the reasons I love his work so much.
The leader of the Deinonychuses turns and barks orders at the others, one of whom turns and runs at the T-rex coming up behind them, the story cutting off for this issue as they leap into the air, claws bared. Age of Reptiles was never intended to be told in this way; it was created as a graphic novel to be read from beginning to end in one sitting. But it just works so well, editor Dick Hansom doing a great job of knowing when to make the edits to make each piece feel like a complete chapter. It’s a great cliffhanger. (Yes, that was very much an intended pun.) However, it’s a particularly frustrating ending this time, which I’ll explain after the third and final strip.
“Phooey on your ‘Chaos’! We’ve got boats, planes, radar…!”
“So does the war on drugs.”
Dr Ian Malcolm
Jurassic Park: Dark Cargo continues with Dr Ellie Satler, Dr Alan Grant and the juvenile Velociraptors transported from boat to a huge air transport and during the flight our human heroes eventually awaken to find their cage surrounded by the hissing, clicking raptors. One tries to pick the lock of the cage just as they did to their own, but Alan’s broken belt buckle from his failed attempt, still caught in the lock, stops them. They run off, the pilot noticing shifting weight so George Lawala, the first in a long line of greedy humans who would underestimate the intelligence of the dinosaurs, goes to investigate. He frees Alan and Ellie and gives them shotguns, the chapter ending with them all searching the plane (it’s so big, with so many places to hide, because he didn’t know what exactly he was going to be bringing back).
That’s the main plot out of the way. That’s not to say it isn’t fun, it certainly is, it’s just there are two individual pages elsewhere in the story involving subplots that really stood out to me. The first involves the army’s continuing attempts to clean up the mess of the island’s failed park. Having tracked Alan and Ellie to the beach they’re at a loss as to where they are. For me it’s great to see the new character, INgen‘s Dr Fischer back again (he first appeared in #6) and I’m still hoping we get to see more development of him in the future. But it’s the person on the next page that elicited the highest level of excitement when I read this back in 1994.
Of course, nowadays we’ve seen Dr Ian Malcolm, so memorably played by Jeff Goldblum, in The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and he’ll be returning again in the sixth film, Jurassic World: Dominion later this year at the time of writing. But at the time of this comic his return was a complete surprise! If the comic had a proper editorial and Next Issue promos I’m sure this would’ve been mentioned before it happened, so for once I was glad of the minimalist approach. It meant the surprise was kept until this very moment. He just appears in this one sequence as he recovers from his injuries from the movie but it’s exciting to see the character in this first official sequel, and he’s perfectly drawn!
Also mentioned here is ‘The United States Central American Command Center’, or ‘CENTAMCOM’, the comic’s own take on the real world’s CENTCOM (the same name except for the word “American”) and the resources they have in their search. It brings a larger scope to the background story that’s slowly developing while the main plot focusses on our two main characters, and I always enjoyed these aspects of the films, always wishing they’d delve deeper into the inner workings of INgen and the larger world within which the stories were set. Then it all ends with the biggest shock of all. Under the final panel we’re unceremoniously told #11 would be on sale on Thursday 9th June. What?
This current issue went on sale on Tuesday 29th March 1994, so suddenly my favourite monthly comic was telling me I had to wait ten weeks for the next chapters to all these stories. Can you now understand why I was so frustrated earlier? The use of the JP logo on the cover instead of the previous title graphic (I love the logo but preferred the previous one for the comic) was just the first big change to come. Ironically, this issue felt once again like the first ones I bought, settling back into a great format after a couple of months of trying to fit too much into its 36 pages. But that would all change, along with its publisher! But I’ll go into that next time because at this point originally I hadn’t a clue why there was such a long wait. You’ll just have to wait to find out too.
I’ll finish off with a look at the very-90s adverts this issue contains. There’s a teeny tiny liddle widdle radio which would’ve been right up my alley back then and it isn’t dissimilar to that given to Bond by Q in Skyfall many years later. The back cover has an advert for Dark Horse International‘s Manga Mania as the animation style started to take hold here, mainly thanks to Akira (with a hint of things to come for Jurassic Park on the bottom-left of its cover) and there’s a convention to match. Finally, those highly expensive phone-in competition lines which, when you think about it, should never have been in the pages of comics such as this (or the magazine Commodore Format I was collecting at the time which had plenty of them) when so many young readers could be tricked into spending a fortune on their parents’ phone bills. (No, I didn’t.)
So, with a clifftop battle in full swing and a pack of deadly Velociraptors on board a cargo plane we have to have patience and take a breather from the comic for a while. It’s difficult enough to not read ahead but this is going to be ridiculous! I’ll just have to cope somehow, then the next Jurassic Park review will be here from (big sigh) Thursday 9th June 2020, just one day before the release of the next movie! Oh, you see now I’m all excited again!