Category Archives: Comic Reviews

JURASSiC PARK #3: CUDDLY CARNIVORE

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.

The constant presence of rain in the background and the subdued colours envelop the reader in the cold, wet nighttime scene.

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?

JURASSiC PARK #2: BUiLDiNG THE PARK

Welcome back to “Isla Nubar” (misspelled like this on the contents page) and Dark Horse International‘s UK version of Jurassic Park from 1993, edited by Dick Hansom. A rather strange cover by Gil Kane and George Perez, given how no dinosaurs have escaped yet. It’s a mishmash of named characters and extras, including a rather red-faced man in the middle. Maybe the raptor is holding his nose.

Inside is the second 28-page chapter of Topps Comics‘ adaptation and a few extras, something we were accustomed to this side of the pond. First up is an advertisement for John Williams‘ soundtrack album. I owned the CD at the time and have been listening to it on Apple Music while reading these. There’s a competition for glow-in-the-dark stickers, a somewhat unimpressive prize compared to later ones I remember. No comics checklist this month, instead a glance at the other titles currently in publication.

The strip continues adding to existing scenes while moving others about in order to adapt the film to the format, something I discussed in more depth last time. This chapter starts off where we left off in the midst of that iconic brachiosaur scene and there’s quite a lot of additional dialogue from Michael Crichton’s novel, such as Dr Alan Grant‘s and Dr Ellie Satler‘s further observations.

One part lifted directly from the book involves a little bit of background on the park itself. To achieve something of this magnitude would require more people than just those on the island, so John Hammond explains others were involved across the globe, knowing only their specific part of the puzzle. To maintain secrecy they were never let in on the bigger picture. The novel goes into things like this in a lot more detail to ground the fantastical story in the real world and if you haven’t already you really should read it yourself (or get the audiobook which is expertly brought to life by Scott Brick).

From here we make our way to the Visitor’s Centre, our characters excitedly discussing what they’ve seen, trying to take it all in. After the Mr. DNA sequence we find ourselves in the lab where we meet Dr. Henry Wu, who was played by BD Wong. In the novel Wu was a central character and certainly not the affable person we saw in the movie.

Crichton’s Wu was ruthlessly ambitious, believed the success of Jurassic Park was solely down to him and never saw the dinosaurs as real; they were engineered adaptations of the originals. He even argued with Hammond about the ability to create any dinosaur they wanted, even new breeds, tailoring them to exact requirements to bring in the most money from paying tourists. All of this would of course form the main plot of the fourth movie, Jurassic World. However, in the comic his role is reduced even further than in the first film, appearing in only three panels with most of his dialogue given to Hammond.


“I’m simply saying that life finds a way.”

Dr. Ian Malcolm

One character who definitely doesn’t suffer this indignity is Dr. Ian Malcolm, so memorably encapsulated by Jeff Goldblum that you can’t help but hear his voice when reading one of his many quotable lines. In the novel Malcom’s fascinating monologues ran to several pages and for the film their essence was broken down and brought to life by Goldblum’s very natural delivery, becoming the very backbone of the story.

This continues in the comic although his characterisation is a little different thanks to Gil and George. Overall he’s still the cool mathematician but his facial expressions make the character a little darker in tone, lending his predictions a more sinister feel. This actually suits the medium. Scenes here don’t have the luxury of playing out over several pages to build tension, so this little tweak in tone works a treat instead. Below is an example as he delivers his most famous line, used as marketing for later movies in the series.

While the Tyrannosaurus rex was the biggest dinosaur and the most publicised the stars were the Velociraptors. Apart from a baby their existence is merely hinted at and talked about for much of the film in an expertly crafted script that built tension for their final reveal and dominance in the latter acts. But young comic readers wouldn’t want to wait three issues to see them on the page.

So, just like last month we’re treated to prehistoric flashbacks to these great hunters in their natural environment (highlighted by Tom Smith‘s change in colours) when game warden Robert Muldoon (Bob Peck) introduces them during that memorable dinnertime cow scene. With a graphic novel it’d be easier to follow the movie more closely, but writer Walter Simonson and story editor Jim Salicrup had to give readers a monthly dose of the ‘raptors and I think these scenes are a great solution and a natural fit.

Ian Malcolm‘s quotes aren’t the only ones to survive the transition to comic form. Jurassic Park is a very quotable movie, with a surprising amount of dialogue taken directly from the novel. Some would have to be excised for this shorter form of storytelling but here are a small selection of those to be found in this second issue.

For some reason the comic changes the recorded in-car voice to James Earl-Jones from the film’s Richard Kiley. Maybe Earl-Jones was better known to the comic audience? On a side note, Crichton chose Kiley’s voice in the book so I thought it was funny how Speilberg actually got Kiley to play the part!

The story rolls along until we find ourselves at the T. rex paddock complete with a very worried goat and an almost gloating Malcolm. He knows the park can’t work, knows the natural systems in play are too complex to control and as far as he’s concerned chaos theory proves it. Unfortunately we lose the lovely butterfly effect scene between him and Ellie, but then again without Jeff’s delivery it would probably fall flat.

Maybe this is just a way of speeding the story along, because we’d never have bought Alan [Grant] doing this in the movie.

However, after the others jump out of the vehicle we still get to laugh at him talking to himself about talking to himself, John Workman‘s speech bubbles pointing away from the action, highlighting the fact he’s chittering away on his own. It’s a very funny way to present this moment in a different way, I actually laughed when I read it despite seeing the film countless times already.

At this point we see more evidence of changes to the comic’s pacing in order to fit it all in. In the film Alan jumps out of the moving car when he sees and hears something in a field beside them. Here, he’s out of the car before it’s even started moving away from the T. rex paddock, climbing through a gap in the fence simply because he’s fed up of not seeing any dinosaurs.

It’s not exactly the safest of places to go for a dander! So maybe this is just a way of speeding the story along because we’d never have bought Alan doing this in the movie. It’s the first time I’ve questioned a change made by the comics team. Yes, the very next page is the last but come on, they could’ve simply added a caption to indicate they’d moved away from the T. rex first!

This isn’t a case of going back to the book either because in that they see a vet with a sick Stegosaurus and walk over in a safe environment, whereas here you can see they get surprised by an apparently healthy Triceratops. Same species as the film but this isn’t how the encounter played out. Could there be a major change of plot here? Or just a quick cheat for a cliffhanger? We’ll find out next month.

If chapter one was the introduction to the story, the setting and the characters, this month has been the build up. We all know next month will include the elements all coming together to create the disaster that befalls the park so I’m interested to see how that will be adapted for the comic and how successful it will be.

Straight after the strip is the second of the behind-the-scenes features, explaining the differences between the four special effects teams and what each of their roles were. Miniature photography for animatics and choreography, the full-motion live-action creations, the mechanics for those beasts and of course the CGI. It’s easy to forget these days just how far ahead of anything else Jurassic Park was in 1993. The fact it looks just as spectacular 28 years later is testament to the hugely talented individuals who worked so hard to create Spielberg’s vision.

I saw the film in a Glasgow cinema with my dad and then devoured the novel that summer, after which I bought a fantastic book called The Making of Jurassic Park by Don Shay and Jody Duncan. There had been such books for movies before but the level of detail in this one was second to none. Fascinating stuff but lost when I moved out of home years later. These features have me eager to read it again, so I might just add it to the Christmas list this year.

On the back cover was another advert with that timeless logo and the island sunset. More a tease, it announced the inevitable video game coming to multiple formats in three months’ time. More memories are flooding back because I owned the Nintendo Game Boy game and spent many a late night in bed before school playing it under the covers with that massive, heavy light attachment on top of the little monochrome screen. Happy memories indeed.

For reasons now lost to time the third issue of Jurassic Park would only take three weeks to arrive, releasing on 19th August, the penultimate Thursday of the month rather than the last like the first two issues. Oh well, it just means there’s less time to wait. But, from #4 it changes again to the last Tuesday of every month, so there’ll be a longer gap between the next two! Why this happened is anyone’s guess.

But the main thing is that #3 is here in just 21 days’ time on Thursday 19th August. Until then, don’t move. It can’t see you if you don’t move.

ViSiONARiES #5: SiRENA SONG

If you were to take a quick glance through this latest issue of Marvel UK‘s Visionaries from 1988 you’d think it was business as usual, with another lengthy strip featuring the Knights of the Magical Light and their quest to rebuild their crumbling planet. After last month’s superb story by new head writer Gerry Conway anticipation is also high. But look beyond the brilliant cover by Mark Bagley and we discover some bad news on the editorial page.

There we find a tiny message from editor Steve White announcing the horrible news that this, only the fifth issue, will be the last. He says there are more details to come so we’ll concentrate on the strip first and see what those details are later.

This issue’s story is called Dream Maker and begins with my favourite Visionary from the cartoon, the lightning fast Witterquick atop a cloud covered mountain answering the cries of a beautiful but entombed woman called Sirena. As he attempts a rescue a demon appears, apparently threatening to kill our hero for looking upon the woman’s beauty. It might appear this demon is jealous and has trapped his great love to be with him forever, but as we find out later it’s just a bit of clever writing.

I say clever writing, but with a name like Sirena and a front cover showing her in control of monstrous forces the game has kind of been given away. If there was any doubt left the comic’s editorial made sure to erase all mystery beforehand. It’s still a compelling read though. I get the distinct impression Gerry, co-creator of The Punisher, really enjoyed developing these toys into three-dimensional characters. This issue concentrates almost exclusively on Witterquick and the Darkling Lord Cindarr, who we also see awaken from the same dream, with him in place of the Spectral Knight.

Sirena tells both men she’s a former Queen who has reached out telepathically to the only man able to recover the magical stone that can open her prison. Not convinced the dream is real, Leoric knows there’s no stopping Witterquick’s impetuousness so he wishes him well but offers no help or resources. On the other hand Cindarr has to fight off Reekon and Mortdredd who accuse him of abandoning his post at Darkstorm‘s castle. While you might wonder why a Darkling Lord would care about an imprisoned woman, it’s the first sign of there being more to Cindarr than we initially thought.

Witterquick’s impulse to save the poor villagers is soon overpowered by his desire for Sirena.

The scene shifts to a crumbling mountain road where the giant ‘Bronze Warrior’ statue looks down upon a ramshackle village led by a despot warlord. The statue is a rusting metal ruin of unknown origin from the previous Age of Magic, now a tourist attraction with a gleaming jewel eye. Witterquick’s initial impulse to save the poor villagers from their maniacal leader is soon overpowered by his desire for Sirena, such is her power over him.

Soon he and Cindarr are in a race to claim the key. Both use their magical poems, Cindarr unleashing ground-shattering destruction, Witterquick giving himself incredible speed which he uses to grab the key first. Despite this, Cindarr still saves Witterquick’s life when they’re suddenly attacked by the villager’s warriors.

It’s a gut reaction by Cindarr and a big surprise for the reader. He’s the highlight of this story and showcases the potential for complex character arcs to come between the warring factions. How heartbreaking that this is showcased in the final issue. Offering up a temporary alliance he uses his incantation to shake the very ground upon which the statue stands, scattering the warriors and allowing both of them to escape, the statue left wobbling in the wind.

We also see Witterquick open up about who he really is, flaws and all, through thoughts and the well written (as always) narrative captions. In the comic his magical speed also seems to apply to his heart. He’s quick to fall in love, quick to jump to conclusions, quick to leap into danger, all of which can get him into trouble, all easily avoidable if he just took a step back and thought things through first.

I can empathise.

Struggling with his thoughts, Witterquick dreams once more. Today I wouldn’t bat an eyelid at the image below, but in a toy comic of the time I think it shows Visionaries was aimed at a slightly older audience than Transformers, albeit an audience that still played with action figures. We’d have seen the likes of this in Conan comics so I thought it was interesting in the middle of a Hasbro toy licence.

Nudity in dreams is said to represent vulnerability, perfectly summing up Witterquick’s thoughts at this juncture in the story. The bewitching hold Sirena has over him, believing it’s true love, makes him shake off the doubts and carry on. From here on we see both Knights frequently cross paths with each other, more as competitors than enemies, creating an interesting dynamic and lots of fun moments.

They come up against a monstrous beast guarding the caverns underneath the toppled statue, providing us with an example of their back and forth race. Cindarr scoots past in the background (above right) as Witterquick struggles with the beast before transforming into his cheetah totem, biting the beast and escaping, the captions hinting at themes covered in last month’s review.


“But in the end, we fought as allies. Imagine if our leaders could find a way to do the same.

Witterquick to Cindarr

These caves take our Knights back underneath the statue where Witterquick uses his speed spell once again to grab the stone before it collapses. The Darkling Lord is buried under tons of metal but not before changing to his gorilla form for protection. After bursting out, in a moment of revenge he shames and embarrasses the warlord in front of all of his followers, freeing the people from his evil rule.

It’s another surprising Cindarr moment I didn’t see coming for a character so simplistically depicted in the cartoon, and it would appear it surprised him too. Both characters seem to be fighting against where they’ve been placed in this new world, seeking to find their true selves inside all of the magical armour that now defines them.

Attacked and ashamed by Sirena’s demons (below), the truth is laid bare and his heart is broken. About to be set free, she no longer needs him, he’s a complication. I actually felt for Cindarr here; the spell had him genuinely believing he was in love and doing the right thing, something he shouldn’t care about doing.

Now in the area foreshadowed earlier we see the demon attacking Witterquick but it’s holding back, not wishing to kill our hero, claiming he’s there to stop evil from being released. It’s at this point we realise those panels at the top of this review now read very differently.

Witterquick is unable to listen to reason and only the intervention of a vast gorilla (complete with Grimlock-like speech in this form) stops him from unleashing Sirena. Cindarr could have simply walked away. More evil being unleashed into the world and one less Spectral Knight should be a good thing, should it not? But he’s become an unlikely hero, trying to keep the witch imprisoned and saving a warrior he’s come to respect.

But unwittingly they’ve gotten too close and the jewel floats on a magical current right into the lock of Sirena’s tomb. Here her true horrific appearance is revealed as she pushes against the dissolving seal in a scene reminiscent of scenes from popular mini-series V just a few years previous.

His mind set free at last, Witterquick’s horror is clear. This leads to a final desperate bid to not only save their planet but also their dignity, as they use both staff powers together, combining speed and destruction into an unstoppable force and unleashing it directly upon the dissolving force field.

The prison explodes, taking Sirena with it. My favourite part is not this appropriately action-packed finale itself, but rather the immediate aftermath when the two enemies help each other out of the rubble and share this moment.

Gerry’s scripts are just so beautifully written in these quieter character moments. I laughed when I read this. After being at loggerheads through the long quest and intense action these two simple words sum everything up for the men. The next page also reveals a little about their views of the ongoing battle for the planet. I’d have been disappointed if the story hadn’t included this conversation after all they’ve been through.

It’s a nice final page, the second panel summing up a lot of conflicts in our real world, particularly here where I live. The respect and understanding between Cindarr and Witterquick is clear and it’s left very open ended. There can be no other outcome, for now at least. No, they’re not friends but can they truly be enemies again? At least they get to end their adventure with a shared laugh and as far as the comics go I’ve got a new favourite character in Cindarr.

This dynamic is just crying out for further exploration but for now Visionaries bows out. At least it does so in style with another superb story, nicely developed characters and plenty of surprises. As you can see the promised “details” don’t amount to much, just the date on which their remaining stories will be serialised in the weekly Transformers comic.

It’s quite the wait but a new look was coming up in Transformers so a new back up strip (temporarily replacing Action Force/G.I. Joe) would help launch it and bring in Visionaries readers eager for more. There are still a couple of publications to come for our intrepid, magical heroes in the form of an annual at Christmas time and a Spring Special next year. That annual may have been released in August but let’s face it we all got them as Christmas presents. So that’s when it’ll be covered here, following the real time nature of reading these as originally intended.

Speaking of further publications, on the back cover is another gorgeous contemporary advert. Dragon’s Claws was created by the ace Transformers team of Simon Furman and Geoff Senior. Set in the distant future of Britain it was a comic I’d seen advertised as a kid and had always wanted to try but never got around to. This is going to be corrected in 2022. The complete collection is sitting on my comics shelves waiting patiently for their own real time read through on the blog. Watch out for that in the spring of next year.

In the meantime you can expect reviews of the final two Visionaries stories on the dates of their respective conclusions in the pages of Transformers. Each story was split into four parts as was custom for the back ups, so the first story’s review will be on the OiNK Blog on Friday 1st October. Join me then, won’t you?