It’s been a long wait for this issue of Jurassic Park so I’m chomping at the bit to get stuck in. I can remember as a teen being overjoyed to finally see the comic appear again, however my initial reactions once I opened it were mixed. First of all this is my very favourite cover of the whole series. No, a Velociraptor doesn’t really take control of the plane, it’s just a funny reference to the main story inside. To this day Michael Golden‘s cover still raises a giggle which I’m sure was the intention. I just wish it wasn’t covered with so much text.
But then came a little bit of disappointment because I discovered there were eight less pages, reduced from 36 to 28 and there was only the one back up strip, no Xenozoic Tales in sight. I’d been really enjoying those stories but at least Age of Reptiles was still here and it was as magnificent as always. Things would return to normal next month but initially I didn’t know this so I wasn’t sure if Tenrec and Hannah would return. What is here is great fun though, so let’s get going.
The final part of Steve Englehart’s Dark Cargo begins with the pilot doing what humans always do in the world of Jurassic Park; proving that small, seemingly inconsequential actions can have catastrophic consequences. Feeling the plane’s weight shift about he puts it on autopilot and goes to help George Lawala, finding he’s already killed one of the juvenile ‘raptors. But they don’t see another skulking in the shadows, hunting the two men. It attacks, killing the pilot and maiming Lawala, but not before he’s able to shoot it in the neck.
It’s here when Jurassic Park makes its real point of difference. Dr Ellie Satler (she and Dr Alan Grant were Lawala’s prisoners, check out the previous reviews) hears the gun shot and discovers the horrific scene, the dinosaur dying in front of her. Even knowing it would’ve killed her in a heartbeat and that its siblings must be nearby doesn’t stop her from trying to save its life. It was just doing what it does, hunting prey to eat. I love this page.
A quick note about the artwork. The final panel above is a strange one and at times penciller Armando Gil does seem to draw the ‘raptors in a way in which they’re not really identifiable (sometimes in this chapter it’s also confusing in regards to which one is which and we have to rely on the dialogue to decipher the images), but mainly he has done a great job of capturing the dinosaurs as real world animals (check out his magnificent Tyrannosaurus rex in #6). His action scenes can sometimes seem sparse, but inkers Dell Barras and Fred Carrillo imbue them with great texture and atmospheric shadowing. John Costanza is our letterer and Renée Witterstaetter brings bold colours alongside her role as Story Editor.
“The ‘raptors.. somehow, it’s got to be the ‘raptors..!!”Dr. Ellie Satler
While Ellie ties a tourniquet around the animal’s neck another ‘raptor is looking on, which Alan spots and distracts, with both it and the final sibling giving chase. Panicking, he dives into an open crate but escapes through a side hatch as the dinosaurs jump in after him. Able to close the hatch and lid he traps them inside, attaches the pulley system and dangles them out the back of the bomber! Well, out there they can’t do any harm. Famous last words, Alan. This is Jurassic Park after all.
Suddenly the plane starts diving and they rush for the cockpit. Refreshingly, they don’t immediately take to the controls and somehow land the plane like in every movie and TV show ever. Instead, Alan admits the only thing he recognises is the wheel and he tries desperately to stop them crashing, not really sure what to do. The plane is being pulled about and the autopilot was knocked off, but why? Ellie is sure it has to be the Velociraptors, but how? Take a look at the page above.
I remember reading this at the time and being thrilled with the intelligence of the dinosaurs, especially this lot. You have to remember before the first movie came along the general public had a vision of dinosaurs as stupid big lumbering lizards. Jurassic Park changed all that and I can distinctly remember that same feeling of excitement from this comic. The swinging crate pulls the plane further down, Alan struggling to level it off in a desperate bid to stop it nosediving when we get to this month’s cliffhanger.
The voice from the other side of the binoculars is going to be key to how this story develops from here on. It’s a more exciting cliffhanger than the one which led to a two month wait, so thank goodness we’re back to a monthly schedule again. I can remember parts of the strips to come, in particular what Ellie saving of one of ‘raptors will mean later, and I can’t wait to revisit these stories and compare them to the movie series we’ve had since. For now, take a good long look at this piece of gorgeousness.
As I said at the top of the review there are only two strips this month, with our main story and the one back up getting equal space of 12 pages apiece. So we’re straight into the Age of Reptiles. It opens with the panel at the top of this post, which certainly sets the scene! That is followed with the above spread and I find myself just completely immersed in this world again. Still up upon the cliffs, the Deinonychuses attack the T-rex pair. They put their all in, I’ll give them that, but they never stood a chance.
One is kicked over the side and lands in deep water below, quickly swallowed up by a giant ocean predator. The remaining two are swiped off the side by a glancing blow from a ‘rex tail, one landing hard on the rocks at the bottom of the cliff, dying instantly but breaking the fall of the other. Throughout this, and the rest of the story, the individual characters really shine through, as you can see from this selection of highlights below.
From being taken by surprise from behind, to the horror of their friend dying, to the little baby T-rex being coached to hunt by their parent Long Jaw, every dinosaur here is an individual brought to life by the genius of creator/writer/artist Ricardo Delgado and coloured by James Sinclair.
The youngster spots Dark Eye who is clearly deliberately wanting to be chased, as you can tell from that final panel above. That pose almost says, “Me?”. Haha, it’s brilliant. The young inexperienced hunter doesn’t realise it’s a trap and gives chase. When his prey disappears behind a rock he follows blindly, right into an ambush of half a dozen of Dark Eye’s pack. Long Jaw is the adult T-rex and suddenly realises he’s alone! He runs through the forest in desperate panic, following the trail or possibly the scent and finally comes upon this scene on the final page of the chapter.
I vividly remember seeing this image for the first time back in 1994. The towering Long Jaw roaring into the sunset, the flying predators already circling and the heartbreaking image on the ground. It was truly shocking. I’m sure I wasn’t the only reader who’d loved the tiny little ‘rex, such was his depiction in this and previous issues. We’re racing towards the climax of Age of Reptiles and I know it was big, I know it was ultimately a very satisfying conclusion, but for the life of me I can’t remember how it ends. It was 28 years ago after all. I’ll impatiently wait and see.
Both of these strips ratcheted up the tension so I’m really looking forward to the next issue. This one may have been thinner than any other in the series (the missing pages are added back in next time) and down one strip but what is here is superb from start to finish. Plus, I’ll just mention how much I love that cover image again. To finish with the final two pages contain more of those retro adverts, the first of which is for a video release of a show I remember being on TV at the time, and the back cover is for a comic magazine from Dark Horse International that would end up saving Jurassic Park from an even earlier cancellation. More on that later in the summer.
Just on a personal note, it’s so strange to look back and see a video for £10 that only contained one episode of a show. I do remember buying Babylon 5 on VHS, each volume costing £8.99 and containing only two episodes. It’s crazy to think back to that now. Two Christmases ago I was able to purchase the entire five seasons of B5, 111 episodes for £40 on my Apple TV! (All restored to their original aspect ratio and remastered by the way, just to let fellow fans know.) How times have changed.
Anyway, back to Jurassic Park and that’s where we leave things for now. The next issue’s review will be here from Thursday 7th July 2022 and by then I’m sure most fans will have seen the brand new film which is due for release tomorrow as of the time of writing. Suddenly, remembering buying these comics is making me feel very old!