Tag Archives: Fred Carrillo

JURASSiC PARK #13: END OF AN AGE

This would be the final issue of Dark Horse International’s Jurassic Park, but the comic would continue for a few months yet. No, that’s not a contradictory statement, as you’ll find out next month. This is, however, the last time the cover will have that distinctive banner down the left side. What a cover image that is too. On the contents page the credit for John Bolton’s image clarifies it’s “a scene from the classic movie”. A classic just one year after its release? It would be, obviously, but it wasn’t even out on video at this stage!

John’s dramatic image was created for the American Topps Comics’ ongoing monthly, Return to Jurassic Park which had been released after the few initial mini-series, the second of which we were still reading in the UK comic. In fact, this edition saw the conclusion of the first issue in the second mini-series, Raptors Attack and was written by official sequel scribe Steve Englehart, pencilled by Armando Gil, inked by Fred Carillo, lettered by John Costanza and coloured/story edited by Renée Witterstaetter.

Part two of Rush! sees Doctors Alan Grant and Ellie Satler given the unenviable task of looking after the juvenile Velociraptors captured by Columbian drug lord Rafael. Training them via use of electroshock collars (the ‘raptors, not the doctors) the dinosaurs are becoming worn down and sick. Gassed and asleep, our heroes are sent in to examine them, not that Rafael is going to listen to any of their recommendations. As this is taking place the ‘raptor that was previously shot in #11 and saved by Ellie watches on from her cage.

What I particularly liked here was seeing some scenes from the point of view of the animals. The language of the humans is just a load of strange alien noises but she watches intently, trying to work out what’s happening, despite her base instincts. This storytelling technique isn’t used extensively, but enough for us to see their vantage point at specific moments, always treating them as intelligent wild animals instead of movie monsters,  a main theme of the novel and films. They’re individual characters and subject to development in this strip just like the humans. I like this a lot.


“I spent my life looking for tiny pieces of your remains, and now you’re here, in the flesh”

Dr Ellie Satler

Kept separate from her siblings she tries her best to attack Alan and Ellie as they approach her but she’s chained up and unable to make contact. Ellen then chastises her! How dangerous these animals are is always front and centre, and the others still terrify Ellen but after saving this one’s life she’s determined to help it. As she said in that previous issue, given half the chance she’d be torn apart by this creature but it’s still a miracle and she has an obligation to it as a scientist.

As you can see the ‘raptor eventually lets her tend to her wound, remembering she saved her life. From memory this is an important plot point and one the ongoing strip would return to in a key moment, but I won’t get ahead of myself. This, and the following page of the other two dinos preying on and destroying humanoid hay decoys reminds me a lot of the first Jurassic World, which is something else I’ll return to later in the run. But for now the constant training over several weeks seems to be reaping rewards for Rafael.

The ‘raptors are attacking on queue, and when they jump towards Rafael on the other side of their glass dome a simple command has them stop and obediently await their next instruction. But his successes can’t stop his paranoia about competitors and the government closing in on him, despite no evidence of the kind; it’s merely a result of being secluded from the outside world for too long. When local soldiers are spotted searching the jungle he assumes they mean to steal his dinosaurs so he and his men take his newest recruits for a test.

Ordered to attack, they take to their task with relish, dispatching the soldiers one at a time over a few pages. Armando Gil’s trademark use of dynamic angels comes into play here, one perfect example being the panel featuring the jeep trying to run down one of the ‘raptors, almost like its taking place on the top of a hill, the ground rounding towards the dinosaur. He’s just using two perspectives in one panel, one for the humans and one for the animal in the distance but it works to create a dynamic sense of excitement.

It’s clear these two “clever girls” have plans of their own

In the end she jumps on top of the car, making it crash into a tree where she rips the soldiers apart. As you can see the comic goes all in on the blood and guts. These pages are full of it. Yes, it’s tame compared to horror comics or modern action fare, but as a licenced title I was surprised. As a teenager I lapped it up, but looking at it now it feels strange when the films use suggestion and good direction to avoid gore, letting our imaginations fill in the blanks which is much more effective.

With the soldiers dispatched they make a leap for Rafael, but he shouts “Stop!” and they do just that! Are they fully trained after all? Is this man about to become one of the most dangerous criminals the world has seen? Not if a look shared between these two “clever girls” (to quote the movie) is anything to go by. This final panel tells the reader a lot more than I initially caught on to when reading this in 1994, but knowing what transpired next it’s clear these two have plans of their own.

This was such fun, especially when read upon its original release before any of the movie sequels took the dinosaurs off Isla Nublar, beginning with San Diego in The Lost World: Jurassic Park and then of course we had Owen Grady’s training and bonding with Blue and the rest of the Velociraptors in Jurassic World. This was groundbreaking at the time and still fun to read today, if somewhat diluted thanks to those later stories on the big screen.

The ‘Next’ caption is very uninspiring I have to say. More interesting is the fact there’s a free gift in the next issue because I have no recollection of this whatsoever. So you’ll be finding out what that was at the same time as me. For now we move on to the second half of the comic and a thrilling but bittersweet strip. Age of Reptiles has been building to this moment for eight issues now and it was a thrill to read this, but sad to get to the end and say goodbye to these silent comic stars.

But creator/writer/artist Ricardo Delgado makes sure they go out in style.

The drama, the suspense, the wonderful character moments have all been leading to this, but having a final climactic battle between the Tyrannosaurus rex pack and the Deinonycuses wasn’t enough for Delgado, he takes it to another level and sets the finale at sunset in a storm, pouring lashings of atmosphere into an already thrilling strip. Seriously, these final pages need to be seen and I can only show a few select highlights, so if you do see these comics for sale, buy them! This is worth the price of entry.

James’ colours have brought a deeply rich and vibrant world to life, perfectly matching Ricardo’s stunning artwork

After a few pages of already stunning action we get to the spread above. There’s so much to love here. So many little details my eyes pick up anew with every pass. The rain splashing off Long Jaw’s back, the Deinonychuses sinking their teeth deep into Talon as her mouth waters, the depth of the battle with the silhouettes in the background and the sheer scale of the action in the foreground as the four giant T-rex dinosaurs dominate the scene.

James Sinclair’s colours add even more, with a suddenly subdued palette portraying the time of day perfectly. All the way through Age of Reptiles James’ colours have brought a deeply rich and vibrant world to life, perfectly matching Ricardo’s stunning artwork. In fact, James’ colouring helped tell the story just as much as the line work, from the identifying markings on each character to the scene setting vistas and passages of time, culminating in these gorgeous final pages.

The battle feels suitably climactic after all this time and it certainly didn’t disappoint teenage me. With both sides playing to their strengths they always seemed evenly matched, despite being two very different species.  I was always interested to know who’d win in the end and I couldn’t remember this final chapter until I read it for this review. The answer, of course, is that neither side wins. This makes perfect sense in the end, as we’d gotten attached to various characters from both factions.

The pouring rain and the might of the battle on top of the nest is too much for the outcrop to bear. As the lightning strikes I can almost hear the thunder and the rain as the rocks begin to fall. Just as the T-rex pack begins to destroy the nest the ground shakes and everything and everyone hurtles down the cliff, seemingly to their doom. The story skips ahead to the next morning, all is quiet and we initially think that’s the end until one sole survivor breaks free from the rubble.

Long Jaw waits and waits but when no one else climbs out he makes his way through the jungle to the nest. There are always little extra details to catch our attention in Ricardo’s story, such as the huge Brachiosaur who seems to be almost timidly walking by so as not to disturb the T-rex. But Long Jaw’s only concern is getting home to protect the one remaining egg left in the wake of the Deinonychus attack back in #7. At least he can take solace in the fact that is now safe. Until we see the final page, that is.

As he approaches the nest a bird lands on his back and squawks at him. Obviously communicating danger, Long Jaw runs towards the nest and on the penultimate page the look of surprise on his face is almost comical as he finds a strange little creature tucking into a tasty treat. There have been sequels to this told by Ricardo over the years but none had been created by the time of Jurassic Park’s printing so it’s with a heavy heart we say goodbye to the Age of Reptiles. It’s been a thrill every single issue, sometimes more so than the Jurassic Park strips.

The caption at the bottom of the final page to Age of Reptiles tells us Cadillac and Dinosaurs begins next month, but if this sounds vaguely familiar that’s because it’s the Cartoon Network’s name for their adaptation of Xenozoic Tales, which we had as a second back up strip in issues #6 to #9, so it’s not a beginning, just a renamed continuation which I’m very happy about.

On the back page is an advert for a Street Fighter II comic based on the video game, which still feels rather random today. There’s no Dark Horse logo, but there is a Manga one. This’ll be an important detail for Jurassic Park from next month. You’ll see what I mean when we get there. The review of the next issue, which sees some welcome changes to the comic, will be here from Tuesday 8th September 2022. See you then.

JURASSiC PARK #12: WHAT A RUSH!

Another issue of Dark Horse International’s UK version of Jurassic Park hit shelves 28 years ago today with a slight redesign to the cover, an even split inside once again and a few extra pages, although not quite the number it had before. Michael Golden’s cover is framed this time and the text is reduced, resulting in us being able to see more of his excellent art. Such a shame the best cover art of the series wasn’t given this treatment last month, eh?

The monthly comic had always totalled 36 pages but last month this plummeted to 28. There are 32 here so it’s slowly returning to its previous size and it’s made up of 16 outer pages made of a higher quality grade of paper, with the inner 16 the usual matt. Just like last month the Jurassic Park strip and the Age of Reptiles back up are given the same amount of room to breath, so with the increase in pages that’s 14 a pop. A nice chunky read this month and it’s a corker.

Steve Englehart’s official sequel to the first movie continues with the first part of Rush!, however on the contents page it’s listed as ‘Raptors Attack: Part One’, the name of the four-issue mini-series in the US, the first story of which was Rush. A strange decision by editor Dick Hansom, particularly when it’s not explained and at the time, without the aid of the internet to look such things up, I assumed the comic was making up a name on the contents page but didn’t know why.

But that’s not important. What is, is that this sees the first steps in a story which may seem somewhat familiar to fans of later instalments in the movie series decades later. Doctors Ellie Satler and Alan Grant wake up after supposedly having blacked out when their plane crashed (we’re told the jungle was so thick it slowed their fall just enough) and find themselves guests of a man named Raphael in the middle of Colombia. But it’s not just our human characters he has taken in.

We find out Raphael is known as the “Columbian Criminal” by US politicians, although he says he’s innocent because the drug trade would continue whether or not he was in charge, he just profits. He comes across as a charming individual, but his isolation in the middle of the jungle, hiding from authorities while maintaining his empire, has made him somewhat paranoid. He believes the crash has delivered the perfect solution. Knowing all about Hammond’s island thanks to his links in the corrupt government, he’s going to train the Velociraptors to be his guard dogs to protect those profits.

As you can see above the dinosaurs aren’t happy about this at all. Caged up with electronic collars, the ferocity of the animals trying to get at our heroes through the toughened glass is perfectly captured by penciller Armando Gill, inker Fred Carillo and colourist Renée Witterstaetter (who, as always, is also Story Editor), with John Costanza’s letters working a treat at conveying the sound of their fury. Only two ‘raptors are being trained so far though, the third is being kept separate and still recovering from its injuries, only alive thanks to Ellie’s intervention last issue.

While the American government continues to track their plane, the doctors try to convince Raphael what he’s attempting is impossible, but he uses humankind’s taming of wolves as an example to prove them wrong. Raphael even tells Ellie, while she tends to the wounds of the injured ‘raptor, that if it is indeed impossible he’ll have no more need of her and Alan. They’ve no choice but to help. Above you can see his first attempt at control while Alan and Ellie watch on helplessly.

This continues for a few pages and the reader actually begins to feel sorry for the ‘raptors as they continue to disobey, trying to escape, their anger at Raphael clear in their eyes, as they get electrically shocked again and again. Alan and Ellie beg him to stop but it falls on deaf ears. He’s completely crazed and doesn’t understand why they’d wish to protect animals who would tear them apart given half the chance. Eventually they tire, looking beaten, completely defeated. But they’re faking it to stop the pain, regaining their strength for one final attempt at attack.

The artwork has definitely gone up a notch

Things conclude for now when our heroes’ protests become too much for Raphael and, combined with his annoyance at the dinosaurs’ disobedience, he orders them to go and tend to his new pets. A ‘raptor in a cage weakened from a shotgun wound is one thing, but being thrown into another with these two is something else! This is the cliffhanger for this issue and I can’t remember what happens next, so the dread is likely reminiscent of that I felt back in 1994 when I also had to wait a month for the answer!

While it’s the same creative team behind Rush! as we had for Dark Cargo, the artwork has definitely gone up a notch. The dinosaurs in particular look how they’re supposed to again and the story was incredibly exciting as a teenager. Remember, this was a few years before The Lost World: Jurassic Park so we hadn’t seen anything like this yet, we’d only seen these creatures on the island, nowhere else.

If you were to read this issue and the following chapters (from what I remember of them) for the first time now the impact may be somewhat diluted after the five movies that have followed, but I’m still just as thrilled as I was back then because that’s how I instantly feel when I open each issue, like it’s 1994 all over again. Back then this was the only sequel and it was developing the original movie’s plot in ways I’d never imagined.

It feels epic yet it’s ultimately just a tale of two dinosaur packs so we’ve got to know the individuals involved

Moving on to the second half of the issue and it’s hard to believe we’ve only had seven parts to the simply brilliant Age of Reptiles, superbly written and intricately illustrated by Ricardo Delgado with the bright and vibrant colouring of James Sinclair. The connection I feel I have with these silent comic stars makes it feel like I’ve been enjoying the strip for a lot longer. It just feels so epic yet it’s ultimately a small tale of two packs of dinosaurs so we’ve got to know the individuals involved, each one standing out with their body language or distinct markings.

We begin with the Deinonychuses walking alongside a huge Ultrasaurus. Initially we think they’re maybe just heading in the same direction, or using the huge beast as cover, but then she begins to tire and eventually collapses, dead from a series of smaller wounds inflicted on her by the pack. But in a moment that shows the brilliance and the humour of Delgado, they realise they’re not alone for this potential feast, above.

Regular readers of the blog may recognise some of the characters below, although I must say I’m a little disappointed they’re only in this for a page or two and that’s it. Being named in #9’s ‘Cast of Characters’ I was looking forward to their introduction, especially Hades, our red Carnotaurus friend there, but they’re no sooner introduced when the story moves on. But their presence is important. As a result, all but one of the Deinonychuses want to make a run for it, as you can see in the funny series of panels below. This is what I meant by how Ricardo is so good at character through body language.

Surprisingly, while we’re led to believe Hades and his team’s arrival would lead to a fight over the food, instead a battle takes place between Dark Eye, the current Deinonychus leader who listens to the worry of the pack members and leads them away to fight another day (in the photo above see the bottom panel, dino on the right), and Quetzal who wishes to stay and claim their prize (they’re the angry looking one).

There’s a bit of back and forth, then the rest desert Quetzal to fight for the food alone, but she leaps on top of Dark Eye and next thing we’re underneath a huge skeleton in the barren landscape for a leadership battle.

A gorgeous, epic spread. This continues for another page or two and at one point they rush each other, claws bared as they pass and we see blood fill the frame. But whose was it? In the end, in a shock twist, Dark Eye is the one to fall, leaving Quetzal to assume control.

I loved the suspense here (played out over more space than I can show you) and was genuinely surprised when, panel by panel, I saw it was Dark Eye who had lost. I was even more surprised to see the amount of blood and too know they’d actually been killed.

Age of Reptiles isn’t a strip for those who like to rush through their comics, this is for people like myself who really take their time, savouring every little detail in each panel before moving on to the next. Especially since this strip contains absolutely no words at all, changing scenes, times of day and handling transitions all through visual queues. There are so many little details that come together to tell this story, you’ll spend just as long with it as you would with a wordy strip from any modern comic.

So what could this turn of events mean for the pack in their war against the Tyrannosaurus rex families? With their new, dangerous leader at the front the final page of this penultimate chapter sets a moody scene as they return to their nest where one of the rex females had previously killed so many of them. On the one hand it’s disappointing to know there’s only one more part of this wonderful story to go, but on the other it’s the moment it’s all been building to. I’m so glad my memory has failed me and I can’t remember how it ends because I’m (probably… again my memory!) as excited as I was back then. I can’t wait to see the conclusion.

A consistently great title, Jurassic Park has evolved and changed over the past year. My favourite format was definitely when we had three strips consisting of the film sequel, the strip set in the age of the dinosaurs and the sci-fi futuristic strip with added dinosaurs. But from memory the rest of the comic’s run would be two strips, with just the one back up, like this and last month’s issues. That’s not to say there are no more changes afoot, however. For now though, there’s another month’s wait ahead until I find out how these cliffhangers revolve themselves. Issue 13’s review will be up from Thursday 4th August 2022.

JURASSiC PARK #11: ‘RAPTOR’ MEANS ‘BiRD OF PREY’

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.

In the world of Jurassic Park small, seemingly inconsequential actions can have catastrophic consequences

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!