It’s time to bring the movie adaptation of Jurassic Park to a close with the last 12 pages of the final chapter, originally part of issue four of Topps Comics‘ mini-series in the States. For UK readers it was split in two, with new backup strip Xenozoic Tales bringing up the rear. However, due to the decision to keep the comic going the back up gets more pages this time around and there’s a simple explanation.
I’m going to assume last month’s issue was originally going to follow the same formula as the ones that came before, with a full chapter of Jurassic Park and a behind-the-scenes feature. In the US it had been decided new adventures would make up another mini-series, but there was going to be a small gap before it went on sale. To plug this in the UK this last chapter was split over two issues and the back up added to fill out the pages. This explains why there were only four parts to the behind-the-scenes series, with none this month (or ever again actually).
The opening chapter of Xenozoic Tales was quite short in length, so more of the Jurassic Park strip was included last time, but Mark Shultz‘s stories were of varying sizes, so working all of this out to spread over the two issues has resulted in 14 pages of the movie adaptation climax and 18 for Jack Tenrec and Hannah Dundee. It makes for a strange balance but that would all be corrected next month. More on this below.
The monthly competition page acts as a kind of editorial this month, hyping the conclusion and the new strips to come. A strange choice of prize though, a graphic novel collection of the strip readers have read in the comic. Elsewhere, the lovely gloss paper of the covers makes these adverts for Dark Horse International‘s other mature titles really pop, especially that Aliens one. The more I see these adverts the more I want to add them to my collection at some point, even though I know they too were cut short.
So on to the end of the comic book adaptation of one of the biggest movies ever made. This month it crams in Dr. Ellie Satler‘s escape from the maintenance shed, the survivors reuniting, the Velociraptors infiltrating the visitor centre, the kitchen scene with the kids, the control room scenes, their escape and the final shock ending. That’s a lot for writer Walter Simonson and story editor Jim Salicrup to squeeze in and unfortunately just like last month it suffers as a result.
Case in point is the famous kitchen scene with Tim and Lex sneaking about and eventually getting one over on the ‘raptors. Tense in the movie, here it doesn’t make an awful lot of sense. For a start the shadow signalling danger is barely noticeable and the reflective surface of the kitchen appliances Lex used in her terrifying encounter in the movie seems to be floating in mid-air!
At least the kids get a few pages for their scene, the rest really are cut down to their bare bones. The idea behind each one is there and is solid, the main imagery is perfectly captured and the big scare moments are all present and correct. But with all the trims it rushes from one of these moments to the next every few panels, meaning their impact is diminished.
At least the dinosaurs themselves look good as you’ll see below, with penciller Gil Kane‘s and inker George Perez‘s Tyrannosaurus Rex and those ‘raptors looking suitably powerful in their final confrontation, which thankfully is given a bit more room to breathe. Not too sure about the green blood though. You’d have to ask colourist Tom Smith about that one. The random letter jumbles making up the noises of these animals are just plain bizarre, but at least John Workman‘s unique style of breaking the panels still looks the part.
This dramatic angle of the Tyrannosaurus rex is so good it’s used twice over the double-page spread, but they both look so good we’ll forgive the repeating. There’s a lot of powerful red, at least giving the impression of a gory fight to the death despite that sanitised blood colour. But still, somehow it works and it’s the powerful, dramatic scene that’s been missing from so much of these two issues. I particularly like the fact the iconic ‘When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth’ banner from the film is worked in as a caption.
“And behind them, receding into the distance Jurassic Park and the past are swallowed up in the gathering dark. The End.”
So ends the movie adaptation. But hang on, look at that final panel above. Where’s Ray? Yes, in the film he was killed in the maintenance shed off camera and Ellie discovered his severed arm when she went to reinstate the power grid. But last month Ellie volunteered first in a major change from the film. This meant Ray was still alive in the control room and yet here he’s nowhere to be seen. It seems the one black character has been completely forgotten about. It’s clear this final chapter was rushed with it’s art not being as detailed or polished and with huge chunks missing to get to the finish line in the page count, but still, just forgetting about a character is a massive oversight!
It’s such a shame it had to end this way because the first three chapters were so good that’s it’s more disappointment than anything else I’m feeling right now.
With no written feature to break up the strips this time we head straight from a natural island off the coast of Costa Rica to a manmade island group off the coast of North America for this month’s Xenozoic Tales: Mammoth Pitfall, written and drawn by Mark Schultz, coloured for a Marvel US reprint by Denise Prowell.
The story comes from the second issue of creator Mark Shultz‘s original series, but three stories which took place between last month’s introduction and this one have been skipped. That unfortunately means character development is going to be pretty spotty. For example, last month Jack and Hannah had just met, but here he’s trusting her in her attempts to capture a mammoth for domestication and she knows enough about him to know when he’s in trouble. It’s a shame we can’t appreciate their developing friendship properly but then again it’s only thanks to Jurassic Park we got to read them at all.
Jack knows nature has certain rules and understands a mammoth will always be a dangerous animal to humans. It should be respected and left alone. However, the reason the attempt fails is because of interference from another human who sabotages their attempt and sets Hannah up for a nasty death squish. After a very lucky escape she hides in the boot of Jack’s prized Cadillac. She later pops out and saves him from the man threatening to kill him if he doesn’t teach him the most prized skill of the time: how to drive!
Sometimes it seems nature bends the rules.Mark Shultz, Xenozoic Tales
It’s all great fun and the wordplay between Jack and Hannah is natural and funny. Trapped inside his garage by the angry beast the action is put on hold and it’s testament to Mark’s writing how equally compelling these simple character scenes can be. The script is full of interesting contradictions too. The juxtaposition between the dinosaurs and the cars is effortlessly presented, Hannah seeks action while Jack wants the easy life, and Jack the environmentalist and animal lover has dedicated his life to restoring the very machines responsible for the great cataclysm. (Although he has converted them to run on dino guano.)
Curious to see what all the fuss is about with these ancient contraptions Hannah convinces Jack to take her for a ride, then to chase a storm back to the city. They discover the dead body of the mammoth she tried to capture, clearly the victim of a predator outside the garage. Jack is furious. “He should never have died here.” It’s great to see these characters learning about each other. Again, it pains me we’re not seeing it all.
The storm chase naturally ends in disaster. They crash, the Cadillac becoming a write-off in a sodden ditch. Tenrec carries an unconscious Hannah through the driving wind and rain until he bumps into a sheltered building of some sort that he wasn’t previously aware of. With no time to question its sudden existence he places Hannah inside and tries to wait out the storm. Flood waters rush them and by morning the storm has revealed the shelter that saved their lives.
With this the story comes full circle. The mammoth that Hannah was so certain could help them rebuild their world has in the end saved their lives, by losing its own, because of her. It’s thought provoking and rather sad and I felt genuinely sorry for the mammoth in the end, and thought less of us as a species. Which I think was the whole point. It’s a very different strip, but it works perfectly as a back up in this comic. After all, both strips are about the interaction between dinosaurs and humans and what happens when we try to force our dominance on animals we were never meant to meet.
With this we reach the end of another issue and the back page has me very excited. Using a one-colour version of the cover to my very first issue, the announcement I’ve been waiting all these months for is finally here.
If I’d been collecting these issues in 1993 then I’m sure I’d have been hugely excited by this! Who wouldn’t have been? Even now I’m hyped. Discovering #6 on the shelves with the promise of new adventures inside was thrilling and this promo is bringing back all of those feelings again. The mention of the third strip and even the competition headline are bringing a big goofy smile to my face because I remember both so distinctly. It’s quite extraordinary.
As is normally the case with all of these real time read throughs I will have to practice will power, but this is going to be harder than most. I’ll do it though, I’ll wait for the correct date, no matter how impatiently. That date will be Tuesday 30th November 2021, so join me then as we embark once more to Isla Nublar for the original, forgotten sequel to Jurassic Park.