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 months after its release? It would be, 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. For example, here 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, just 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; 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.
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. However, 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 and during 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.
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 than normal, 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 when 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 even 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.