Another exciting cover from Michael Golden, right? Shame it has absolutely nothing to do with what’s inside. In fact, Drs Ellie Satler and Alan Grant don’t even see the Velociraptors, none of our regular human characters do, so this is a somewhat misleading choice by editor Dick Hansom to pull readers in. That’s not to say the strip isn’t entertaining, it’s just not Ellie-holding-on-for-dear-life entertaining!
After last issue’s ‘Animals/Men’ story comes Animals/Gods!, as ever written by official sequel scribe Steve Englehart with the same art team as last time I’m very happy to say; Chaz Truog is on pencils, Paul Fricke is inking, letters are by John Costanza with Renée Witterstaetter bringing it all to colourful life as well as being story editor.
We have two completely separate stories happening here, our people becoming reunited while the ‘raptors enjoy life as wild animals again. Things kick off with the dinosaurs hunting down a cheetah. Naturally the big, powerful cat comes off the worst against these new predators but it’s still a thrilling chase. We get four pages of Alf, Betty and Celia living free, ending with them relaxing as they finish off their meal, have a roll about in the sun and simply enjoying time together as a family unit without us humans ruining everything.
They really are the stars this issue, but when we come back Alf starts to become ill, sneezes and collapses. During the human half of the story we find out there’s been a severe flu virus going around and both Alan and Robert Muldoon have come down with it. As Ian Malcom suggests, the Velociraptors aren’t predictable, they aren’t simple free animals (despite the animals thinking this themselves). Interacting with humans, something dinosaurs were never meant to do, will change them.
Ian’s scenes are the most interesting in the other half of the story. I still take issue with Muldoon having survived and his explanation just doesn’t make any sense, completely contradicting what we saw with our own eyes in the film! It’s also rather insulting for the reader to see him up and about perfectly fine, yet have Ian tells us he was laid up in hospital for months on end with his injuries, and he didn’t have a raptor’s jaw squeeze his skull! Anyway, we have to live with this for now and we find out Muldoon knew big game hunter George Lawala, the man whose work started this whole mess back in #7.
What I do enjoy though is any chance Ian Malcolm gets to talk Chaos Theory. If you haven’t read Michael Crichton’s original novel I highly recommend it for the pages and pages of monologues we get from Ian describing the intricacies of Chaos and his predictions for the park. It’s fascinating stuff. The movie did a great job of distilling these into short little scenes to get the essence across and here we get something of a cross between the two extremes. It’s clear Steve has gone back to the original source material when writing this.
That’s basically the entirety of the human story this time, to give some context to the story of the ‘raptors, the latter of which takes up a whopping 19 of the 27 pages of Jurassic Park strip. As I said, they really are the stars this time. We catch up with them as a local indigenous tribe watches these unknown animals succumb to their illness from a safe distance, believing them to be their gods taken animal form. Celia realises they’re being watched and attacks but despite the anger in her eyes she’s too weak to take them all on.
She finds a sacrificed animal and tries to drag it to her siblings but struggles to do so and collapses. We get a few pages of the tribe gathering around their gods, feeding them elixirs, bringing idols or worship, generally looking after them and taking part in religious chants to impart strength. A long time passes and slowly they return to full strength. The tribe gather tentatively but it doesn’t quite go as they’d thought.
Everyone is slaughtered, but not eaten. Humans are now the enemy after what they did to them in the park. It’s as simple as that. The chapter concludes with the Velociraptors disappearing off into the jungle once more, one simple caption underneath: ‘It’s good to be free and wild again…’
While I do enjoy seeing the ‘raptors portrayed in this way I have to say this is probably the weakest of the strips so far. Not enough happens. The main bulk of the story could’ve been told in a fraction of the pages without losing any of its excitement and the human half is simply a (albeit good) speech by Ian and that’s about it. It feels like a stop-gap, like the comic was taking a beat while it puts the pieces into place for the next story. Transformers would sometimes do this for example and you’d know what it was up to. But there’s one key difference here, the next issue is the last!
At the end of the strip is the line, ‘Next: The Thrilling Climax!’. As a teen I just thought it meant the end of this particular story before the next one kicked off, so this issue’s breather felt like it was gearing up for an awesome finale next time that would lead on to further adventures. However, with hindsight,I now know this meant the end of the comic. But only for UK readers, which I’ll get into next time.
While not designed as the penultimate story, it was for us and in this regard it’s lacking. Previous back up strip Age of Reptiles told a better story in a fraction of the pages in any one issue, which is a hard thing for me to say because I’ve been such a fan of the main strip up until the moment they brought back Muldoon, and now it feels like it’s padding itself out, treading water. Maybe it’ll make sense next month and read better as a result, but as it stands this was a fun strip but not worth the 26 pages it took to tell it and would’ve worked much better as a shorter, additional back up.
Moving on and after an advert for the soon-to-be-relaunched Manga Mania (now that the new publisher had gotten their hands into it properly) we move on to Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, Xenozoic Tales by another name. History Lesson is one of those rare things, a quite lengthy story by creator Mark Shultz (coloured for Jurassic Park by Christine Courtier), lengthy enough for it to be split into two parts over these final two issues. Taken from #4 of Mark’s original comic it takes place before some of the strips featured already, which is another strange choice by the UK editor.
In fact this picks up directly from the story in #7 and didn’t make a lot of sense to me at the time. It made it seem like they’d had all these other adventures before realising Gorgostamos was missing. I now know better but in the days before having the internet to research it just felt off. Obviously it wasn’t Mark’s fault. What is also not his fault is the fact nothing much of consequence happens here either. Perhaps when both halves are read altogether the story will be much more interesting, but it’s cut off here before it gets going.
After finding Gorgostamos’ remains Tenrec and Hannah debate whether the Grith killed him in order to save them, and Hannah once again wants to know more (remember, this happened long before last month’s story). Tenrec tells her of catacombs underneath the city where a library has been found, guarded by keepers of knowledge who don’t want outsiders let in. They fear that with knowledge of how to rebuild humans will just cause another cataclysm. Hannah insists on seeing it and the ten pages are about Tenrec meeting with allies to get them inside. Then, just as they do get in the story frustratingly stops for now.
The only really exciting part is the caption beneath the final panel! As a teen I looked forward to finding out the mystery once and for all but now, knowing the previous strips were actually later chapters in the story and the mystery wasn’t solved in them, I don’t think we’re going to get as many answers as this suggests, which actually makes me all the more intrigued as to what the caption means. If it gives at least a hint of what actually happened (or maybe the answer without the characters knowing) then at least that would explain why it was used as the final story for the comic.
I may have been none the wiser but it’s clear the new Manga Publishing knew the end was nigh, even if they were still offering subscriptions on the contents page. It’s sad to think this real time read through is almost over. This is the first issue I’ve been disappointed with as a whole, but 15 issues in that’s not bad at all. It feels like no time since I was reviewing that very first issue and thinking back the comic has changed a lot in a relatively short amount of time. Let’s hope for a spectacular send off. Well, a send off for the time being anyway. I’ll elaborate in #16’s review on Thursday 3rd November 2022.