Tag Archives: Michael Golden

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!

JURASSiC PARK #7: ON THE HUNT

The Christmas festivities may still be upon us but you wouldn’t know it from the latest edition of Dark Horse International‘s Jurassic Park from 1993. Released just three days after Christmas Day itself there’s not a hint of snow or any festive wishes for its readers, but then again there never were any personal touches to the Dark Horse comics, no editorials or the like. The cover is really special though and the first by Michael Golden to feature on the UK title. I love its mix of the natural and technological (the computer circuits in the background), perfectly summing up the world of Jurassic Park in a gorgeous and eye-catching piece of art.

What it does have are the next chapters in its three fantastic strips and a competition that takes me right back to late nights in bed exploring Isla Nublar on a tiny little electronic screen. It’s another phone-in and states it’s been made particularly easy for all to enter, then goes and continues its tradition of misspelling the island name! But let’s not fuss, the screenshots here may not look like much compared to today’s games but this was such fun to play and kept me awake far past lights out on many a school night.

In the second part of the first official follow-up to the film, as InGen attempt to recapture all the dinosaurs they ignore Dr Alan Grant‘s warnings that there are more Velociraptors out in the wild, so Alan and Dr Ellie Satler decide to take things into their own hands. They head for the other side of the island, scientific reasoning given for every step they take in tracking the animals. They end up on a beach searching caves and in the background a little boat putt-putts along the coast in some scenic panels by penciller Armando Gill and inker Dell Barras (Samsona, Conan the Barbarian, Batman) who criminally wasn’t mentioned in the previous issue’s credits. This is a shame because his deep blacks and line work bring a real sense of action amid a gritty, realistic atmosphere.

There are some nice references to the other surviving characters from the film and where they are now, all of which track with the as yet unwritten sequels, before a new character literally pops up, having come from that small boat I mentioned. After The Lost World this new addition of big game hunter George Lawala may not seem that original, but remember this was out just a few months after the first film. Amongst the dark caves colourist (and story editor) Renée Witterstaetter gives his entrance a burst of surprising colour, matching the sudden change of pace.

He instantly recognises the duo as a threat to his income, resulting in a chase deeper into the cave. He picked this particular cave because of its cover, easy access and the fact it’s far from the humans on the island, unaware of what could be living within. Alan and Ellie are fully aware (in fact they’d already deduced this was the perfect spot) but have no choice but to run further inside. The chase is rather exciting, the deep colours and camera angels drawing us in until we turn the page and both us and the characters are confronted with the ‘raptors.

George will be key in developing the story further and, eventually, in getting us off the island for the first time in the franchise. For now though this is our cliffhanger for another month after a dramatic, beautifully drawn eight-page adventure. Again, the Jurassic Park strip has the least pages of the three stories but it doesn’t feel like that while reading, and where it’s been cut into parts by editor Dick Hansom we’ve ended up with two opening chapters that feel very different from each other (even though they were part of the same issue in the States), as if it was written for this format.

Mark Schultz‘s Xenozoic Tales is next up and it’s the second half of the story from last time. The mysterious lizard people that appeared to be kidnapping Hannah Dundee are revealed to be The Grith, a race of people who work with the Earth to grow both their own health and that of the planet. Despite correctly seeing humans as fighting against the Earth and even after everything they caused, Jack Tenrec was able to befriend them, communicating through a system of ancient tiles, the meaning of which have been lost to time. They might seem familiar to the reader though.

They appear to be a peaceful race but as you’ll see from the end of this chapter they’re quite capable of defending themselves, their friends and the Earth from any danger. The fact they can use the Scrabble tiles (a funny touch to the story) might be because they’re descended from ancient humans, or from other creatures that were around at that time, or maybe there’s some other, simpler reason behind how they can communicate this way. They’re also so in tune with the planet they’re able to predict an earthquake about to hit a cliffside farming community, so Jack and Hannah set off to save them.

Their journey takes them through deep caverns and past a huge, sleeping lizard monster. They must sneak past or be devoured! But the beast wakes up, sees our heroes and simply goes back to sleep, completely disinterested. I love these little moments in Xenozoic Tales that run contrary to our expectations. The stories are full of them. Funny moments also include The Grith making gestures with their bodies and Jack explaining how difficult it has been to communicate with them, priding himself on the use of the tiles. But of course, Hannah is able to decipher their body language easily, completely stealing Jack’s thunder.

For some reason The Grith trust Hannah. They can foretell she’ll help them, so her protestations and claims she’ll report all of this to the council back in the city fall on Jack’s deaf ears; he knows once The Grith have decided to trust her that’s it. It makes for more crackling dialogue between the pair. But just before things can be wrapped up with a neat bow and a happy ending, we get a glimpse into the darker side of these new additions to the story.

This feels like it’s building on the way the Velociraptors communicated in Jurassic Park

Gorgostamos, a man who had pretended to help Hannah find Jack last issue (as a trap to kill both her and Tenrec) comes face to face with at least one of them, and when we return to him all we see are these rather grisly final panels below. Was this to defend our heroes? Was there no other way? Or are The Grith more capable of violence than Jack thinks?

Jurassic Park would only print a selection of Mark’s strips because most were in black and white and this was a full-colour publication. I do hope we don’t miss out on any of the answers this intriguing strip continues to raise every month.

Finally it’s time to return to the Cretaceous era and Ricardo Delgado‘s sublime Age of Reptiles. Last time a huge Tyrannosaurus rex stole the newly killed dinner of a pack of Deinonycuses, killing one of them in the process in what was actually a very funny moment. This issue kicks off with them returning to their nest and communicating via sound and body movements what had just happened. Even though it was created before the movie was released, this feels like it’s building on the way the Velociraptors communicated in Jurassic Park. It’s clear they’re now out for revenge.

But first we get a few pages of the T-rex simply making his way back home, through forests and across large expanses of water. The art here is gorgeous and I find myself taking more time to ‘read’ this strip than either of the others. I just want to take in all the details, not only in the characterisations on the faces and bodies of the animals (which really do tell the story) but in the backgrounds too. Just look at this page below and you’ll see what I mean. Taking up a full page with these two panels of him simply walking home could be seen as dragging out the scene if it weren’t for Ricardo’s art, which demands this kind of space.

As you drink in these pages it also deliberately slows down the story. Ricardo is a master of pacing. You simply can’t rush through this, and if you did you’d be losing out. Just because there’s not one single written word, no captions, no sound effects screaming off the page, doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to this in terms of characterisation, drama and scene building, and it only gets more intense as the months go on.

It’s so unfortunate the comic wouldn’t keep to this format for very long but we’ll get to that next year.

When he returns to his nest we see his family waiting. He lovingly rubs heads with the female looking after their eggs, while the other looks on a bit jealously, although we do find out she is the mother of the adolescent rex, who is currently learning to hunt by chasing a small creature about the rocks and trees. I felt transported back to this time and involved in the natural lives of dinosaurs like no prose story or documentary before it.

Subsequent Jurassic Park/World movies have built upon the original’s emphasis on dinosaurs just being animals, not the monsters of older films and books. Age of Reptiles does a great job of this too, and moments like the one below remind me of the Tyrannosaur family from The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

This instalment ends with the Deinonychuses sneaking into the nest at night and stealing all of those eggs, but the adolescent awakes and raises the alarm. Giving chase, our male closes in on them as they dart through the forest, but eventually the smaller, more agile dinos leap across a chasm and escape, the T-rex left roaring into the night. I remember roughly how this develops and it’s well worth sticking around for! Brilliant, beautiful stuff.

What a superb issue! The three strips come together to create a whole that’s hugely entertaining yet again. Yes, they may be cut down every month and as previously explained this wasn’t technically necessary, but with the three of them side-by-side like this they never felt like anything but three complete strips every issue. It’s so unfortunate that it wouldn’t keep to this format for very long but we’ll get to that next year. Before we go though, a quick look at the adverts within its pages, including news of a new magazine from Dark Horse which sounded awful to me as a kid.

I loved my computer games magazines (in particular Commodore Format and GamesMaster) but the idea of something like that with lots of comic strips in it felt like a gimmick. Although I wasn’t sure if the gimmick was comic strips in a gaming magazine, or gaming features in a comic; it sounded confused. Elsewhere, a chain of comic shops uses a painfully strenuous link to the comic to justify its advert, and a comics and sci-fi merchandise shop I’ve never heard of takes the inside back cover. It’s rather quaint seeing these now, what with comic shops being so much more prevalent today, but back then mail order was much more necessary.

So as far as Jurassic Park‘s stories go and where they’ve left us this month, it appears there’s a lot to look forward to in 2022. Or should I say 1994. The new year of dinosaur action kicks off on Tuesday 25th January.