It’s all change this issue as Dark Horse International has now become Manga Publishing. The UK arm of Dark Horse had gone out of business but the success of its Manga Mania comic and the rapidly growing interest in the UK for the art form saw a purchase of the titles and a rebranding across them all. (The company changing hands could account for the delay between #10 and #11.) I’d assumed all their comics were cancelled in 1994 but Manga Mania (at #15) would carry on all the way through to #39. Jurassic Park wouldn’t be so lucky.
But at least this temporary reprieve enabled our comic to reach a decent ending point in #16 instead of just stopping on a cliffhanger (I’m looking at you, Havoc!). Michael Golden’s cover would’ve been better suited to last month’s issue but it’s still a striking image, even if it’s somewhat disappointing to lose that distinctive left-side border. You’ll notice ‘Cadillacs and Dinosaurs’ is mentioned, is this a new back up strip? Not quite, as you’ll see below. Finally, the mysterious free gift mentioned last issue ended up being temporary tattoos, long lost to the mists of time.
The contents page retains its atmospheric design and still offers up subscriptions so the plan must’ve been (initially at least) to carry the comic on for some time to come. In reality, the boast of “Now With Extra Pages” on the cover meant we were up to 40 pages which, while a good increase over the previous three issues, is only four more than we had in the first ten. It does mean we now get a full chapter of the American story per issue though, with the aforementioned back up bringing up the rear.
There’s now a whopping 26 pages of Jurassic Park to enjoy but it’s still listed using the name of the US mini-series comic it was taken from, rather than the name of the chapter itself. This was confusing because we were unaware of the mini-series’ name, so instead to the uniformed (like me) it looked like laziness on the part of UK editor Dick Hansom, like he didn’t check what the strip he was printing was called. As you’ll see over the course of this and the next two issues, Animals/Men was the beginning of a trilogy of stories, the title of each a variation on this theme.
As you can see the art team has changed. Steve Englehart is still the writer of this official sequel, John Costanza is still letterer and Renée Witterstaetter remains as colourist and story editor. However, joining them are penciller Chaz ‘Atlas’ Truog (Green Lantern Corps, Animal Man, Coyote) and inker Paul Fricke (The Fly, El Diablo, Secret Origins). At the time I was a little disappointed in the change from the more scratchy, hard-edged artwork but nowadays I absolutely love this!
Even Renée’s colouring appears to have changed to suit the new style, boldly coloured backgrounds highlighting each frame. The cartoonier style put me off initially as a teenager but it did grow on me. Today, it feels very much like the Jurassic Park movie had been given a cartoon makeover in the same way Ghostbusters had with The Real Ghostbusters. It’s great. It’s a lot more animated and dynamic, and as you can see having better defined facial features means our characters now actually look like cartoon versions of the actors.
Drs Ellie and Alan Grant attempt to escape from Rafael’s compound deep in the Columbian jungle but accidentally set off a hidden alarm, in response to which Rafael immediately unleashes his supposedly trained Velociraptors. Trying to escape their reach up a tree, a vine Alan clings to is grabbed by one of the ‘raptors and suddenly he finds himself flat on his back, exposed and an easy target. That is, until Rafael catches up.
During the attack we find out Alan and Ellie have named the dinosaurs. The alpha is called Alf, the beta is Betty and the injured ‘raptor who is still within her cage is Celia. If this rings a bell you’re not alone. Much later in Jurassic World, released 21 years after this comic, Owen Grady named his four Velociraptors after the second to fifth letters of the alphabet too (Blue, Charlie, Delta, Echo, with Owen himself as the ‘alpha’). Was the movie inspired by this comic, or was it just a coincidence? Either option is likely.
Ellie and Alan are ordered to return and look after the injured Celia, who continues to let Ellie do so, knowing she saved her life. But our doctors think that if she wasn’t restrained they’d be on the menu. They’re very aware of how they’ve romanticised the dinosaurs’ place in nature, but they’re still killers. This leads on to a dark scene in which one of Rafael’s men suggests they take it in turns raping Ellie to relieve their boredom and he’s immediately shot and killed by his boss, telling his men to feed him to one of the ‘raptors, so he clearly wants his creatures to maintain their taste for human flesh. But why?
Then, after all the action, tension and interesting story developments the strip unfortunately takes a turn for the absurd.
Even as a teenage reader I didn’t find this to be the thrill it was hyped as on the cover and my opinion hasn’t changed since. Having game warden Robert Muldoon alive and well is just stupid. Remember that “clever girl” scene in the movie? He looks awfully healthy after that, doesn’t he? What elaborate explanation is given for him surviving a Velociraptor jumping on top of him and apparently eating his head? He raised them. I hate this. Not only is it ridiculous to think he survived but if he did it completely ruins that whole scene in the movie.
According to #10 Ian Malcolm had to spend months in a hospital after his injuries but Muldoon gets the kind of return we’d expect from a superhero comic that finds some trick to retcon a character’s demise. I remember feeling let down by this but thankfully it isn’t dwelled upon beyond this one page (for this issue anyway) so we can get back to the meat of the story which is much, much better.
“It seems ‘raptors can remember a kindness”Steve Englehart, writer Animals/Men
Celia’s training commences but she isn’t cooperating. She responds to commands but doesn’t go for the head of the human-like hay dummies like the others, instead biting an arm or leg, never going for the kill. The ever-paranoid Rafael thinks it’s a trick but in reality we’ll find out the reason soon enough. Meanwhile the government’s leader is planning to announce new indictments against him in the murder of dozens of law enforcement officials, and the next day as the judges leave the courthouse a van pulls up and out of the doors rush Alf and Betty!
During the attack an electrical cable is damaged which ends up zapping one of them. As the two animals looks quizzically at the electrical sparks they come to realise something and they run off. Rafael’s men can’t take control, somehow the ‘raptors realised the collars were no longer being controlled, the broken power lines causing interference. Free of their painful, torturous shocks they immediately run back to free Celia, taking out with relish the men who previously had all that power over them.
They kick in the large metal doors holding their sister and in no time at all everything has changed. Rafael had thought he was in control, but during the execution of his own plan something unpredictable happened and within minutes all three of the dinosaurs are free to roam and hunt, killing Rafael and the remainder of his men as they unsuccessfully try to shock them into submission once more. Another perfect example for Ian Malcolm’s Chaos Theory.
We see Celia wince from the shocks, but the others’ collars no longer work well enough to stop them. When Alan and Ellie come out to see what’s happening and make their own escape they’re cornered by the three ‘raptors. Alf and Betty prepare to pounce, after all these two humans are just another part of all this, but in a surprising moment Celia steps up to stop her sisters, even though she isn’t the alpha herself.
I remember this aspect of the story. Celia stopping her sisters from attacking Alan and Ellie would resurface and emphasised (once again) how the Jurassic franchise treated its dinosaurs as real animals rather than simple movie monsters. Was this also why she wouldn’t ‘kill’ the hay dummies? Does she no longer see all humans in general as prey? Either way, it’s clear the ‘raptors saw Rafael as a means to an end, to get out of the compound to freedom. The sly looks at each other and the development of their own characters over previous issues now clear with hindsight.
The story ends on a superb cliffhanger as they take off into the jungle; three Velociraptor out in the wild, on the loose! Of course, this is now the conclusion to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and the starting point for the final film in the series, Dominion, but this was published in 1994! As a teenager this was even before the Tyrannosaurus rex got off Isla Nublar to run amok through San Diego looking for his baby in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, so I can’t emphasis enough how excited I was for the next issue back then.
Despite the unnecessary return of Muldoon this was a hugely enjoyable adventure strip for Jurassic Park and one of the best so far, reading like the proper sequel to the original film it was intended as. It’s certainly a worthy follow up, continuing to build upon its story month after month and now, with the new art style bringing a freshness, a larger sense of excitement and better representations of the characters, I’m looking forward to seeing where it all leads.
After a huge chunk of dino action the issue is rounded off with Foundling, our nine-page back up Cadillacs and Dinosaurs strip. A quick glance at the first page will show regular blog readers this is actually Xenozoic Tales (second back up in six issues from #4) under a new name. The Cadillacs and Dinosaurs cartoon series was based on creator/writer/artist Mark Shultz’s cult comic and had just started broadcasting on the Cartoon Network in the UK, so while the strips were still the same, the cover and contents page changed the name to try to entice fans of the cartoon.
Christine Courtier is back on colouring duties and while I miss Steve White’s colours, in an episode told mainly in flashback Christine’s darker, more atmospheric palette perfectly suits the story. Again Jurassic Park is selective about which stories from the original comic series to reproduce (page count could be a major reason) and in this case we jump forward to #6 of Xenozoic Tales, missing out a handful of tales from the last time we saw Tenrec and Hannah.
“I could feel his hot breath on my neck, then he galloped past me as if I wasn’t even there.”Hannah Dundee
The story is actually a flashback within a flashback at points. Hannah is telling Tenrec about Maia Abrelatas, a lady whose son went missing years before when he was only three-years-old. She’d begged the governors to renew the search but they’d refused as Tenrec apparently just looked on. Within this flashback we flash back again to the time when the boy went missing out the back of her home. Later they’d found hyena tracks and blood and concluded he’d been dragged inland, where it was too dangerous for humans in this future world populated by dinosaurs.
Back to the original flashback and Hannah went out to track him after Maia saw him at her window. The governors dismissed this claim but Hannah found a child’s footprints and tracked them. She was almost about to turn back after a day when she eventually found him. Unable to speak, the boy instead drew using stones, each letter inside a square. This instantly reminded Hannah (and me) of the Grith using Scrabble tiles to communicate with Tenrec. Just like them the young lad can understand her but can’t speak.
The dinosaur that charged her was just a distraction (she does comment how this was strange for that animal) because she then lost the boy in the think forest, but spotted him latter with the Grith far off in the distance. Continuing to track them to the entrance of a cave the scene below is terrifically designed by Mark, full of atmosphere and thrills. The story ends with Hannah confronting Tenrec, his association with the Grith and apparent nonchalant attitude earlier leading her to the conclusion he knew about the boy all along.
It turns out the Grith saved the boy after he was mauled by the hyenas and raised him, but now they can’t let him return home because he knows too much about them, even thinks like them. However, he’s at that age where his curiosity is putting him in a dangerous position as he tries to find out more about his origins, so the only solution is for them to take him far away from his mother and for Tenrec to continue the lie. What started out as another adventure strip ends on this heartbreaking reveal, a complete surprise.
Then, so it doesn’t end on too much of a downer the last two panels reveal all that horror faced by Hannah was actually the Grith trying to make sure she found her way back home, all finished off with Tenrec being his usual casual self, asking about food. I’m sure any child buying the comic after watching the cartoon would’ve got a bit of a shock at the tone and the mature storytelling. Not sure what they would’ve made of this, but as a Jurassic Park comic reader this is a great return to the unique and original Xenozoic Tales, no matter what name the editor gives it.
The last three pages are all advertisements, beginning with the latest issue of Manga Mania which I mentioned earlier and the first issue of a new comic based on the Street Fighter II videogame which was all the rage. I saw this and thought that couldn’t have lasted long but I was wrong, Manga Publishing in the UK released 16 issues altogether, the same as Jurassic Park in the end. I know which one I thought deserved to run longer though.
Finally for this month there was big news for fans of the movie on the back page.
I love the way the Velociraptor‘s eye is made to look like the amber that was so important to the film’s plot. Even though I visited our local rental store every single Saturday (because it was closed on Sundays so you had the tape for twice as long for the same price) I never rented Jurassic Park. The reason was simple, I knew I was getting it for Christmas to own so I wanted to wait for my own copy before seeing it again for the first time since the cinema. So I waited (im)patiently instead.
While getting a much lengthier main strip was exciting I still prefer the comic’s three-strip format. To this day my favourite issues belong in that first handful after the sequel began in #6. But with hindsight, knowing we’ve only two issues left I’m very glad it changed so we could get three more full stories before the rug was pulled. The next of those stories, inside Jurassic Park #15 will be reviewed here on the blog on Thursday 6th October 2022.