Tag Archives: Renée Witterstaetter

JURASSiC PARK #10: BETRAYALS, TAILS & GOLDBLUM

Another exciting Gil Kane cover that bares absolutely no resemblance to anything that occurs inside, or any other issue or even the movie. It’s the second of two covers from the American preview comic, the previous one shown off last month. That Topps Comics preview contained two small strips set before the events of the movie and the first was underwhelming to say the least. The second, which is the headline story inside this issue, is far better and concentrates on the man we all loved to hate, the person behind all the chaos, Denis Nedry.

Portrayed by Wayne Knight in the film, Gil produces a great likeness here while not getting so hung up on it that he ends up expressionless. Betrayal is written by Walter Simonson and tells the tale of Nedry’s arrival on Isla Nublar to work on the computer systems that would be so instrumental in the creation and eventual downfall of the park; networking of computers, park systems, zoological simulations and crowd control measures all make up his complicated job. Dick Giordano (Detective Comics, The Sandman, Superman vs The Amazing Spider-Man) joins Jurassic Park to ink Gil’s pencils, John Workman returns as letterer, as does Renée Witterstaetter as colourist (and Story Editor for this and the sequel story later in the issue).

Some fans online have mistakenly said there’s an error in Nedry’s and Hammond’s relationship in the film. Hammond‘s favourite phrase was, “Spared no expense” and yet Nedry is constantly saying he’s underpaid, his boss unwilling to negotiate. Here, Simonson picks up on this plot thread from the novel that the film touched upon (and those fans missed) and elaborates on it. Nedry’s bid was very high, no expense was spared, but it was made before he knew the secret of what the attractions on the island actually are. Once he finds out he thinks he underbid, but Hammond is a man who honours his word and expects others to do the same.

Realising the fortune Jurassic Park is going to make Hammond, Nedry constantly tries to spin that his work is going to be far more complicated than first estimated, but really it’s not true and he’s just pushing for more money. Hammond doesn’t budge. His computer experts perfectly relayed to Nedry what was required, the fact the animals are dinosaurs doesn’t change anything. Six months in however, Nedry begins to realise extra money will never be forthcoming from his computer work and in a moment of clarity, when he overhears Henry Wu discussing the embryo laboratory, he clicks that’s where the money is, in the dinosaurs, and their embryos are tiny, perfect for smuggling off the island.

The story ends with his first attempt at reaching out to Ingen‘s competitors but for me the real meat of the story is seeing the beginning of the relationship between these two characters. Also, unlike the previous prequel story, Genesis, foreshadowing isn’t shoved in our faces, instead it just concentrates on telling a good story based around a key plot point in the movie and the characters at its heart. Hammond comes across as a bit too cantankerous at points compared to Richard Attenborough‘s charming portrayal, but in the end it’s an interesting little prequel and a nice addition to the comic.

There’s no Xenozoic Tales this issue so all three remaining strips get more room to breath, although I do miss Tenrec and Hannah. They’ll be back, though. Alongside the eight-page Betrayal and the ten-page Dark Cargo for a meaty 18 pages of Jurassic Park, is Ricardo Delgado‘s stunning-as-always Age of Reptiles which makes up 11 pages, sandwiched in between the other strips. It starts off serenely with a large Ankylosaurus enjoying some bark from a monstrously sized tree that dwarfs even this huge dinosaur. But then they hear a noise and step to the side to have a look around the tree; I think the way this simple gesture is drawn is just so full of character.

I was beginning to feel sorry for the peaceful beast who now found themselves outnumbered three-to-one against our favourite predatory rascals, the Deinonychuses. As you can see from what happens on the next page I needn’t have worried. This is enough to make the smaller dinos run off, beaten with one swipe of a tail. I just love this big action shot though, especially since the build up was so peaceful, it’s such a surprise! We get another little respite when we check in on the Tyrannosaurus rex pack as Long Jaw arrives back and nuzzles the noses of his mate Talon and their baby, with the other male Blue Back and his mate Climber looking on.

The whole pack is angry and soon Long Jaw sees why. The large circular nest is empty of all its eggs except for a few pieces of broken shell and one last intact egg, tucked in next to Talon. We then get a double-page spread and a really brilliant moment as he looks down at evidence of who robbed their nest and, even though a T-rex‘s face shouldn’t be that emotive, we can tell he knows exactly who were responsible. The way Ricardo lays this out with his face in between the footprint and those same feet now on a nearby beach is just genius.

Look very closely at that big panel in the middle of the page where we see the Deinonychuses arrive on the beach, where they’ve taken all the eggs they’ve stolen from various other creatures. Have a look up into the cliffs and, amongst the silhouettes of the craggy terrain you should spot the shapes of a head and a tail. I’ll admit I don’t think I ever noticed this the first time around back in the 90s because it surprised me when I spotted them now. It’s so subtle, I love it. It also leads on to the climax of this issue’s chunk of story.

After filling their bellies the three thieves start making their way up a very narrow path along one of those cliff faces and come face-to-face with our two female Tyrannosaurs. The size and power of these dinosaurs in comparison to the smaller ones is perfectly captured here and I particularly like the overhead view showing just how trapped they really are. There’s even a tiny bird looking on. Little details like this amongst all the action and drama is a trademark of Ricardo’s and one of the reasons I love his work so much.

The leader of the Deinonychuses turns and barks orders at the others, one of whom turns and runs at the T-rex coming up behind them, the story cutting off for this issue as they leap into the air, claws bared. Age of Reptiles was never intended to be told in this way; it was created as a graphic novel to be read from beginning to end in one sitting. But it just works so well, editor Dick Hansom doing a great job of knowing when to make the edits to make each piece feel like a complete chapter. It’s a great cliffhanger. (Yes, that was very much an intended pun.) However, it’s a particularly frustrating ending this time, which I’ll explain after the third and final strip.


“Phooey on your ‘Chaos’! We’ve got boats, planes, radar…!”
Renny

“So does the war on drugs.”
Dr Ian Malcolm


Jurassic Park: Dark Cargo continues with Dr Ellie Satler, Dr Alan Grant and the juvenile Velociraptors transported from boat to a huge air transport and during the flight our human heroes eventually awaken to find their cage surrounded by the hissing, clicking raptors. One tries to pick the lock of the cage just as they did to their own, but Alan’s broken belt buckle from his failed attempt, still caught in the lock, stops them. They run off, the pilot noticing shifting weight so George Lawala, the first in a long line of greedy humans who would underestimate the intelligence of the dinosaurs, goes to investigate. He frees Alan and Ellie and gives them shotguns, the chapter ending with them all searching the plane (it’s so big, with so many places to hide, because he didn’t know what exactly he was going to be bringing back).

That’s the main plot out of the way. That’s not to say it isn’t fun, it certainly is, it’s just there are two individual pages elsewhere in the story involving subplots that really stood out to me. The first involves the army’s continuing attempts to clean up the mess of the island’s failed park. Having tracked Alan and Ellie to the beach they’re at a loss as to where they are. For me it’s great to see the new character, INgen‘s Dr Fischer back again (he first appeared in #6) and I’m still hoping we get to see more development of him in the future. But it’s the person on the next page that elicited the highest level of excitement when I read this back in 1994.

Of course, nowadays we’ve seen Dr Ian Malcolm, so memorably played by Jeff Goldblum, in The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and he’ll be returning again in the sixth film, Jurassic World: Dominion later this year at the time of writing. But at the time of this comic his return was a complete surprise! If the comic had a proper editorial and Next Issue promos I’m sure this would’ve been mentioned before it happened, so for once I was glad of the minimalist approach. It meant the surprise was kept until this very moment. He just appears in this one sequence as he recovers from his injuries from the movie but it’s exciting to see the character in this first official sequel, and he’s perfectly drawn!

Also mentioned here is ‘The United States Central American Command Center’, or ‘CENTAMCOM’, the comic’s own take on the real world’s CENTCOM (the same name except for the word “American”) and the resources they have in their search. It brings a larger scope to the background story that’s slowly developing while the main plot focusses on our two main characters, and I always enjoyed these aspects of the films, always wishing they’d delve deeper into the inner workings of INgen and the larger world within which the stories were set. Then it all ends with the biggest shock of all. Under the final panel we’re unceremoniously told #11 would be on sale on Thursday 9th June. What?

This current issue went on sale on Tuesday 29th March 1994, so suddenly my favourite monthly comic was telling me I had to wait ten weeks for the next chapters to all these stories. Can you now understand why I was so frustrated earlier? The use of the JP logo on the cover instead of the previous title graphic (I love the logo but preferred the previous one for the comic) was just the first big change to come. Ironically, this issue felt once again like the first ones I bought, settling back into a great format after a couple of months of trying to fit too much into its 36 pages. But that would all change, along with its publisher! But I’ll go into that next time because at this point originally I hadn’t a clue why there was such a long wait. You’ll just have to wait to find out too.

I’ll finish off with a look at the very-90s adverts this issue contains. There’s a teeny tiny liddle widdle radio which would’ve been right up my alley back then and it isn’t dissimilar to that given to Bond by Q in Skyfall many years later. The back cover has an advert for Dark Horse International‘s Manga Mania as the animation style started to take hold here, mainly thanks to Akira (with a hint of things to come for Jurassic Park on the bottom-left of its cover) and there’s a convention to match. Finally, those highly expensive phone-in competition lines which, when you think about it, should never have been in the pages of comics such as this (or the magazine Commodore Format I was collecting at the time which had plenty of them) when so many young readers could be tricked into spending a fortune on their parents’ phone bills. (No, I didn’t.)

So, with a clifftop battle in full swing and a pack of deadly Velociraptors on board a cargo plane we have to have patience and take a breather from the comic for a while. It’s difficult enough to not read ahead but this is going to be ridiculous! I’ll just have to cope somehow, then the next Jurassic Park review will be here from (big sigh) Thursday 9th June 2020, just one day before the release of the next movie! Oh, you see now I’m all excited again!

JURASSiC PARK #9: SPARED NO EXPENSE

This review was due on 22nd February, click here to find out about the delay. More catch-ups to come this week.

The cover for issue nine of Dark Horse International‘s Jurassic Park is a strange beast, showing what appears to be Dr Alan Grant killing a Tyrannosaurus rex! Drawn by Gil Kane it’s completely uncharacteristic not only of Alan but for the comic too, which so far has stayed true to the book and movie. Seeing one of our heroes with a massive gun taking down one of the animals like a clichéd action hero, while a second T-rex comes up behind has nothing to do with Jurassic Park!

The cover is taken from the US comic series’ preview issue which contained two small prequel strips. It had two different covers, neither of which reflected in any way anything that happened within the stories (a pet peeve of mine). They were also seemingly drawn long before the artists even knew what the script for the movie contained. A bizarre thing to begin with then, even more so to choose it for the UK comic when so many other more suitable ones were available in the US series by now. But the real news was those prequel strips had arrived.

In fact there are no less than four strips this month, but with no extra pages some of our regulars have a little less room to breathe. Things kick off with the eight-page prequel story Genesis which shows us the moment ill-fated lawyer Donald Gennaro is shown the secret heartbeat (as John Hammond describes it here) behind the island, which up to this moment Donald thought was simply a luxurious tropical adventure park. Much of the movie adaptation team are back including writer Walter Simonson, Gil is pencilling, Renée Witterstaetter is on colours, John Workman‘s speech balloons are back and they’re joined by new-to-JP inker Mike de Carlo (Crisis on Infinite Earths, Legion of Super Heroes, Animaniacs).

Ground is being broken for Jurassic Park and Gennaro is there for the first of his many visits. Set several years before the movie there’s obviously going to be a distinct lack of dinosaurs for the most part, but this is all about the background to the story, which already had such a solid grounding thanks to Michael Crichton‘s original novel and from which writer Walter is choosing individual scenes that he thinks could have happened. There is however a baby T-rex and some lovely foreboding imagery, such as the use of an excavator’s clamp digging a deep trench beside the dirt road. It’s clear what this represents to the reader. A nice touch.

Hammond takes Gennaro to a small cabin and shows him some old monster movies, full of stop-motion dinosaurs and the like (a simple trick to get them into the comic), and gets really excited as he explains how these thrilled audiences and the advances in technology have made them more realistic and thus more exciting. Gennaro doesn’t care and soon the two men are on their way to the famous hatchery where Dr Henry Wu has summoned them to see the birth of InGen‘s very first dinosaur! It’s a tiny T-rex but Gennaro is still unimpressed.

He’s a numbers man, he wants to see the final product, the things that are going to get people spending money on over-priced tickets to get here. While that much is in keeping with the movie character, I still feel he would’ve had some form of awe towards the first living, breathing dinosaur baby in millions of years! The fact he’s actually disgusted by it seems a bit too much. For me there are also too many instances of movie dialogue being used. It’s meant to come across as clever foreshadowing, but with the amount that’s used it just feels forced and unoriginal.

Because of the overuse of this dialogue for all three characters these final scenes come off as plain silly. Gennaro saying he wouldn’t walk out of a men’s room to see the T-rex is an oddly specific thing for someone to say, and of course it’s only written here because of how he’d memorably meet his fate in the film. Perhaps without all the other movie dialogue (and especially without Hammond’s retort!) it would’ve been a nice touch to end on. All-in-all, it’s a strange little strip. It adds nothing to the Jurassic Park story and does a bit of a disservice to the characters involved.

The war is on.

Much better is the next chapter of Age of Reptiles. The ongoing Jurassic Park sequel is still in here but 11 pages of Ricardo Delgado‘s incredible creation is next up, breaking the comic up a little. After the cliffhanger last issue there are no prizes for guessing the pack of Deinonycuses are down another member. After one of their friends has his head bitten off and his body dragged back into the water we get a funny moment of the fish (which distracted him in the first place) wriggling its way across the rocks and plopping back into the lake and safety.

The two remaining members of the group, leader Dark Eye and Quetzal are spending their day stalking a giant T-rex called Long Jaw, the same one we got acquainted with last time. What are they hoping to find out? That’s for another episode. This time however, they witness from afar the ‘rex challenging the leader of a herd of Triceratops, each one beautifully and individually coloured by James Sinclair. The leader of the herd isn’t backing down and roars at the ‘rex, the giant predator remaining silent, the small bird on his nose responding instead.

However, as you can see from the second photo above, after many cries from his mate the male Triceratops takes a look at the Tyrannosaur‘s slowly opening mouth and decides to heed her warnings, leaving a miffed T-rex behind in a moment that did make me laugh. It was a fight for the sake of a fight, it was never about predator and prey, but that panel with the little squiggly line above Long Jaw’s head depicting his annoyance is a great comedy moment after a few pages of tense build up.

We rejoin our two smaller dinosaurs as they return to their nest only to find that while they’ve been following one of the Tyrannosaurs, Blue Back (who they originally ran into back in #6 when all this began) took advantage of their absence and has killed everyone else in their pack in revenge for the theft of his family’s eggs in #7. Once he sees the shocked look on their faces he simply drops the final body and leaps across the chasm in an echo of their escape from him, disappearing into the jungle. The war is on.

Once again Ricardo’s pacing is superb and his art is gorgeous, with James’ colours the perfect accompaniment. There’s action, an interesting story, individual characters and some genuinely funny humour. It was always a highlight of each issue and was the first strip I’d read every month. While it was originally released as a book I prefer getting little chunks of it at a time. It highlights the tension and obviously makes it last longer.

Every creature here is so full of character but where did I get those wonderful names from if there are no written words in the strip? Well, included in this issue is a bonus Cast of Characters page from the book. It would’ve been good to have had this alongside the first chapter but it’s better late than never. Also, there appear to be some interesting new characters to come! I can’t remember them so I’m excited to see where they fit in with everything I do recall. Exciting times ahead.

Our regular Jurassic Park strip has been cut down to only six pages but we can’t really complain when we’ve already had an addition prequel making a total of 14 pages for our title strip. Our regular sequel team return for the first (little) chunk of Dark Cargo; writer Steve Englehart, penciller Armando Gil, inker Dell Barras, letterer John Costanza and colourist/Story Editor Renée Witterstaetter. Confusingly, the story is called ‘Raptor – Part Four’ on the contents page because Dark Cargo was the second issue in the original American Topps Comics ‘Raptor’ mini-series, and the first (‘Aftershocks‘) was split across the three previous UK issues. This confusing decision to list the strip after the US comic’s individual series rather than the actual strips would continue all the way to the final issue.

Doctors Ellie Satler and Alan Grant awake locked in a cage on a cargo boat with big game hunter George Lawala in charge. The juvenile Velociraptors have been locked up separately right next to them, already wide awake and alert to everything going on around them. This is key (no pun intended for what I’m about to describe), as we see the ‘raptors in the background of nearly every panel of the humans talking, watching what they’re doing. Alan realises his belt is the one with the buckle he’s used as a substitute knife before on digs and perfect to pick the lock, before Ellie notices something happening in the other cage.

We also see the dinosaurs hissing and clicking at each other, Alan deducing they’re discussing them and how to escape. I can remember pieces of what’s to come and it’s definitely a story centred around the intelligence and learning capabilities of these juvenile creatures, and their instincts and observations of the various humans around them. I’m looking forward to reading it again after so long with a fresh set of eyes, especially after enjoying the four movie sequels (so far) which have really delved deep into this.

There’s a funny moment when Alan comments how these brothers and sisters are adolescents, the equivalent of human teenagers and says, “Not quite fully grown but wanting to take on the world! The absolute worst group to let loose!” But before they can warn Lawala of the lock picking he sprays them and the ‘raptors with a sleeping agent and off they all nod until next month. Before they pass out Lawala shows us he’s the atypical Jurassic Park villain (before there was such a thing); he’s never encountered a dinosaur before, but he’s a human, and a man, and thus is far more intelligent and can control them just like any other animal he’s hunted. We just know that’s going to work out well, don’t we?


“The necessary sacrifices were made.”

Fessenden

It may be just one small scene on board the boat, but it’s atmospheric stuff and has plenty for readers to get their teeth into, building excitement for the chapters to come. I’m actually surprised at just how much of this was could’ve been the basis for some of the main stories in the sequels, especially Jurassic Park III and Jurassic World which both did a superb job of building on the themes presented here. It also doesn’t feel like we’re being short-changed with only six pages this month because it’s a perfect little strip in its own right and acts as a prelude to the disaster to come.

Mark Schultz‘s Xenozoic Tales rounds off the issue, once more beautifully coloured by one of my favourite Transformers colourists Steve White (whose current dinosaur artwork needs to be seen) but we only get a measly four pages this time. Obviously, editor Dick Hansom would’ve had this all worked out in advance to give us as much as possible every issue, knowing we’d have extra content this month. As such, there were only four pages left of this particular story to tell, and what four pages they are!

It not only solves the mysteries of that cliffhanger but also grosses us out a little on the way to its conclusion.

So Tenrec returns to Fessenden after the shock cliffhanger and demands a full explanation. The swamp had taken over body, mind and soul of his entire research team, everyone driven to the edge of nervous collapse. But Fessenden was getting incredible results from his experiments; he could solve the food shortage crisis. As you can see above he started performing autopsies on the local dinosaurs and experimenting on his own people, deliberately cutting them off from the outside world so they’d have no choice but to take part. Soon they were thriving in the swamp and even communicating with the animals. But then the physical changes began.

He doesn’t delve deeper, instead making a sudden run for the swamp. For the final page of the story and the comic we’re presented with this below. It not only solves the mysteries of that cliffhanger but also grosses us out a little on the way to its conclusion.

At its centre it’s a typical tale of humans messing with nature and suffering the consequences, so it’s quite appropriate for a Jurassic Park comic. However, it’s told in a very engaging way, is beautifully drawn and I’m so glad Steve was brought on to colour this particular story in the series; his colours take it to a whole other level. Any fans of Mark’s comic really need to hunt these down because these particular coloured versions are exclusive to Jurassic Park.

Despite the rather average headline story this month, this is still one of the best issues yet thanks to just how enjoyable the three ongoing serials have been. It bodes well for next month that’s for sure. The next issue’s review will be here from Tuesday 29th March 2022.

JURASSiC PARK #8: PURE ESCAPiSM

A simple cover of an iconic movie scene by Dave Cockrum welcomes us to #8 of Dark Horse International‘s Jurassic Park. The cover is from the first issue of the American movie adaptation so really shouldn’t make sense here, after all the Velociraptors are no longer caged up, but it reminded us of the danger from the film that was now running loose. Inside we’ve less adverts and more comics, making for a very satisfying read this month and the title strip no longer has the least amount of pages.

The well chosen cliffhanger last month saw the original US strip cut out at the point Dr Alan Grant and Dr Ellie Satler‘s theories were proven terrifyingly correct. Now they and new character, big game hunter George Lawala are faced with a fully grown mother raptor and her juvenile offspring and she isn’t happy. Grant pushes some boulders, causing a chain reaction, giving them just enough time to make their escape, but it isn’t long until she’s out and chasing Lawala.

Here we get a few action pages of a chase on the beach, ending with the raptor being shot. Lawala muses over the fact the injured animal isn’t what his employer wanted so he shoots it again to kill it. Surprised there are actual dinosaurs here, that it wasn’t some case of mistaken identity he lets his concentration slip, not realising she isn’t quite dead yet and with her dying breath she snaps her jaws around his ankles. He’s able to squeeze himself free and limps off in search of the others.

It’s hard to believe this is the same artistic team (penciller Armando Gil, inker Dell Barras and colourist Renée Witterstaetter) as those thrilling first few pages back in #6. This feels rushed by comparison and overly simplistic. To be fair this is only a problem for a few pages, but they’re the ones involving what should be the highlight of any chapter in a Jurassic Park comic strip, a dinosaur attack! It all feels rather muted as a result.


“He’s got us and the raptors! He’s won!”

Dr. Ellie Satler

Things pick back up again as we rush towards the end of our first sequel story. Our heroes are captured by Lawala who had waited near the cave, knowing they’d return to make sure the dinosaurs were okay. Just as with the movies, while the Velociraptors are dangerous, it’s also important to protect them from the dangers of humans. A fight ensues and of course Alan and Ellie are outmatched, although they do give a valiant effort. Alan tries in vain to convince Lawala he must realise the animals can’t be taken off the island, that what happened to the park could happen to the world. But Lawala readily admits he’s too greedy to care.

Beaten unconscious, Ellie and Alan eventually wake to find themselves in a somewhat impossible position, just right for an almighty cliffhanger with suitably dramatic lettering by John Costanza. Although, it does unintentionally raise a few chuckles because it reminds me of the ending to Finding Nemo, which came much later. This story by Steve Englehart reminds me very much of where the Jurassic World trilogy has been heading. I’m writing this before the third movie (sixth in the overall series) is released, the previous movie having ended with dinosaurs out in the world among us. I’m really excited for that film and I think that’s the same excitement I had when I first read this back in 1994.

“The world swarms with the living evidence of a billion years of evolution!” Thus begins the next chapter in the ongoing Xenozoic Tales saga, the first of our two dino-themed backup strips. The story here (as ever written and drawn by Mark Schultz) is the classic sci-fi scenario of losing contact with a research outpost and going in to find out what’s wrong. We know it’s clearly going to be bad news but that’s not the point of the story, it’s all about what has gone wrong and exploring a little more of this strange new world, its dangers and having some action and excitement along the way.

The first thing I noticed was the bold colouring, which is a lot more colourful than in previous issues. This is because we have a new contributor and it’s none other than Transformers colourist and Visionaries editor Steve White. In the earlier years of Transformers the colours were all beautifully hand-painted, before a new system was introduced that produced much flatter (but still stunning in the right hands) results. The colours here remind me of those earlier issues. They really pop, bringing depth and excitement to a story that’s already fun to read.

I asked Steve about his time working on Jurassic Park and he told me that while it was a work-for-hire gig he was a big fan of Mark’s and of Xenozoic Tales. He produced these beautiful results with markers on photocopies of the art, which he’d travel to North London to Dark Horse International’s little (according to Steve) office to pick up and return the pages.

Months previous, a great scientist by the name of Fessenden had asked Jack Tenrec to take him and his team out to a swamp for their research, explaining he’d discovered a secret to saving their crops. Now returning with a rescue team, Jack faces off against vicious, overgrown versions of dinosaurs that are usually tiny and docile. They start to show hunting skills they’re simply not meant to have, circling the team and attacking systematically. Eventually they make it to the station which is now a crumbling wreck and discover the shocking transformation of Fessenden.

His team are nowhere to be found, he isn’t doing any of the work he was there to accomplish and his head has become a strange elongated shape, covered in what looks like pulsating veins, like his brain is trying to push itself out through his skull. Jack sets out to find the missing researchers, only to literally stumble upon creepy blob-like creatures not dissimilar to his old friend’s head, then a mass grave in the final panel.

While so far there’s nothing particularly original here, these little blobs are intriguing and having read Mark’s other tales printed in this comic so far I know the payoff will be excellent. Its pacing is perfect and I can’t overemphasise how much Steve’s colouring adds to the rich atmosphere.

While this is listed as ‘Chapter Five’ on the contents page it’s actually the first strip in the series, originally published in Death Rattle magazine in the States in 1986. It acted as a kind of pilot, a testbed for a possible series. This explains why this particular chapter is simply called Xenozoic. It was clearly well received because Mark would go on to sporadically release more stories in his own comic. Not sure why Jurassic Park editor Dick Hansom decided to include it here instead of at the beginning, but it did mean we could enjoy it coloured this way so I’m happy he waited.

Moving on to Ricardo Delgado‘s Age of Reptiles (coloured by James Sinclair) and it takes up less space this issue to make way for much more of the title strip, but it’s no less enthralling. We were left wondering what was going to happen next after the Deinonychuses stole the unhatched eggs from the Tyrannosaurus rex nest, but this issue the battle of the species takes a back seat, the pace slowing down and showing the dinosaurs going about their lives as dawn breaks. It begins with a pack of Parasaurolophuses lazily drinking by a waterfall, unaware they’re being watched.

I don’t think I picked up on this until a later issue when I was a teenager, but this is clearly a different T-rex than the one we’ve seen in previous issues. Only when both appeared together in a later chapter did I notice the completely different sets of markings, probably because I didn’t go back and read the previous issues back then, so when I saw this ‘rex I incorrectly assumed I knew who it was. I love the little bird picking out a borrowing critter from its head and the dark shadows obscuring the hunter as he stalks his prey. The Parasaurolophuses are so delightfully drawn I can’t help but feel sorry for this one.

We see the predator begin to feast before cutting away to the silhouettes of the Deinonychuses making their way through the thick jungle. We’re not sure where they’re going yet and we don’t find out this issue, but what does happen here is highly entertaining and builds to a surprise cliffhanger. One of them gets distracted by a fish flopping about on the ground near a body of water and wants to stop to feed. You can see the distinct head markings of each character here, their leader not impressed with being slowed down and this little silent exchange did make me laugh.

That little red wiggle and that glare are comedy gold.

In the panel before it you’ll see some little bubbles appearing in the water beside them. Ignoring their leader, the hungry dino picks up the fish and opens wide, presenting us with a full page of this action, panel-by-panel, the shadow of the mouth engulfing the fish, saliva dripping from its mouth as it moves the fish closer, only for us to turn the page over and be confronted with this image below.

This was such a surprise ending. I’d forgotten all about it in the intervening years but seeing it now brings back the memory of having a feeling of impatience at having to wait a month to see the next part. I think you’ll agree that’s understandable.

So this is where my monthly dive into this favourite comic comes to an end once more. Three superb cliffhangers (even though only one was originally intended as such), interesting stories, plenty of action, loveable characters in all three strips and the surprise addition of a favourite Marvel UK colourist. It’s been an absolute joy yet again. It will continue in this format for a little while yet, so there’s much to look forward to over the coming months and the next bit will be here on Tuesday 22nd February 2022.