You're probably wondering why you're reading these words here instead of hearing them on YouTube. Coffee With The Cynic's YouTube schedule is limited to 1-2 videos a month so that I don't burn myself out, so here it is. Be warned: minor to moderate spoilers.
Jurassic Park has had an unfavorable history with comics, whether it be poor artwork, strange/horribly written stories, or a combination of the two. The last good comic of Jurassic Park to be released in my opinion was the comic adaptation of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, where the dinosaurs looked very similar to how they did in the movies (unlike the first film's adaptation) and the characters almost looked spot on to the actors that played them. Sadly, that comic came out almost 14 years ago and the only follow-up we've had since then was the absolutely horrible series Jurassic Park: Redemption, which you can see me tear apart on Coffee With The Cynic's YouTube channel. So rest assured, I was skeptical of the announcement of the next installment, The Devils In The Desert, but since it has that damn logo with the Rex skeleton in it, I shelled out money to read it. How is it?
Redemption haters rejoice!
Well first off, it looks much MUCH nicer this time around and when reading any comic, nice artwork is good to have. However, in the sense of Jurassic Park, it is crucial because the films went out of their way to make sure the dinosaurs LOOKED real. Sure, pencil & Photoshop coloring doesn't quite match life-sized animatronics or computer generated imagery, but dammit, it helps. The humans don't look like horrible pixelated boxes, the vehicles and locales look like some effort was actually put into them and as for the "Devils?" Well, see for yourself...
I honestly was not expecting this...
I love how the Pteranodons have a very similar coloring to how they did in Jurassic Park III, making this feel like a true sequel rather than something trying to cash in on the JP name. I'm still not crazy about them having teeth, but they had teeth in the movie, so it only makes sense they sport them here.
The story of The Devils In The Desert follows Sheriff Tobias as he is called in to investigate cattle mutilations and the disappearance of a farmer. As he and his deputy investigate the details of the scene, they find a footprint and make a cast of it to be analyzed by experts at the state university. The missing farmer's body is discovered across the state line, making it a federal case and two Special Agents are brought in. Another farm gets attacked (preview page earlier) and the three men working there, or rather what's left of them, are discovered by the sheriff and his crew later on. One of the feds goes in a helicopter to scout ahead but the sheriff and other fed lose contact with him, only to find the chopper downed with a strange trail leading away from it, indicating something dragged itself away from the wreck. They however are called back to the airport to meet with the paleontologists the university sent, who are curious to see how they found perfect footprints of an animal that's been extinct for sixty-five million years. The comic closes with a group of hikers happening across a trio of Pteranodons (pictured above) hiding out in the mountains.
So what's good about the debut issue of Devils In The Desert? Obviously, the artwork as mentioned before, but the pacing of the comic is nice too. Building up the appearance of the creatures similar to Alien, Jaws, and many other classic horror films, you do not actually see the Pteranodons until the final 2 page spread of this issue. There's also a lot of dialogue to really get to know the characters and possibly get attached to them so you want to see them make it and not just get offed by InGen's creations. I believe that the Jurassic Park name is in good hands with writer/artist John Byrne, so let's hope he can keep this trend up in future issues. However, I do have a couple of things to nitpick about it:
#1: Pteranodons aren't dinosaurs.
Minor thing, but in the preview art earlier, you see the guy say, "It's a dinosaur! How can it be a dinosaur?!" I would hope that these farmers aren't being portrayed as your stereotypical southern hicks, but we all know that Pteranodons are not dinosaurs, but merely flying reptiles that were related to dinosaurs. I imagine that this line was used to keep the readers guessing as to what was tearing up the countryside and those who inhabit it, but that bugs me every time I hear it.
#2: Again with the insane metabolisms!
So in this issue, we hear about fifteen head of cattle, half of a horse, and four people getting torn apart by these creatures. If you look at the frame of the Pteranodon, you can see there isn't a whole lot to them. Their bones are hollow, their bodies are very thin and they need to be light in order to take flight (Hell, even the largest of pterosaurs such as Quetzalcoatlus only weighed approximately 300lbs.). Where is all that food going?! Are they burning off calories so fast that they need to gorge as much as they do? Are they infected with a zombie-esque virus that they need to consume every living creature in their path? Or have they been around longer picking off cattle and only now their cover's been blown? I hope the latter is the case, otherwise it makes them more like monsters than animals (again) and that was never what JP was about.
#3: The Covers.
I'll go right out and say it, Devils In The Desert #1 has a really nice cover. My gripe is with the next few issues in the series. While they look nice in their own right, they feel too much like copycats to me. Observe.
Cover art for issues #2 & #3
Not a deal breaker, per sey, but it would've been nice to see something other than the "from-the-mouth-perspective" in later issues, but if it works, go with it, I suppose.
Despite these three gripes, Devils In The Desert left me wanting more, whereas Redemption was DOA. You could say that this could very well be the redemption Jurassic Park needed after Redemption. I want to close this review by saying John Byrne has made an interesting choice with the creatures to use. In a franchise dominated by theropods like Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor, it's a very gutsy move to say, "Nah, let's get those Pteranodons from JP3 in here. Let's tell their story." While I am applauding this comic for doing something a little different, the theropod fan in me is a bit let down that they apparently won't be featured in this story, especially after seeing this piece of art in the IDW forums, which I at first thought was done by John Byrne.
He may have been a lame T-Rex wanna-be in JP3, but who wouldn't wanna see this guy tear it up in a comic book?
Check back sometime next month where I'll be putting up a review for The Devils In The Desert #2. There'll probably be some other stuff in the meantime as well.