Jurassic Park Vol. 1: Redemption (2011)
By: Tristan Jones on January 18, 2011  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
Cover Art
Publisher: IDW
Writers: Bob Schreck
Art: Nate Van Dyke
I'm not sure where to start with this one. I had tremendously high hopes for Jurassic Park. When it was first announced by IDW that they'd acquired the license for Jurassic Park, I was ecstatic. The novels by the late Michael Crichton still stand as two of my all time favourite books; some people read The Lord of the Rings books every year, I read the Jurassic Park books. The first Jurassic Park movie is the Star Wars of my generation. It's the movie series that drew record crowds to cinemas (there were people sitting in the aisles of the cinemas the first couple of times I saw The Lost World), and it not only redefined the way movies looked at dinosaurs, but science as well. It captured the minds of everyone that saw it and made us believe that we were looking at real dinosaurs. Sure the third movie wasn't as great as the first two (fuck off if you think a Spinosaurus could take down a Tyrannosaur, even if they lived in the same evolutionary time frame), but it still felt like Jurassic Park, and I am not afraid to admit that every time I hear the Jurassic Park theme by John Williams, I get all misty eyed.

I'm also not afraid to admit that Jurassic Park: Redemption nearly had me in tears as well, but not in the way I was hoping…

Jurassic Park: Redemption picks up thirteen years after the original film, where Lex Murphy is now a young adult and CEO of LEXXCrops (a global supplier of organic vegetable products) and an environmental activist seeking to keep Isla Nublar and Isla Sorna under the protection of the United Nations, while her brother Tim seems to be some sort of trust fund brat with a heart of gold, looking to make good of his grandfather's now tarnished name by secretly establishing his own Jurassic Park in Texas. As one would expect things go spectacularly wrong and dinosaurs end up on the loose, bringing Ellie Sattler (though if you go by the films, her name should now be Degler) and Alan Grant back into the mix as well as a few other surprise appearances.

Jurassic Park leaves a lot of room for some fantastic ideas in terms of comic book story telling, and it really does pain me to say that this falls woefully short of the potential the license has in the medium. From the first issue/chapter, the first thing you'll notice is the art - something that is pivotal in comics - is really harsh on the eyes. Nate Van Dyke (the penciller) is a very capable artist in his own right, but he's clearly inexperienced when it comes to drawing comics. Panels feel stiff and boring, and that all important sense of movement is as clunky as a fourth grader experimenting in stop motion with their parent's camcorder, making some sequences that could be presented fantastically in comic form fall flat in a disappointing and sometimes confusing fashion.

I know Van Dyke has a sharp edged style to his art, but here the characters look rushed and rigid, and progressively more so as the book continues. Some of the character designs are so similar you start to lose track of who is who even in spite of the often overly obvious dialogue, with characters bearing more similarities to each other than their cinematic counterparts and only seem to be capable of three expressions, many of which become confused and utilized at entirely the wrong moments.

The real kicker here though, is the dinosaurs. With all the spectacular dinosaur artists out there (like say, the ones brought in to do the covers), why was a book whose entire premise revolves around the creatures given to someone who seemingly can't draw them? Actually, I take that back, Van Dyke can draw dinosaurs, but they certainly aren't what you expect from a Jurassic Park book. There are moments in the book where a Gigantosaurus (the writer's overly obvious choice to try and out-do the Tyrannosaurus) goes from looking like a Toho reject to Reptar from Nickelodeon's Rugrats cartoons, and most of the other dinosaurs are as indistinguishable from species to species as the humans are from each other. None of this is helped at all by the colours.

Every dinosaur is coloured exactly the same way. In spite of how many of them are presented in the films, every single dinosaur is the same dirt brown. And since when were Lex and Tim redheads? Or Alan Grant a blonde for that matter? The colours go from being garish to dull from page to page and little attention seems to have been given to some of the trademark stylings of Van Dyke's pencils when they're present, which could've really elevated the art.

However, I feel there is very little that could have elevated the script, short of ditching it and bringing in another writer. The story is uninspired; taking obvious cues from the films (Lex is a vegetarian in the movie, so lets make her the head of an organically grown vegetable conglomerate! It even takes a less than subtle stab at genetic research! Genius!), and makes a number of continuity flubs throughout the book. Lewis Dodgson (the Biosyn scientist that hires Nedry to steal dinosaur embryos in the first movie) seems to have lost his first name and has gone from being a key scientist at Ingen's corporate rival to a Bond-style lackey, and then there's the Sattler/Degler mistake in spite of the very specific reference to Jurassic Park 3. They even manage to fuck up the main character's first name. The whole thing just feels amazingly sloppy, and the villain of the piece is quite possibly one of the most ham-fisted ideas I've ever seen in comics. Honestly, if I were reading a Batman or Spiderman comic I would still roll my eyes at how the villain is handled. The guy even uses a goddamn anagram to disguise his identity! The Joker doesn't even do that any more! And don't even get me started on the paleontologist character either - at least they inventively altered his name in The Lost World and made him something of a fun nod to the actual guy he's based on.

What shocks me is that the book was written by a man who worked for over a decade at some of the biggest comic companies, working on some of the biggest comic titles, and the damn thing still feels like mediocre fan-fiction. The whole book feels predictable and lazy and about as far from what you would expect a Jurassic Park book to be. Yes, I'm a big Jurassic Park fan, which makes the sting of this book much, much worse, but even as a comic fan, the book is woeful. The art actually devolves as the book progresses (which is painful to say because it wasn't that great to start off with) and the whole thing just feels like a huge waste of potential, which in itself is a colossal shame because IDW's books have been amazingly strong lately. It's really hard to recommend this book to anyone, even the most ardent Jurassic Park fans. Thankfully, comic book legend John Byrne is handling both the writing and art duties on the next story arc, so hopefully redemption will be found there.

If you're still keen to check Jurassic Park: Redemption out, the collected book is slated for release this February, and will collect all five issues containing the story.
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