— There are spoilers for The Devils in the Desert throughout.
‘NOTHING MORE, AND NOTHING LESS.’
Before I picked it up, I was dreading The Devils in the Desert. Earlier in the year, I’d been excited to jump into IDW’s Jurassic Park comics — with the goal of putting out a few articles on them before the release of the upcoming Jurassic World series — but Jurassic Park: Redemption, with its underwhelming art, cheesy dialogue, and severely batshit story, quickly put a dampener on my enthusiasm.
I’d planned, upon finishing it, to jump into Devils almost immediately, but I decided to put it off for a few weeks.
When those weeks passed, I decided to put it off for a few more.
Eventually, I put it on the back-burner altogether, telling myself that it’d be a better idea to save it for #JurassicJune. In reality, though, it was just another excuse not to do it.
In the end, I put it off until yesterday morning. By the time I finally sat down to read, though, I felt differently about it. For some reason, as I set about downloading Devils to my iPad, I began to feel excited, cautiously optimistic. I wondered, wryly, whether it was a sign of things to come…
As it turns out, it was.
I won’t go as far as to say that I loved Devils in the Desert, but I certainly enjoyed the hell out of it, tearing through its four issues in about forty minutes and feeling, when I set it down, that I’d finally found a Jurassic spin-off worthy of the name.
Devils’ strength lies in its economy. It’s compact, contained, telling its story without going off on unnecessary tangents; generally, aside from a small amount of somewhat forced-feeling character development, there’s nothing more than there needs to be in there, and nothing less.
It kicks off in medias res, with a scene that immediately recalls the insane finale of Redemption, but it soon becomes clear that this is a different beast. Obviously this is all relative, but its characters are measured and its dialogue realistic (mostly…), imbuing things with a sense of veracity despite the extraordinary events it covers.
A cowboy-looking kid bursts into a sheriff’s office, shouting about cattle mutilations. The scene of the mutilations, perpetrated by some unknown animals, is gruesome, and the boy’s father is missing — permanently. When the man’s body is found, the FBI show up — followed, after a fashion, by a pair of palaeontologists and, eventually, InGen.
Very common name in the Jurassic universe, Harding. Still, I like the reference. It has a nice subtlety when compared to those some of those found in Redemption… Lex owning a vegetable company, Grant still having problems with seat belts… about as subtle as a punch in the face, those.
The unknown animals in question? Pteranodons.
Summed up, Devils is the story of the sheriff and co. trying to prevent the spread of the pteranodons, the palaeontologists trying to expose where said pteranodons came from, and InGen trying to capture them quietly whilst threatening to sue everyone and anyone they can into silence.
If it sounds straightforward, that’s because it is. As I said above, one of Devils’ strengths is its brevity. It moves along at a blistering pace with action that, thanks to a visual style vastly superior to that of Redemption, is entertaining, easy to follow, and satisfyingly gruesome, with the dialogue filling in the blanks when the imagery restrains itself from getting too bloody.
There are even some nice nods to established Jurassic lore in there. The San Diego incident is discussed, with the Rex looking pleasingly familiar, rather then the grey blob presented in Redemption.
Jurassic Park III gets a mention, too, with reference to Grant’s opening speech paving the way for what was quite possibly my favourite element of Devils, something that made me say, ‘Finally!’ aloud when I came to it.
See, as much as I was enjoying Devils, I was frustrated with the fact that its pteranodons are presented as having teeth their real-world counterparts lacked. In Issue #2, however…
Explaining that the use of frog DNA caused some unexpected variations is an excellent touch. Though it hasn’t bothered — yet… — to do it, it’s a perfect, built-in way for the Jurassic franchise to explain its many scientific inaccuracies, with advancements in the de-extinction technology an equally perfect way to introduce more up-to-date representations of dinosaurs.
Of course, as with most things in this world, it’s not all fun and games.
As great as the ride is, Devils falls apart a little towards the end, with a somewhat abrupt finale that, though an excellent spectacle, is filled to the brim with completely unnecessary dialogue.
Nothing’s perfect, though, and Devils does so much else right that I can deal with — if not completely excuse — an imperfect finale.
BUILDING THE JURASSIC WORLD
For a while now, Jurassic fans have discussed the possibility of a spin-off series, something separate from the main films that tells stories they can’t, or ties things together in ways they don’t. A particular area of attention is the time between Jurassic Park III and Jurassic World. With some slight changes to the story, I reckon an adaptation of Devils could fit in there pretty comfortably.
In established canon, Jurassic World’s Vic Hoskins rose to prominence after having dealt with the pteranodons that escaped from Isla Sorna at the end of Jurassic Park III. Though it’s never explicitly stated, it would, I think, be reasonable to assume that Devils’ pteranodons are the very same animals — thus, stick Hoskins in the story, tweak a few other details, and you have a ready-made prequel to Jurassic World.
Even InGen’s attempts to capture the pteranodons are, without any changes whatsoever, incredibly reminiscent of the ACU’s disastrous efforts to contain the Indominus rex…
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the main reason I dug into these stories was to familiarise myself with some of IDW’s Jurassic content before the release of their Jurassic World comics. There’s every chance that those comics will fill the gap between Park and World in their own way — if they don’t, though, if they choose to tell a different tale, I’m going to go ahead and consider 90% of Devils in the Desert canon.
It’s worthy of it.
As for what to do now I've finished, I hear there are some dangerous games to be played. Until next time…
2011. Yes, you read that right: 2011. That’s the last time there was a Jurassic game of any real significance. Whilst an enjoyable treat, LEGO Jurassic World wasn’t at all what the majority of fans have been waiting for, and with the commercial success of Jurassic World, it should have been but an appetiser for bigger, better things to come. Well… fire the waiter, and send some raptors into the kitchen to see what’s up, because we’re still waiting for the main course.
Jurassic is a franchise that lends itself to any number of genres, and there's certainly no shortage of ideas for possible games. It really is about time one came along. Yes, there are rights involved, deals to be made and permissions to be gotten, but, let's be honest: it's going to happen.
Life will find a way, and someone will make one. Why not you?