JOURNEY (BACK) TO THE ISLAND
Christ. Jesus. H(ammond). Christ.
Last week, I was taken completely aback by how much I enjoyed IDW’s The Devils in the Desert. Subsequently, I found myself daring to hope that its successor, Dangerous Games, would prove to be a similarly pleasant surprise. Knowing nothing about it other than that it would feature a return to Jurassic Park, it was certainly the story I was most looking forward to when I set out on this Jurassic comic journey.
Having finished it? Sigh.
Dangerous Games does indeed take readers back to Isla Nublar, but the circumstances of that return, and the revelations it leads to, are so ridiculous that they cast this one, on a story level, to the depths of the dreaded Redemption. (Well, almost. There are, thankfully, no dinosaur headlocks this time around.)
Games revolves around the exploits of CIA agent Daniel Espinoza, who, at the beginning, is to be found working undercover in the cartel of a stereotypically insane drug lord. The drug lord in question, Gabriel Cazares has — conveniently enough… — set up shop on Nublar, which, thanks to having some friends in high places, he owns, dinosaurs and all.
When Espinoza’s cover is blown, he’s brought before Cazares, who’s turned the lobby of the Visitor Centre into a sort of makeshift throne room. (Because of course he has.) Cazares explains his motivations for having bought Nublar — he is, as we’ve heard a thousand times from a thousand villains before him, the ‘greatest predator in the world’, and so on… — before having Espinoza set loose to survive on the island with the warning that he’ll be sending his men after him in twenty-four hours.
We’re already deep into B-movie territory by this point, but none of this is what makes Dangerous Games so ridiculous. That comes in the form of Dr. Frances White, spiritual predecessor to Jurassic World’s Owen Grady.
Dr. White was involved in the Jurassic Park project early-on. Hired to study the behaviour of the animals, she discovered that the raptors form a bond with the first creature they come in contact with. In this case, her. After being assaulted by Peter Ludlow over her fundamental disagreement with how to handle the park’s dinosaurs, she took her raptors and fled into the jungle. Where she stayed.
In Dangerous Games’ canon, Dr. White and her pack of raptors have been living in the wilds of Nublar since before Muldoon — her apparent replacement — was hired, meaning she was there all through the events of Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Jurassic Park III, and for a good few years afterwards.
Having learned to communicate with her raptors — hopefully not a sign of things to come… — White rescues Espinoza when he gets on the wrong side of an allosaurus and proceeds to help him with his efforts to escape the island.
Before she does so, though, she has him judged by the ‘god’ of the island… the park’s tyrannosaurus. When, in an excruciatingly corny series of panels, he proves worthy (i.e. doesn’t get eaten), she agrees to help. You can probably guess what happens to Cazares at the end of all this…
Like I said… Christ.
Corniness, in general, is a running theme throughout Dangerous Games. Espinoza talks to himself constantly, with dialogue that should come with a warning for the lactose intolerant; Cazares has that whole ‘greatest predator to ever live’ schtick, and his right-hand man, Tiburon, is as wild-eyed and psychopathic as about a million wild-eyed, psychopathic henchmen before him.
It’s not all bad, though.
As with Redemption, I found the action difficult to keep up with, but I very much enjoyed the Japanese-style art employed here. True, the colours could’ve been a little richer, and a few panels would’ve benefited from more detail, but, on the whole, I found Dangerous Games to be pleasant enough to look at.
It’s with its dinosaurs, however, that it really excels. Not only do they simply look better than those of IDW’s previous efforts, but there are little touches, here and there, that bring them closer to modern depictions, rather than the 100% scaly animals found in the films. Dr. White’s feathered raptors might look like a bunch of punks on one of Dangerous Games’ covers, but they’re fine in the actual pages of the books, hammering home the fact that feathered raptors can absolutely work in a Jurassic story if given the chance.
Sadly, though, there’s little of note beyond the presentation, and even its return to Jurassic Park isn’t enough to redeem Dangerous Games.
I enjoyed Devils in the Desert because it acknowledged the idea of Jurassic’s dinosaurs being inaccurate — ‘theme park monsters,’ as it were — and ran with it, resulting in a story that felt like a genuine, credible spin-off; Dangerous Games, on the other hand, feels like a schlocky, uninspired attempt at a sequel. It’s just not good enough, and, honestly, makes me worry about what’s in store.
Redemption was, on all fronts, appalling; Devils in the Desert was enjoyable, but by no means amazing; and Dangerous Games was B-movie nonsense cover-to-cover. IDW is, as they say, going to have to seriously up its game with Jurassic World, or fans are in for a S.S. Venture-load of disappointment.