Reading this collection was a blast from the past. I collected every Aliens and Predator comic I could get my hands on as a kid. This 30th anniversary book collects some of the very first Predator stories told in the comics medium and some of the very best, at that. While there are three stories all together, they don’t seem like a random assortment. Truthfully, the entire book really does feel as though it’s telling one long story. They all follow the same protagonist, a NYPD officer named Schaefer, brother of Schwarzenegger’s Dutch from the original movie.
I think the thing that will most appeal to fans of the Predator films is that the first series collected here, Concrete Jungle, was released before Predator 2—but contains many similarities. In fact, it feels like a first draft script for the sequel, unburdened by budget. Just like the finished feature, Concrete Jungle is set in a major metropolis during a heat wave. It’s about a cop caught in the middle of a gang war who realizes that there is something bigger going on. It even introduced bronze armor for the Predators before the movie did the same and featured the same set piece of a shootout on a subway train.
This time, the city is facing a full-on invasion. Whereas a crew of the biggest badasses in the world were picked off by just one of these things, Schaefer kills several of them with his bare hands. Dutch and the Jungle Predator were engaged in a mutually assured destruction, but Schaefer walks out of this with barely a scratch, because there’s nothing about his character that really gives him away as human.
It’s not really writer Mark Verheiden’s fault, either. Schaefer’s a product of his time. This was the age of gritty comic book badasses like Judge Dredd and The Punisher. People just weren’t interested in reading about characters with overtly relatable, human traits.
The second series in the collection, Cold War, is one of my all-time favorite Predator stories and one that I still wish would be adapted to film. It takes what’s been established about the franchise and uses that to weave together a tale that totally subverts expectations. We know from the first two movies that the Predators love the heat.
They choose where to hunt based on the warmth of the location. So it’s excellent to see them crash land in Siberia. All of a sudden, this is a story where the Predators are backed into a corner. You have no idea what they’re going to do. Schaefer is a little more interesting in this series, but still more superhuman than the average superhero.
The third story, Dark River, serves as a nice epilogue. Schaefer returns to the jungle to look for Dutch but instead finds people being terrorized by a Predator that kills without any kind of code of honor. It kills randomly and haphazardly. Schaefer eventually uncovers that this creature is the very same one he wounded and left for dead in Concrete Jungle. I really like the idea of a Predator driven insane and turned feral by the main character’s actions.
Overall, this is a great collection. If you’re a fan of the Predator series and have yet to check out any of the tie-in comics, this is a pitch-perfect way to get started, as it binds together some of the best, most iconic Predator stories ever told outside the films.
WICKED RATING: 8/10