If It bleeds, 'Predator: Hunters' Can Kill It
Thirty years ago, the infamous Dillon (Carl Weathers) deceived an elite rescue team, led by his old friend Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger), into infiltrating the inhospitable jungles of South America under the guise of saving survivors of a massive helicopter crash. But Dutch’s squad could not fathom what was eagerly awaiting them in that sun-drenched wilderness – a blood-thirsty Predator from another world.
Since the massive success of that initial Predator film in 1987, a relentless and entertaining universe of comic books exploring those depraved alien invaders has inundated readers for three decades. And just in time for the movie’s 30th anniversary, along comes installment No. 2 in the four-issue mini-series Predator: Hunters.
The narrative opens with Mandy Graves reliving her distressing face-to-face experience with a vile predator from her youth, which she was fortunate enough to survive. But the mental scars from that deadly encounter run deep and continue to haunt her in the present day.
Soon, another predator survivor named Enoch Nakai comes aboard the vessel with Graves, which is on route to the remote island of Amelia where the crew eventually encounters Dr. Henry Bunting. Two islands in the vicinity hold a special interest to what turns out to be a squad of survivors, because of new evidence that indicates the presence of a predator.
Coordinated by Jaya Soames, this new team of survivors plans to hunt down the looming threat. Soames truly believes that after analyzing the predators’ technology she and the group can effectively combat the alien aggressor.
Elsewhere, a predator wrestles a wild boar and slaughters it. As the alien feeds on its flesh, the predator tosses some the dead animal to a human prisoner. It’s a harrowing cliffhanger to an otherwise average story.
What’s most interesting about the second issue of Predator: Hunters is the respect paid to the Dark Horse comic book universe of the last twenty years. Many of the characters appearing in these pages are, in fact, survivors of other Predator stories who are uniting in an effort to vanquish another of these hellish aliens.
Mandy Graves was a member of a black-ops group/CIA task force that tracked and waged war with a predator in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey during the events of the four-issue limited series Predator: Bad Blood (1993-1994). Mandy was the only person to survive the onslaught.
Enoch Nakai is a Navajo warrior who first appeared in the four-issue limited run titled Predator: Big Game (1991). The then Corporal Nakai ends up facing off against a predator all on his own, but it’s not his military training that wins the day. Rather, Nakai turns to his native heritage to find victory. Nakai returned in the 1994 two-issue run Predator: Blood on Two-Witch Mesa. Nakai is one of the very few characters to survive a predator not once, but twice.
Jaya Soames reveals that she too has scars from an encounter with the predators, and the leader of the expedition also has first-hand experience slaughtering these alien invaders. And Soames’ great grandfather also did battle with the predators during the two-issue limited series Predator: Nemesis (1997-1998).
These characters are definitely one of the most intriguing aspects of Predator: Hunters, because of their ties to the past. With the emergence of cinematic universes like Marvel, the Dark Universe and D.C., it is wonderful to see Dark Horse interweaving characters and storylines together from their vast selection of Predator titles.
This ploy is also reminiscent of the technique utilized by ’80s horror films that often saw the survivor(s) of previous movies returning to do battle with the villain once again. More times than not, those characters did not fair too well in the sequels though. What will the fates of Soames, Nakai and Graves be? This character and plot device adds copious amounts of suspense to the narrative.
Francisco Ruiz Velasco presents a simple and winsome style of artistry that is somewhat reminiscent of modern-day anime. The nonpareil is exemplified in the predator battle flashback on page six, which features loads of well-crafted blood and guts. Certainly, more viscera are welcome, but the imagery is complex and vivid thanks to splashes of both red human blood and the neon-tinted green blood of the predators. The chest cavity wound on the human is also exceptional.
However, two panels on page twenty-three feature several characters in the background without their faces completed – no eyes, no mouths, no noses…no anything. This is unforgivable. A publishing company with Dark Horse’s legacy and stature should know better than this. It is hard to fathom how artists and publishers of this day and age assume it is okay to skimp on such prominent titles, or even cut the tiniest of corners, but it is a problem that is becoming more and more common.
As with most comic books, the imagery is reserved as the artists’ playground. And while writer Chris Warner establishes and engages readers in all the major literary elements (plot, setting, dialogue, conflict, mood, theme) there is a lackluster approach to even the most common literary techniques.
There is a noticeable absence of similes, metaphors, personification, and other writing techniques, in this particular installment of the series. Rather, Predator: Hunters #2 relies more on the dialogue and exposition of the piece to push the storytelling forward.
Some of the best comic book and graphic novel writers of the past thirty years like Jim Starlin, Frank Miller and Todd McFarlane made their careers stand out by carefully crafting stunning narratives that themselves exploded off the pages with their own wordy substance and imagery. A more creative flair for stringing words together will go a long way for Warner in the subsequent installments of Predator: Hunters.
In conclusion, Predator: Hunters is an intriguing entry in Dark Horse’s comic book universe, and definitely worth the cover price, if you are toying around with adding this mini-series to your collection. Cover No. 2, which features the Predator holding the severed head of the dead boar in his fierce clutches is the Holy Grail of the bunch.