21 Years Ago: When the Predator Landed in New York City

Hitting comic book shops before Predator 2 landed in theaters, “Predator: Concrete Jungle” utilized the same conceit: Take a hardened cop and put him up against the ultimate, extraterrestrial hunter. The backdrop? The big city. It’s a “no duh” scenario and a natural progression for the franchise. What “Concrete Jungle” does that Predator 2 never did was open the scope just a bit wider than what Silver and his producing team could do 20 years ago. The hunting ground may have been comparable, yet “Concrete Jungle” was a game changer.

Written by Mark Verheiden (Battlestar Galactica, My Name is Bruce), a Dark Horse regular, and illustrated by Chris Warner, backed up by Sam de la Rosa’s striking ink work, “Concrete Jungle” is a four-part mini-series. The story picks up a couple of years in the future (Predator 2 was set in ’97) where we meet New York City cops Rasch and Schaefer, the latter an imposing figure who is the brother of Predator‘s Dutch (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger).

Schaefer doesn’t know what happened to his brother, but all of the answers he’s looking for start raining down on him when the Predator comes to town and starts picking off gangs. Issue number one introduces us to several beats that carry over into the Los Angeles-set Predator 2 – the massive attack on a gang; the tough-as-nails police captain who has to bend to a higher force that knows about the new alien in town; the subway slaughter where every passenger is packing heat; one character refers to a talk show hosted by Charles Manson (in Predator 2, loud mouth Morton Downey, Jr. was the TV personality); there’s even a line about “candy” that the Predator mimics when he makes his introduction to Schaefer.

But, as I said above, issue one is where the similarities end because by issue two, Verheiden turns up the heat and sends Schaefer into the jungles – after being “tagged” by the Predator – to learn more about what happened to Dutch. He does this in spite of General Phillips’ (carried over from Predator) best efforts to steer Schaefer off of the case. “They like the heat, dammit,” Phillips say. “Leave ’em be and in two, three weeks they’ll be gone.” Phillips here fills the shoes Gary Busey wears as Peter Keyes in Predator 2 – a man aware of the Predator situation and who reveals information to our hero on a need-to-know basis. Keyes, however, was more proactive than Phillips because he takes the fight to the Predator in Hopkins’ film. In “Concrete Jungle,” Philips shoulders a “hands off” approach and would rather give a free pass to the Predators and let their hunt continue.

Schaefer, naturally, won’t stand for this. In the jungle, he confronts the Predator that tagged him and kills the creature, setting off a chain of carnage that takes the action back to city. Rasch discovers cloaked Predators ships hovering all over Manhattan and Schaefer is taken into custody by Philips and used as a bargaining chip. “They seem to like you Schaefer boys,” Philips reminds our hero. If Schaefer is turned over to the Predators, perhaps Philips can avoid seeing Manhattan being leveled by a nuclear blast similar to the destruction seen in Predator.

Such a devastating blow to the Big Apple is avoided, however, and Schaefer puts up a fight. He rallies Rasch and the city’s biggest gangs for an all-out war against the Predators in the streets of Manhattan! It’s as epic as it sounds. Predator ships level cars and buildings. There is panic in the streets. The army rolls in, increasing the intensity of the firefight. Predators lay waste to armed macho drug runners. And Schaefer discovers a way to exploit the weakness of an enemy who loves to fight while invisible. Quite frankly, the final act is huge, taking the Predator series to levels its cinematic counterpart has not reached. Furthermore, “Concrete Jungle” feels like an action-packed Joel Silver picture which makes it a terrific companion piece to the films. Everyone is a hard-ass, there are some choice one-liners and the narration – which jumps between Rasch and Schafer – has a Lethal Weapon grit to it.

As a sequel, it works organically and it would be amazing to see realized on the big screen. Focusing on Dutch’s brother brings a sort of “grudge match” aspect to the Predator hunt this time. It delivers on giving you the best of both worlds, bringing the Predators to a big city and throwing you back into the jungle for a bit of familiarity. Verheiden also intellectualizes the nature of the Predator race and why they hunt, adding a welcome layer to the story. It’s absent of new Predator weapons and the cameo of an Alien skull, but it more than makes up for this with the scope of the story.

“Predator: Concrete Jungle” is available in Dark Horse’s “Predator Omnibus” collection.

For our comic book retrospective on Topp’s “Jason vs. Leatherface> click here!

Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor