WWII. The Pacific. A mythic adventure unfolds as three American soldiers–a disgraced ex-cop, a mobster trying to escape his past, and an intelligence officer with mysterious motives–investigate a top-secret Japanese superweapon: a deadly force of trained dinosaurs!
“World War II, but with dinosaurs!” is a popular trope in fiction. I don’t know why the two have come together so often, but if I were to guess, it may be the association of both with early 20th-century pulp magazines. One of the earliest stories pitting World War II soldiers against dinosaurs was published while the war still raged. “Blitzkrieg in the Past” by John York Cavot, which appeared in the July 1942 issue of Amazing Stories, sent a U.S. tank crew back in time to fight cavemen and dinosaurs. (Scientific accuracy was never a hallmark of the pulps.) Twenty years later, DC Comics gave readers The War That Time Forgot, which usually had U.S. servicemen encountering living dinosaurs on remote Pacific islands. There have been several other examples since, some reviewed on this blog. The latest addition to this subgenre is Operation Dragon, a graphic novel published by Dark Horse Comics in 2021.
Operation Dragon follows three protagonists: Rick Novak, an ex-cop framed for a crime he didn’t commit, so is left with little choice but to join the U.S. Army; Tony Bruno, the gangster who framed Rick and is also fighting in the war; and Catherine King, a U.S. special intelligence agent. After a long setup, the three are shipwrecked on a mysterious Pacific island where the Japanese Army is training dinosaurs for battle. It is up to the trio to stop the Japanese, who are working on a weapon that would change the course of the war.
The plot of Operation Dragon is simple and fairly standard for these types of stories. Where it stands out is in characterization, with Rick and Tony getting fully realized arcs. Both start out hating each other — a common trope in buddy action films — but the two characters grow emotionally through the course of the story and come to view each other in a different light. Unfortunately, Catherine isn’t afforded the same level of development. She isn’t a damsel in distress — she’s the most capable of the three — but in the end, her main role is to serve as a love interest for one of the other characters.
There is plenty of action and plenty of dinosaurs, although the latter are mostly your standard T. rexes and other Jurassic Park clones. As for the art, it’s serviceable. It does its job, but the penciling and coloring don’t communicate the motion that the frequent action scenes need to pop off the page.
Operation Dragon is an interesting diversion but not one you are likely to revisit after your first read-through. The comic’s above-average characterization elevates it above other stories of its type, but the art and unoriginal plot fail to make it memorable.
- The writers are Bill Groshelle and Brendan Cahill. The artist is Germán Peralta. The colorist is Kristian Rossi. Randy Gaul provides the cover art.
- The comic’s website is operationdragon.net.