[Spoiler warning: because of the nature of this sequel comic, if you haven’t yet seen “Predators,” you may want to avoid this review, because it’s hard to discuss this comic without giving away the end of the movie. Love, Chad.]
Picking up two months after the end of “Predators,” “Preserve the Game” focuses on Royce and Izzy as they try to survive on the alien planet where they’re stranded as the only survivors of a group of Earth’s best killers brought there to be hunted by the Predators for sport. While Izzy healed from her injuries, Royce has spent those two months killing whatever creatures are dropped by the Predators, proving himself to be a killer worthy of their respect. And of their champion. They set up one final challenge for Royce by pitting him against a four-armed Predator as a way to see if he can survive their best.
David Lapham’s story doesn’t feel like a sequel to the movie so much as a natural progression of where it left off. Reading it, I couldn’t help but think that if this plot was slotted on to the end of “Predators,” it wouldn’t have stood out as unnecessary since it follows up on the idea of Royce being the best killer from Earth, while fighting against himself as he struggles with what to do with Izzy. Part of him wants to go it alone, but another part can’t help himself from making sure she survives. Here, in the test against the Predators’ champion, he has to learn to work with her in order for both to survive.
Besides the larger plot, what works best in this issue are the small touches like the sign of respect for Royce by the Predators: they drop off custom Predator armor that’s designed for him, including read-outs on his helmet in English. The interplay between Royce and Izzy is somewhat forced with there never being a doubt as to what choice Royce will make. As a result, there isn’t a lot of tension in the book even though the four-armed Predator is so imposing and Royce seems selfish at times.
Allan Jefferson’s art is a good fit if somewhat inconsistent. He tries to incorporate the looks of the actors who played Royce and Izzy in the movie, but never seems entirely comfortable with either, always trying to make sure they’re faithful to their real world counterparts while not looking like they were copied from production stills. They neither look real nor part of the world here, switching between almost photorealist depictions and cartoony ones. He makes a good effort and does succeed some of the time.
The action scenes suffer from a similar problem with the art alternating between rushed, unfinished-looking panels and heavily detailed ones. That could be a sign of which of the two inkers did those pages, but it’s distracting. Jefferson has good energy and a good sense of how to depict action, but the finishes on a lot of panels make the art look sloppy.
If you liked the movie, this comic is such a natural outcropping that it will feel like a lost fourth act. Lapham picks up on a natural conflict between Royce, Izzy, and the Predators and plays it out exactly as you’d expect.