REVIEW: Super Dinosaur #14
Looking for a wish-fulfillment story but Shazam’s just not cutting it anymore? Did you always feel a little sorry for the Tyrannosaurus Rex only having short, little arms? Do you love science, even the crackpot variety? Would you like a comic that you can enjoy with your kid/younger sibling? Then read on as Major Spoilers answers all your questions and reviews Super Dinosaur.
Previously in Super Dinosaur: The Earth is hollow and Inner Earth is filled with Dinosaurs and intelligent reptilian humanoids known as Reptiloids. Super Dinosaur (aka SD) is a T-Rex genetically modified to be ~7 feet tall and have human intelligence. SD wears a variety of exoskeletons that provide weapons and robotic arms that are proportional to his body. He lives with scientist Dr. Dynamo and his son Derek, who is ten-years-old. Together they fight evil as part of a secret military team. It’s actually a lot more complicated than that but this will get you started.
Leading into this issue, Derek has been kidnapped by Exile, a Reptiloid, who takes him back to Inner Earth to prove to the other Reptiloids that there really is life out on Outer Earth. Super Dinosaur and three of Derek’s friends have followed on a rescue mission.
WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH KIDS TODAY?
In the A story, Derek is on the run with Exile, both fleeing the Reptiloid government that want’s to suppress knowledge of Outer Earth. This shifts into a political intrigue story as Exile takes them down to the Reptiloid underground (yeah, I know they’re already underground) to incite rebellion. Meanwhile, Super Dinosaur and Derek’s friends (all roughly 10-years-old) fight their way through caverns filled with hostile dinosaurs to find Derek. This half of the story is almost all action, but does it well and balances the talkiness of the Exile storyline.
The strength of the title lies in the kid protagonists. Derek and his friends are perfect for young readers to identify with, and imagine what they would do in these crazy situations. They make just enough childish mistakes of judgment to be believable as characters and they have the fighting, acrobatic and computer skills that every kid believes that they would have if only their dad was a scientist and they lived in a secret base. I know that as a kid I was convinced that I was only a few weeks of expert training away from judo-chopping thugs and back-flipping out of windows.
As an adult reader and dad, this occasionally bugs me. Would the US military really send a ten-year-old into battle with dinosaurs? Kids are not that competent. But this is part of the trade-off of an all-ages title and it bothers me less here than it does in Ender’s Game or Narnia. Don’t get me started about Narnia… Rackin’frackin’ smart-ass lion…
Once you get past that, Super Dinosaur isn’t any less believable than your average hero comic and the quality of the story isn’t dumbed down for kids. The bad guys have several levels of motivations and often have to be dealt with through other methods than just punching. Derek and his father have had to ally with some of the villains (as Derek does with Exile) and play them off against one another. It’s got a surprising amount of depth for a comic, much less a “kids” comic.
PUT ON A HAPPY FACE
The art is dynamic and very well suited to the action scenes that make up most of the issue. Kicking, punching and missiles can be hard to coordinate on the same page but Jason Howard does it well. He also does a great job in the design of the dinosaurs and the robotic technology–or in Super Dinosaur’s case, both. I will never get tired of looking at SD’s tiny arms working the joysticks that control his big robotic arms.
There is one thing about Howard’s art that bothers me, though; occasionally the characters’ faces look funny. Now when a drawing has a character shown in the background or off in the distance, they will be drawn with less detail than if they’re front and center of the panel. Sometimes they’ll be in silhouette or their back will be turned, which is fine when the character isn’t the focus of the panel. My problem is that there are several times when there’s a medium shot with nothing to look at but the character, and Howard has simplified the drawing to two dots for eyes, a curve for a mouth and, if they’re lucky, a line for a nose. Like a “Have a nice day” smiley face. It’s not that he can’t draw faces. Most of his faces are expressive and distinct, even the reptilian ones, which takes skill. But in these medium shots, he just doesn’t bother. Maybe you’ll gloss over it, but the more issues I read the more it bugs me.
BOTTOM LINE: Kid Dyn-O-Mite!
Overall, I love Super Dinosaur and so does my ten-year-old. In a time when the industry stagnates and the average age of readers continues to climb, it is good to see a comic that can bring in new readers. I give Super Dinosaur #14 four and a half stars—Whatever your age, you should be reading this.
DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!