“The Battle That Time Forgot”
Writers: Tom Sniegoski and Eric Powell
Artist: Eric Powell
Publisher: Marvel Comics
There are times when all that’s serious about comics has to be put aside and given up for sheer, unpredictable fun. So forget the dreadful doom and future gloom of House of M and Infinite Crisis and spend a few minutes with a comic so lighthearted it’s a wonder it even got published. Devil Dinosaur has returned as part of the Marvel Monsters Group series of one-shots, and not a moment too soon. New readers may wonder what all my fuss is about, but if you’re a Kirby fanatic, you’re gonna love this.
And when I mean Kirby fanatic, I mean fanatic. I don’t mean Kirby scholar or Kirby analyst, because Kirby’s run on the original Devil Dinosaur is no where near the top of the Kirby pantheon of artistic triumphs. You always hear critics and longtime fans singing the praises of Captain America, Fantastic Four, The Mighty Thor, New Gods, Kamandi, and The Eternals, but you don’t hear these same folk divulging warm, fuzzy feelings about Devil Dinosaur.
There were nine issues of Devil Dinosaur published in 1978. They’re not all that great. There are moments when the reader has to wonder what Kirby was thinking. But over time, one can allow a greater appreciation for Devil Dinosaur. You can take pleasure in it simply because it’s a Kirby comic, and there is nothing like a Kirby-produced comic, no matter how off the mark it is. ‘Nuff said.
This latest rendition of Devil Dinosaur is an unapologetic appreciative nod to Kirby’s Marvel work of the late 1970s. The Hulk guest stars, just as the Hulk guest-starred, sort of, in The Eternals, Kirby’s most critically acclaimed late ‘70s work. Devil Dinosaur also features an appearance by the Eternals, two of the more lowly Eternals, I must add, who are given a sense of humor and allowed to convey more human aspects, like envy, a sense of competition, and the ability to make bonehead decisions (actually, the more serious Eternals make a pretty bonehead decision, too).
All the right buttons are pushed by writer and artist. You get less of Devil Dinosaur’s pal Moon Boy and more of the Hulk’s reaction to being displaced in time and coerced into battle with the red lizard. You get less of Kirby’s over the top narrative bombast and more affection paid to the power of his layouts. You get less philosophical trappings of man at an early stage of his development and more humorous situations. In other words, you get entertainment through and through.
You also get a dandy reprint, the very first appearance of the Hulk. And be prepared, it’s not the Hulk you’re thinking of.
If you’re looking for today’s grim and gritty atmosphere in comics storytelling, you will be disappointed. Pass this book up. If you’re looking for a throwback to Kirby’s remarkable impact on comics structure and design, then steer clear, this isn’t about aping Kirby. But if you’re looking for satisfying escapism, a nice break from all that’s real, and a gentle homage to a comic whose creator proved capable of so much more, then the new Devil Dinosaur is just for you. You’ll be Eternally grateful you gave this book a shot.
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