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Age of Reptiles: The Journey #1

Posted: Monday, November 9, 2009
By: Danny Djeljosevic

Ricardo Delgado
Ricardo Delgado, Jim Campbell (c)
Dark Horse Comics
Plot: The dinosaurs are migrating in huge herds, and that means danger when a tyrannosaurus sees lunch in the form of a baby triceratops. Among dozens of other things.

Comments: In a comic book world so currently cluttered with trends that I'm waiting for a Western comic where Sheriff Obama showdowns with a zombie train robber (I call it President Outlaw of the Dead), there aren't nearly enough comic books featuring dinosaurs. Besides Masashi Tanaka's silently comedic Gon, Steve Bissette's unfinished Tyrant (which I continue to search for issues of), and select parts of Calvin & Hobbes (why hasn't Bill Watterson done a dinosaur comic? Does he hate us?), what else is there? Does Dinosaur Comics count?

This lack of dinosaur comics might be a good thing because it makes Ricardo Delgado's Age of Reptiles series all the more special. A less screwball version of Gon, Age of Reptiles: The Journey silently follows a massive herd of dinosaurs in migration. It may sound like a dry exercise in drawing a nature documentary, but Ricardo Delgado knows there’s inherent drama in the life of a dinosaur--like predators trying to eat your babies. He also puts value in the little moments, finding natural comedy (a dinosaur waking up in its own nighttime drool, for example) surprisingly slice-of-life for a genre where a reader might simply expect widescreen panels of a triceratops fighting a tyrannosaurus. Don't worry, though, that happens, too.

Age of Dinosaurs: The Journey is not about plot, but rather the moments that make up the life of any animal, so the first issue holds up incredibly well on its own without requiring continuing to #2 (but the book is so good, so why wouldn't you?). In scripting, Delgado shows a surprising fairness and objectivity with his characters. Where one might demonize the Tyrannosaurus Rex, he shows that the T-Rex is exactly what it is: a predatory animal with its own little gaggle of mouths to feed.

The silence allows for an appreciation of Delgado's skills as a sequential storyteller. At a time where comic books increasingly resemble storyboards with word balloons on top, Delgado (who makes his living as a storyboard artist for major movies like, coincidentally, Wall-E)reminds us of the difference between the screen and the comic page. The layouts in the book are so dynamic that nary a page resembles the previous one, with panel size so wildly varying that an 11-panel page hardly feels like it has 11 panels. This may be Delgado expressing that which he cannot in his day job big rectangular drawings, but it's nevertheless appreciated.

As such, the pages themselves are dense with art. Delgado, seemingly knowing the odds are stacked against his silent dinosaur comic, wants to make an issue of Age of Reptiles: The Journey worth our $3.50, so he fills his pages with information right down to drawing smaller moments (pterodactyls in flight, a snake hatching from an egg) in the gutters at the bottom of the page. All of it is illustrated in consistent, painstaking detail. In a widescreen overhead panel of dozens of dinosaurs he doesn't neglect to throw in lots ridge lines to remind us that these dinosaurs have texture even if we're watching from a distance.

Despite Delgado's obvious skills as an artist, the comic wouldn't work half as well without Jim Campbell's colors, which sensibly render the dinosaurs in believable earth tones. The art is obviously the star of the show, so Campbell's colors work in subtle ways that never distract. The best effect has the colors of the sky slowly changing throughout the day, noting the passage of time.

Ricardo Delgado has gone and made a comic for everyone with a soul, most especially kids, dinosaur enthusiasts, and appreciators of comic book art. Age of Dinosaurs: The Journey is great comics.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to reread this comic book seven more times.



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