Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Fair Trade -- "Devil Dinosaur" Omnibus

DEVIL DINOSAUR #2... so many half-formed memories!
When I was very young, my family went on a vacation to the "train country" of Pennsylvania. My father is a model train enthusiast, and this area has tons of railroad history to explore. It was a fun vacation; at least, I remember it being fun, with all the model railroads and stuff. Anyway, at one point we were doing some antiquing, long before it became fashionable to do so. One such shop had some old comics for sale, and my parents let my brother and I get some reading material. My brother picked up a pair of G.I. Combats featuring the Haunted Tank, while I decided on Devil Dinosaur #2.

Little did I know what I was in for!

I think all little boys are fascinated with dinosaurs at some point, and I was no different. But this dinosaur, bright red even on the yellowed paper, stomping around and generally causing havoc with his little companion, was unlike anything I had ever seen save the Aurora "Prehistoric Scenes" T-Rex model. I didn't know who Jack Kirby was at the time, but I knew that the art was fantastic to me. The colors were dazzling to my young eyes and I fell in love with this big dino.

Of course, being a kid, I promptly forgot about Devil and Moon Boy not too long after we got home.

But Devil was always there in the back of my mind. I'd look out for back issues even if I never sought them out, and I'd pick up his appearances elsewhere if I heard about them. But I neve gave much thought to what others ever thought about him until I got into the blog scene, and it seemed that most people at least thought the series was kooky fun even if they didn't have the child-like affinity for it I had. So when a few months back, Marvel annouced this Omnibus, collecting the entire affair in one full-color hardcover, the "blogosphere" lit up, and I was ecstatic.

The book itself does not disappoint. Besides including the entire series, the volume also includes Jack's "Dinosaur Dispatches" columns and a nice introduction to the man and the work by Tom Brevoort. The issues themselves hold up nicely for what they are: this is not high literature, but it's a heck of a lot of fun, with fast paced adventures and colorful characters. Things tend to skew a bit younger than a lot of Marvel output from the time, but to me, this adds a certain sense of timelessness to the proceedings. Brevoort calls this a story about "a boy and his dog," and in the broadest sense, this is very true. It's a an easy theme to identify and get behind. Couple this with Kirby's world building and you have a series which appealed to children because of the titular star, but also challenged them to think and imagine beyond what is generally accepted as fact by creating a living breathing valley for his creations to play in.

Kirby's art remains bold and vibrant, especially in color, and with Royer's solid inking, everything has a certain enjoyable mass to it. Most issues have a double page splash early on, and these are always a treat to the eye. And while the scripts may not have the modernist, psuedo-social awareness of his other 70s work, each tale crackles and pops in its own way, such as the epic alien invasion which brings the fantastic into conflict with the prehistoric. If Kirby had intended to adapt Devil and Moon Boy to animation (as the story goes), one can easily see how the transition would have gone down. This is a fun, high-spirited comic book.

The pricetag is a bit high ($30 for 9 issues), but considering that it's Kirby, as well as a hardcover, that's not that bad, honestly. The volume itself is handsome, with a bright dustcover reproducing the first cover, over a black binding with silver lettering. After reading this, I was disappointed in only one sense: That DC didn't do the same for his Fourth World books, and release each one as it's own Omnibus. This is one trade which I can recommend to anyone who likes their comics bold, brash, and fun.

1 comment:

Rick L. Phillips said...

I saw Devil Dinosaur when it was first published but I never bought it. Now I wish I had as you make it sound pretty good.