Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Book Review: Devil Dinosaur Omnibus

Marvel has just released its hardcover collection of Jack Kirby’s Devil Dinosaur comics which compiles all nine (yup, that’s all of ‘em) issues of the short lived series that Kirby had created during his final stint at Marvel Comics.

One of my criteria as a wee lad with regards to purchasing a comic was firmly entrenched in whether a book featured either monsters or dinosaurs, so I did run across Devil Dinosaur a couple of times in my earliest comic-reading days. My initial exposure was actually from the character’s guest appearance in two issues of the Marvel Godzilla series. Shortly thereafter I managed to find a copy of the eighth issue of Devil Dinosaur at a garage sale (keep in mind that this was back before specialty comic shops were commonplace, so for a kid living out in the suburbs, selection was limited to whatever showed up at flea markets and variety stores). As such, my reason for picking up this new collection was out of pure nostalgic curiosity, but I was happy to find that it still holds up as an entertaining read.

In a nutshell, the book’s strength comes from its own enthusiastic insanity. The central character, Devil, is an infant Tyrannosaurus who survives being burned to death (a side effect of the ordeal is that his skin is now red instead of green) by a group of malevolent, furry Neanderthals. The injured dinosaur is found by the similarly hirsute, but friendly “Moon Boy” who helps to nurse the creature back to health. Within a short time, Devil reaches his full, mature size and returns his benefactor’s kindness by acting as a companion and guardian. Good thing too, as the pair quickly run into all manner of adversity: evil cavemen, giants, alien invaders, enormous ants and time warps. Even beyond said high-concept story elements, Kirby clearly approached the material not terribly concerned about historical or biological realism, as all the dinosaurs (even the herbivorous ones) are drawn as razor-toothed monsters that engage in over-the-top, hyper-kinetic brawls worthy of a superhero book. However, this further supports the overall surreal experience of Devil Dinosaur, which is ultimately what makes the comic fun.

Now it's not as if this book isn’t without its flaws. The writing feels like something out of the 1960’s (despite being made in the 70’s), rife with plentiful amounts of unnecessary exposition and clunky dialogue. It’s also not hard to see why the series lasted only a mere nine issues, as the episodic set-up and gimmicky stories were wearing thin by the end of the run. However, by collecting the comic’s entirety into a singular volume, the format has inadvertently created an enjoyable, self-contained novella that begins and ends satisfactorily without overstaying its welcome.

An entertaining 4 out of 5.


Rich Dannys said...

I probably shoulda picked this one up.. As I'm a huge Kirby nut. But haven't gotten 'round to it yet..

Did you happen to see/pickup the recent Eric (The GOON) Powell oneshot, that featured both 'Devil Dinosaur' and 'The HULK'?

T'was righteous! Verily..

Mysterious Pants said...

Definitely- although I waited until all of those one-shot "Marvel Monsters" comics were collected into a singular edition (maybe I should do up a review of THAT book at some point).

I kinda hoped that Marvel would revisit that theme again for another series of specials, but they seem to be fixated on re-imagining all of their characters as zombies nowadays...

MarvelX42 said...

Devil Dinosaur lives in a parallel universe, therefore there is no need for "paleontological accuracy".