An advance review of Robert Kirkman's latest venture: Super Dinosaur!
Credits & Solicit Info:
CBR Reports, "The dinosaurs are dead. Long live Super Dinosaur! Leave it to "The Astounding Wolf-Man" collaborators Robert Kirkman and Jason Howard to invent a concept like "Super Dinosaur," their all-new ongoing series launching from Image Comics and Skybound in April 2011.
Super Dinosaur. I expected some tights, a cape and a T-rex with a spit curl, but what I got was something altogether different in this introductory origin issue. Super Dinosaur Origin Spectacular is a name right out of Stan Lee's brainpan, but channeled through Robert Kirkman and Jason Howard, the creative team of Astounding Wolfman. Will the team of Astounding Wolfman bring thrills and chills to their all-ages title? It's hard to tell from this first installment, as Kirkman has admitted a handful of times in fan press that he has trouble with first issues.
I don't understand Kirkman's choice in having to provide a full origin story right out of the gate. Kirkman uses a framing sequence where Derek Dynamo, the series' protagonist, tells the story to the Kingston sisters (requisite supporting characters). He seems to want to channel Johnny Quest while updating it for a younger generation,; one that likes video games, talking lizards and technotronic toys with massive guns.So, my approach to reviewing Super Dinosaur was to look at it through the eyes of an eight-year-old boy, and while boys that age love the topics mentioned above, there are a lot of word balloons in this book. For my close-to-eight-year-old brain, I found that the word balloons distracted from the artwork, cluttering up the story where they should have enabled the telling. The plot is the main focus of the issue, getting the story told with little time spent on character development, which left me apathetic about them, because they seemed like cookie-cutter characters (the genius hero kid, the science dad, the mad scientist who once was good) instead of real people. In Kirkman's defense, heh packed lot of information into the pages, but I think that leaving some of the plot to be told another time and a page or two of deeper character work might have worked in his favor.
On a related note, there are character sheets at the end of the book which help pad out the issue. I loved these, and could imagine that eight-year-old obsessing about every minute detail, reading them over and over and enjoying learning about the each of the characters. I fear that Kirkman relied too much on these to introduce the characters and not enough on the actual story pages.
Jason Howard's art is the saving grace of the story. Kirkman's script is meant to showcase Howard's art, packing in a lot of splash pages and two or three panel pages into an already small space. This makes the book seem a little brief, but Howard can't take all the blame for that. He probably had fun drawing the book and it shows. In the eyes of the eight-year-old, this artwork is like mainlining pixie sticks into the cerebral cortex. Howard has taken on all the art chores in this book, and his color art and inked pages mesh really well together. The pages pop with cartoon-y goodness, the color adding dimension to the simple linework that Jason has chosen for this book, all resulting in pages that flow very well from one to another.
Overall, I think Super Dinosaur Origin Spectacular works on an introductory level, showcasing the characters involved and setting the playing field for future stories to be told. I worry that laying out an origin story right away may be detrimental to those that are taking Super Dinosaur home on free comic book day, not drawing them in quite enough for a return visit. For the kids that this is targeted towards, the candy-colored art and cliché characters might be something that they are drawn into, but I tend to think that children are smarter then they seem, and demand a lot from their entertainment. There is a lot of promise for this series now that the foundations has been firmly laid out, and I will give the first issue a chance to reel me in one more time, but the first issue better be playing at a higher level if they want to keep me interested, and if they want me to buy it for my nephews.
Review by: Martin John