Sunday, April 24, 2011

Review -- Super Dinosaur #1 by Robert Kirkman and Jason Howard

Here’s the thing about writing for young adults: it’s extremely difficult to avoid being either too cutesy or too mature.  Robert Kirkman (Invincible, The Walking Dead), through his signature blend of silly humor and nonstop action, deftly navigates the precarious Young Adult terrain in the new series Super Dinosaur, the first issue of which was released this week by Image Comics.  Helped immensely by Jason Howard’s clean lines and smooth visual storytelling, Super Dinosaur provides young adult readers just the right blend of adventure and comedy to keep them wanting more by the time the issue comes to its dramatic cliffhanger end.  And, honestly, it’s a whole lot of fun for adult readers as well.

The titular Super Dinosaur (or SD for short) is a talking, armored, armed Tyrannosaurus Rex from the middle of the earth.  SD, Derek Dynamo (his teenage best friend and the son of the famous Doctor Dexter Dynamo), and Derek’s robot Wheels use their well-balanced combination of intellect and some pretty awesome robotic artillery to battle the evil Doctor Max Maximus.  Though Derek loves teaming with SD and Wheels to launch fists and missiles at evil robots and Dino-Men, his biggest concern is that his father’s mental capacities are slowly fading.  Like many teenagers, Derek has to grow up quickly, covering for his scientist father’s increasingly frequent  mistakes by finishing his work, afraid to let his father know that he is not quite the scientist that he once was.

Super Dinosaur works so well because it manages to create a hero in Derek that young adults can relate to and aspire to be.  He’s a seemingly normal teenager who cares deeply about his father and his friends (even if they are a nine foot tall dinosaur and a robot) and who loves adventure.  Though he hasn’t been gifted with tremendous physical strength, his intelligence and empathy for his father inspire him to fight for what is right.  Kirkman’s choice to have the Dino-Men as the villains is a thoughtful device to soften the impact of the violent acts that the heroes inflict upon their enemies, while providing the page-turning action that young adult readers expect.  In the end, however, it is Derek’s relationship with his father that provides the drama that drives this story.  Teenagers, maybe more than any other age group, understand what if feels like to be powerless, and should instantly respect and admire Derek’s efforts to protect his father.  

Super Dinosaur is a fun-filled, action-packed adventure for readers of all ages.  Howard’s art style is perfect for new comics readers, as the colors are vivid and the action is dynamic yet easy to follow (a concern expressed by many readers new to comics).  Kirkman and Howard have a hit on their hands in Super Dinosaur, and readers should be excited to read what comes next.

BONUS: Read a 13-page preview at Comixology.