The All-New, All-Different Marvel relaunch is well underway, giving the publisher the opportunity to revitalize a number of lesser-known characters from the archives. One such character is Devil Dinosaur, a 1978 creation from the legendary Jack Kirby. Recently co-starring in the Secret Wars tie-in Planet Hulk, the character finally arrives on Earth-616 in Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #1. Written by Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare, the team behind Image Comics’ Rocket Girl, with art by relative newcomer Natacha Bustos, the book makes for an entertaining debut.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur introduces Lunella Lafayette to the Marvel universe. Lunella is a genius by most standards, though she’s been denied entry to The Future Foundation, as well as a carrier of the Inhuman gene. Desperate to avoid the transformation caused by the Terrigen Mists and retain her humanity, she spends most of her free time searching for Kree artifacts. When she discovers the Nightstone, a portal is inadvertently opened up to Dinosaur World. It’s not long before a group of caveman-like creatures known as the Killer-Folk arrive on Earth – pursued by the mighty Devil Dinosaur.
Lunella is the biggest draw of the issue. She’s a fascinating new character—a little strange and genuinely funny as she struggles to deal with her middle school science class. The writers take care to build her backstory and personality into the early pages of the issue, setting her up as an outsider pushed to the fringes of her social circles by the gift of her intellect. A quirky outsider as the protagonist is hardly breaking new ground for Marvel, but the character’s age and background make for a unique story.
It’s easy to draw a comparison between Lunella and Kamala Khan, the current Ms. Marvel. Both are strong, young, female protagonists and both bring diversity to the Marvel line. More importantly, both are fun to read and bring a unique perspective and humour to their books. However, while both characters deserve attention, the writers do a great job of allowing Lunella to stand apart. She comes face-to-face with the evil Killer-Folk and a giant red dinosaur in the issue, but the key conflict of the story is Lunella versus herself. Her desperation to retain her humanity, to hold onto everything that she feels makes her Lunella Lafayette, makes for a powerful narrative.
Unfortunately, as Lunella’s story starts to pick up, the plot shifts to introduce the series’ second protagonist. We see what’s happening on Dinosaur Planet, as Devil Dinosaur and his companion Moon Boy attempt to thwart a ritual sacrifice by the Killer-Folk. The problem here isn’t necessarily with the writing, but how it detracts from Lunella. Sure, a giant red Tyrannosaurus Rex bursting through the trees makes for a great panel, but overall there’s no reason to care about that plot as of yet. Hopefully the writers address this in the next issue and make Devil Dinosaur feel like a much needed plot element rather than a cool image.
Bustos’ art proves to be a great fit for the series, her style bringing Erica Henderson’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girl to mind. The characters are incredibly expressive, but never to the point of cartoonish exaggeration. Particularly impressive are Bustos’ layouts, specifically in the action sequences. Her sense of pacing is impeccable, keeping the scenes flowing. Her take on Devil Dinosaur captures the ferocity of the character’s history, with his grand entrance in the book ranking as one of the best panels of the issue. However, perhaps inevitably, the same cannot be said for the Killer-Folk. Their design wasn’t particularly impressive to begin with, but Bustos’ style doesn’t do them any favors.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is an unexpected delight, introducing one of the next great Marvel characters while resurrecting an old favourite. As long as the team introduces a compelling reason for Devil Dinosaur to stick around in the next few issues, this book should easily find an audience.