Thursday, 28 April 2011

New Beginnings - Super Dinosaur

In today’s comic book forum there are many well established characters, writers, stables and even audiences. So to either break from the normal in any of these areas, or to introduce something new is a very big event in any writer’s career. From Image Comics, and writer Robert Kirkman, we have the new creation of Super Dinosaur.

For those who recognise the name, Kirkman is the mind who gave us The Walking Dead and Invincible. Now I know The Walking Dead from the recent and incredibly well received television adaptation. It’s adult, graphic and quite hard hitting with a distinct horror aspect to it. Invincible on the other hand revolves around a teenage super hero with a younger audience in mind. Following suit, Super Dinosaur is directed at all readers. The general look and feel of the comic and it’s language usage points more towards a pre-teen reader but you can see that there are elements where Kirkham tries to deal with harder topics like emotion, trauma and shock. None of which a child will easily process without personal experience. It’s an incredibly difficult balancing act to attempt and I’m not entirely sure that this issue demonstrates it completely.

Ironically, the tagline for the comic is “This is where it begins!” however, Kirkman jumps straight into the story with no prior information and no back story. In fact any reader who wants to find out more will get a wealth of information on all of the characters from the Free Comic Book Day (May 7th for your diaries) Origin Special of Super Dinosaur, which strikes me as slightly odd. The first issue is out, setting the plot and introducing the main players, but you have to wait slightly more than a fortnight to learn the how’s and why’s.

The story is easy to follow and has distinct good guys and bad guys (plus one wildcard). In many ways it resembles a Saturday morning cartoon in both the plot and depiction. Jason Howard, who has worked with Kirkman before on The Astounding Wolfman, has provided the illustration. It’s very easy on the eyes and doesn’t demand a giant amount of attention. The clarity in all of the frames comes from it not having a giant amount of detail to distract the eye, or be too cluttered. With that said, it is the shading that has created the depth. The lack of any significant background detail also furthers the mid Eighties' Saturday morning feel reinforcing my original feelings.

It’s a fun and easy comic to read. In fact I would go as far as saying that it would be considered a great comic in the right demographic, that of a 9-11 year old boy, but I think it misses the older audience. This is not to say that girls wouldn’t enjoy it, but it really hit me as being aimed at a male audience. Further supporting this is the Free Comic Book Day special with Files on all the characters narrated by our main character and influenced by his feelings (“She’s really nice to me... Sometimes I think she wants to kiss me. Gross!”)

For those who pick it up I’m not sure that the intellectual depth is enough to hold a more mature readership with it’s obvious play-on-words names and basic feel to it. Conversely, Kirkham has established himself as an author who creates and when he does it’s worth paying attention. I find myself torn, but only by the work that has preceded SD and not the issue in hand.

Younger readers will love this, dinosaurs, missiles, fighting and fun, but at over three times what I think is the age range should be this has missed me but if you are looking for a title to get your son reading comics without having to worry about the content, language or subject matter then here is your winner.

Matt Puddy isn't a child at heart

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