With all of the fanfare that DC and Marvel are getting these days, sometimes it worthwhile to take a step back and appreciate all the variety that there is to be enjoyed. I admit it, I love a good yarn about Supes, Bats, Deadpool and all of the rest of the “A-listers” but when we get right down to it, I am a creature feature guy. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Godzilla, Devil Dinosaur…those are my favorites. So enter Age of Reptiles by Ricardo Degalo and published by Dark Horse.
This series, which Degalo has painstakingly fleshed out, is an anthology of stories about life in the Mesozoic Era (that’s the time period affectionately known as the “Age of Reptiles/Age of the Dinosaurs” for those who could have spent a little more time paying attention in middle school). At the time of writing this, there are currently four stories out, and each one has been something of an indie comics event.
So what makes these stories worth reading? Well, for one, the art. It is the main reason that you crack one of these open after seeing the cover. Each panel is loaded with detail and you could probably spend an hour looking over each issue. Each page is drawn and colored in fantastic detail, and at the times they have been released, they have reflected the most accurate scientific data on dinosaurs and the world that they lived in. The other reason that make peak your interest is there is no text.
That’s right, there is no text in these comics. This is not like Homeward Bound, where you can hear the animals’ thoughts. Degalo doesn’t set the stage like that. Dinosaurs obviously did not speak, or think using words, so all of the story, all of the action and personality comes from the reader’s own imagination. Granted, you are lead through a story (more on that in a bit) and this is a testament to what is once again incredible art, but also what could be considered an incredible narration. This has not gone unnoticed, with the series winning Eisner awards for its creativity. To give an idea of how special this is, the second story in the series was nominated and stood toe to toe with DC’s Kingdom Come in the “Best Limited Series” category. It didn’t win that one, but Degalo did, however, win the award for “ Talent Deserving Wider Recognition”.
So what kind of stories can one expect from this collection? Well, going down the line chronologically, the series started with “Tribal Warfare”. In this story, which is a bit more stylized than what came after it, two feuding groups are fighting over a hunting territory. The stars of this story? None other than tyrannosaurs and deinonychus (think Jurassic Park raptors). The first romp is a really fun foray into a project that clearly is a work of passion. The two families are constantly at odds, and this makes for some great action sequences as well as a few moments of dark humor as well.
The second story, called “The Hunt”, revolves around a classic revenge story. For those familiar with their dinosaur names, an allosaur is orphaned after a group of ceratosaurs kill its mother. Luckily for us, the protagonist is no Little Foot, and grows into a monster. What makes this story fun is that our hero dinosaur is chased through his life by a pack of color-changing, horned devil dinosaurs. When he finally comes of age, his tormentors realize that they may have bitten off more than they could chew.
In the third narrative, dubbed “The Journey”, we take a step back from a predatory existence and follow a heard of herbivorous dinosaurs as they travel through the ancient world. I will admit, of the series, this one lags the most – but that is probably because there is less action. This entry could, however, be a bit of a relief from the other entries which are much faster paced. What I will say, however, is that it has arguably the best finale in the series staged between creatures of the land and sea.
The latest story in the series, which has actually just wrapped up is Age of Reptiles: “Ancient Egyptians”. In this story Degalo has created a narrative that rivals that of his second in terms of narrative and stakes. Where as in “The Hunt” we followed a predator growing up into a monster, in Age of Reptiles: “Ancient Egyptians” we see a fully grown spinosaur acting out on his own. The story, which in my mind reads like Samurai protagonist in a Western plot is fantastic and the art, which in this issue features a lot more interaction around water, is superb.
At this time, all four collected works are available in a great softcover anthology from Dark Horse that also features a load of extra art. And you can probably request the single issues as well since the run just finished up. Both the first and second stories in the series have had stand-alone softcover treatments, and these are getting scarce.
So there you have it, Age of Reptiles is a great series with a long track record of success. For someone who wants something a little different, or if you are like me, looking for that hidden gem of a creature narrative that does not involve ridiculous plots with monsters chasing people it could very well just what the doctor ordered.
Have you read any of Ricardo Degalo’s Age of Reptiles series? Comment below with your thoughts!