Age of Reptiles: The Journey, and Tyrannosaurus Rex

There's one school of thought that unequivocally believes that dinosaurs are awesome. The opposing side thinks they're overrated. The truth is that dinosaurs couldn't care less what we think of them. They are beyond us. Not that this stops us from imagining them in fiction as a potential threat to our very existence.

Age of Reptiles: The Journey
by Ricardo Delgado, Jim Campbell, Tony Ong

Ricardo Delgado's previous Age of Reptiles outings were wordless soap operas full of murder and revenge, starring realistically drawn dinosaurs. But in The Journey, he pulls back from those pulp storytelling devices and turns towards a more familiar animal concern: the annual migration. In this case, a migration of herds of large Cretaceous-era herbivorous dinosaurs moving between different grazing grounds, not unlike today's migrations of megafauna in the Serengeti and Maasai Mara. And as with todays animals, the dinosaurs must run the gauntlet of hungry predators and rough terrain.

Age of Reptiles: The Journey by Ricardo Delgado, Jim Campbell, Tony Ong.

As always, the main attraction of the comic is Delgado's art. He gets to draw an astonishing variety of animals. The thundering herd of herbivores is composed of all manner of saurapods, ceratopsids, hadrosaurs, ankylosaurs, and who knows what else is included. It's veritable eye-candy for dinosaur enthusiasts and a Mesozoic version of a National Geographic special, sans the portentous narrative voice-over. There's a dangerous river crossing that's reminiscent of the wildebeest crossing of the crocodile-infested Mara River. But despite this wide-angle perspective, Delgado never shakes off his sympathy for carnivorous therapods. The only individuals who are differentiated throughout the entire story are a mother tyrannosaur and her children as they try to keep up with the herd. Their more intimate struggle for survival serves as a counterpoint to the entire herd's movements, and they end up stealing the show. Emphasizing the family drama is a traditional method for anthropomorphizing animal behavior, and it's something Delgado has used in the past. Delgado also resorts to uncharacteristic facial expressions to more easily convey his subjects emotions. On the whole though, he remains on the bleeding edge of dinosaur research - his multi-colored creatures are among the most anatomically accurate portrayals in comics.

While the story is often punctuated with flashes of violence, this is ultimately a deliberately paced comic. Everything, even death, gives way to the steady beat of the herd's migration. The conclusion provides no catharsis. Just a quiet end to all that wandering. Admittedly, this kind of grand-scale storytelling will not appeal to everybody. Delgado's one concession to Hollywood's traditional portrayal of the prehistoric environment occurs when the herd crosses a desert, reminiscent of America's wild west, while fighting off a large pack of dromaeosaurs. But by following the herd through an ever-changing landscape, he does manage to evoke a more lush and alien world that existed millions of years before humans would walk the face of the earth.

Age of Reptiles: The Journey by Ricardo Delgado, Jim Campbell, Tony Ong

If The Journey is a prestigious documentary shot in widescreen, then Tyrannosaurus Rex is a cheesy B-movie deliberately injected with bad dialogue, acting, and full of cheap imitation gore.

Tyrannosaurus Rex
by Mark Kidwell, Jay Fotos, Jeff Sornow, Jason Arthur

The advanced publicity to Tyrannosaurus Rex states "These aren’t your granddaddy’s dinosaurs!" Granted the comic hews closer to the fast, lean, birdlike creatures of the Jurassic Park franchise than to the tail-dragging lizards of yore. But in most other respects, its denizens come from old-world Hollywood - the one where man and dinosaur coexist uneasily, and women were clad in revealing fur bikinis. Actually, that's one area where the comic unfortunately disappoints. Anyone hoping for more cavegirl-style fanservice should just skip this comic. While the cover shows a dinosaur eying a skimpily-clad brunette, it never quite happens. At least not within the panels. At best, the humans are secondary characters who only bear witness as the dinosaurs run amuck.

Tyrannosaurus Rex by Mark Kidwell, Jay Fotos, Jeff Sornow, Jason Arthur

As for the dinosaurs themselves, they're okay I guess. They're drawn in that fussy mainstream style that contains a copious amount of line hatching to suggest tiny details, but exaggerates anatomy for dramatic purposes. The overall effect is that every figure appears somewhat rubbery, especially the dinosaurs when they're being contorted into all kinds of odd combative poses. The comic reminds me of the island scenes from the 1933 film King Kong, but sans the love interest - the titular character stalks the jungle while being hounded at every opportunity by rivals bent on its destruction. The only thing that matters is getting the message across that the t-rex a total badass (interestingly, the tyrannosaur is similarly colored to the one in The Journey). In contrast, the environment it inhabits is unremarkable. The dinosaurs are often crammed into barely fitting panels and closed-in on all sides by generic jungle foliage. The unrelenting close-ups do create a constant sense of claustrophobia. Whatever background details that do get drawn remain fairly sketchy and only supply minimal information about the setting.

This leaves the humans with the role of odious comic relief, especially the lone hunter tracking the t-rex. He's got no chance and he knows it. So all he can do is complain incessantly, and provide the set-up for the lame gag that ends the story. But who's going to care about that bozo?

Tyrannosaurus Rex by Mark Kidwell, Jay Fotos, Jeff Sornow, Jason Arthur