Dinosaurs have such a hold on our imaginations that even now, millions of years after their disappearance, we still write books about them, make movies about them, study them, look for clues to their lives and their deaths. As any librarian can tell you, books about dinosaurs are some of the more well-circulated books in both school and public libraries. Which is why it is so exciting that Ricardo Delgado’s Age of Reptiles is now being re-released in an omnibus edition.
Age of Reptiles Omnibus, vol. 1
Art by Ricardo Delgado; Colors by James Sinclair and Jim Campell
Ages 11+; Grades 6+
Dark Horse Comics, February 2011, ISBN 978-1-59582-683-1
400 pages, $24.99
What will strike you first about Age of Reptiles, if you have not read the series previously, is that there are no words. None. Not a text bubble, not a voice over, not a sound effect, nothing. Delgado also does not include information about the dinosaurs he draws, which to me is part of the appeal of the book. With included information, this would become an “educational” book and much of the fun would be lost. Instead, Delgado takes the idea of dinosaurs, adds brilliant (though probably assumed) colors, adds just the right bits of anthropomorphism (maternal and paternal love, the impulses for revenge and hate), and ends up with a novel told completely through pictures.
The reason why such a venture is successful is that Delgado is an amazing draftsman. His pictures have the weight of reality, even during the moments that could never have happened, such as revenge sequences. He uses thin lines to draw highly detailed scenes, bringing to life a world that has not been seen for millions of years. Delgado uses traditional square and rectangular panels when he wants to, but never allows them to cramp his images and he abandons them often for full page spreads which soar cinematically. A hunt swooping through prehistoric clouds is as breathtaking as any nature documentary. Sinclair’s colors for the first two books are bright and fantastical, which helps readers keep the unnamed characters straight in their minds. By contrast, Campbell’s colors in the third tale are much more subtle and muted, so readers are forced to pay closer attention, but his palette fits well with the mostly desert setting.
Delgado’s Age of Reptiles series was originally published in three comic book series (Age of Reptiles, Age of Reptiles: The Hunt, and Age of Reptiles: The Journey). The first two series were collected into the trade paperbacks Age of Reptiles: Tribal Warfare and Age of Reptiles: The Hunt, but The Journey was never collected until now. It is included in this omnibus, along with all of the original introductions (from luminaries such as Ray Harryhausen and John Landis), a gallery of covers, Delgado’s essays on his influences, and a short selection of sketches. All of these items have been put into one package which is printed on brilliant white paper, in full color, with a solid binding. Though the book is marked volume one, so far it encompasses everything that has previously been created for the Age of Reptiles universe. But the volume one designation leaves things open for more in the future, which is a good thing! Dark Horse’s standard “Omnibus” cover (familiar from its omnibus releases of Buffy, Indiana Jones, etc.) isn’t as eye-catching as it could be, but still gets the point across–this is a book about dinosaurs. A good selling point if displayed facing out.
The level of violence is not unexpected for a nature story. The giant reptiles kill and eat, sometimes viciously, sometimes simply to survive. There is blood and gore and offal, but again, not in unrealistic or showy quantities. Even with the touch of anthropomorphism, this is still a nature story, unrelenting and unsparing. Middle school aged and up readers will appreciate this, especially if they were or still are dinosaur fans. Delgado’s work is an excellent example of a picture being worth a thousand words and this collection is an excellent addition to any graphic novel library.
This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Dark Horse.