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Review: ‘Dinosaurs’

Dinosaurs 4

Dinosaurs
Writer: Arnaud Plumeri
Artist: Bloz
Papercutz; $10.99 (each)

The interest in and affection for dinosaurs is pretty much universal—regardless of your country of origin, chances are good that you think dinosaurs are awesome. It is therefore no surprise that French creators Arnaud Plumeri and Bloz produced a great series of comic books about dinosaurs—simply titled Dinosaures—for French publisher Bamboo Edition. And thanks to publisher Papercutz, English-speaking readers/dinosaur fans on this side of the Atlantic can enjoy Plumeri and Bloz’s dinosaur comics as well.

Dinosaurs 3The series consists of four different albums, here published as stand-alone graphic novels: In The Beginning…, Bite of the Albertosaurus, Jurassic Smarts, and A Game of Bones. Though numbered 1 through 4, it doesn’t really matter which order they are read in. Each is a collection of one-page gag strips, only very occasionally deviating that format to allow for a two-page gag strip, and each is devoted to the dual purpose of conveying non-fiction information while simultaneously telling jokes. In that regard, the series is somewhat similar to Abby Howard’s late 2017 Dinosaur Empire.

Paleontologist character Indino Jones occasionally shows up to explain things to readers, or to children who appear on the page, but for the most part the dinosaurs do most of their own talking and are the stars of the comics.

There’s a delicate, if weird and, ultimately, winning balance between the realistic and the cartoonish in the strips. The dinosaurs are all drawn by artist Bloz in a realistic style, well in keeping with the most up-to-date knowledge on dinosaurs at the time of the comics’ creation, and care is taken to never have dinosaurs from different time periods or from different geographic regions interact with one another…unless, of course, that interaction is part of the joke. (As when, for example, a fight between Tyrannosaurus Rex and Spinosaurus ends when the two huge carnivores fail to meet up with one another, since they are separated in time by tens of millions of years.)

Dinosaurs 2At the same time, the dinosaurs are all anthropomorphized just enough that they talk to one another, and Bloz gives them expressive, cartoon character-like eyes and mouths and the full arsenal of comic book character emotion signifiers, like beads of nervous sweat, surprise lines, stars to express pain and so on.

Many of the strips are devoted to introducing a particular species, and each concludes with a bit that pretty perfectly encapsulates the dual nature of Dinosaurs: Above a little stack of facts about the dinosaur, there will be a pair of silhouettes showing how the size of the dinosaur in question relates to the size of an average human being. That’s a staple of books about dinosaurs and other extinct creatures, of course, but here Bloz draws expressive white eyeballs in the heads of the dinosaur and human silhouettes and varies the figures’ attitudes depending on the dinosaur in question. So, for example, the strip introducing Allosaurus will have human attempting to sneak away from it, the Velociraptor silhouette chases a fleeing human silhouette, and tiny Compsognathus looks nervously up at a superior human being.

Dinosaurs 1Recurring characters among the dinosaurs quickly emerge. That Compsognathus, or “Compsy,” is a favorite of the creators. This diminutive, chicken-sized dinosaur rather frequently appears to bemoan his lack of name recognition or the attention paid to him, and more often than not he suffers from some form of violent and undignified comeuppance, like being stepped on by a giant sauropod or eaten by a larger predator…only to appear alive and unharmed in a later strip, in true cartoon character fashion. The feathered, big-skulled Troodon is presented as “the smart one” in the strips, Stegosaurus as a big, slow-witted dope, the especially bird-like Archeopteryx as a particularly strange and mixed-up weirdo, and so on.

Not all of the jokes land; some of that is likely to cultural differences and awkward translations, and some of that is likely due to them just not being all that funny (Indino Jones’ old-school sitcom style arguments with his wife, for example). But since there is at least one joke per page, it hardly matters if there are some clunky jokes among the forty or sixty or so you’ll find in each book. If you like dinosaurs (who doesn’t?) and you like comics (and would you even be looking at this site if you didn’t?), you should definitely like, if not love, Dinosaurs.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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