Robert Kirkman and Jason Howard, the team what used to wreak wonderful havoc on THE ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN, one day decided to do stuff that their kids can read and enjoy. Thus did fatherhood ruin a good thing - because I was really enjoying THE ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN series. Anyway, Kirkman and Howard wrapped up the Wolf-Man's story with an eye towards getting a move on already with their new intended-for-all-ages venture. So here's this sort of digest-sized trade collection SUPER DINOSAUR Vol. 1. It collects SUPER DINOSAUR #1-5 and the SUPER DINOSAUR ORIGIN SPECIAL. It's pretty neat.
In some interview, Kirkman described SUPER DINOSAUR as "essentially a Pixar movie on paper," or at least that's his lofty goal. It's certainly got all the bells and whistles a kid can crave, including an exuberant kid hero and his best friend, which is this bruising nine-foot-tall Tyrranosaurus Rex loaded with heavy firepower, and a hollow Earth inhabited by more dinosaurs. Ten-year-old genius Derek Dynamo and Super Dinosaur (or S.D.) are having the time of their lives foiling each of Dr. Max Maximus's diabolical plans to control Inner Earth - located nearly 100 miles beneath our feet - and harvest its super-potent mineral Dynore.
At the same time, Derek scrambles to cover up for his scientist dad's brain disorder, incurred in a fighty fight with Max Maximus, his old collaborator. Dr. Dynamo nowadays is prone to bouts of absentmindedness and an inability to finish a thought. Derek's been finishing his dad's equations behind his back, resolving mechanical issues in their secret base, and all around boosting his dad's self-confidence. Anything to keep the government off their backs. But the government catches a whiff that all is not smooth at Dynamo Dome and assigns them Bruce and Sarah Kingston, a man-and-wife technician team. And they brought their two young daughters. That'll shift the group dynamics some. Think of it as sort of like a twisted Brady Bunch, two families coming together in one household. Except that they fight off wicked mutated dinosaurs.
You cannot argue the inherent awesomeness of a dinosaur who can manipulate a joystick unit with its tiny sissy arms to control its weapon harness (which comes with huge robot limbs). S.D. is a prototype, a baby dinosaur stolen from Inner Earth and genetically engineered by Dr. Maximus to further his ambition of world domination. Except that S.D. wouldn't turn on his best pal Derek. It's been a tug of war ever since, Max Maximus and his created Dino-Men occasionally resurfacing from their hidden lair and Derek and S.D. then playing whack-a-mole.
SUPER DINOSAUR is breezy and crackles with energy and features a very clever, lively young hero so full of himself that he sometimes falls on his face, which is part of the fun. And don't think that S.D. is some pet character. S.D. is sentient. He talks and thinks and feels and he consistently smacks Derek around when it comes to playing video games. And thanks to the innovations of the new tech team, Bruce and Sarah, S.D.'s got a varied arsenal of exoskeleton suits (ideal for any new line of toy merchandising, a cynic may muse). The violence is exaggerated and cartoony. You don't get offended when Bugs Bunny and Daffy wage war in them classic cartoons, do you? Jason Howard's art complements the light tone Kirkman is going for, his visuals catering to them younglings. It's more stylized than his stuff in THE ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN, almost cartoony but very expressive. The story arc starts out all-ages friendly enough but there are plot points here and there that I can see Kirkman subverting into a messed-up twist or two, as is his wont. Still, Kirkman has vowed to tone down the beheadings that you routinely see in INVINCIBLE. We'll see, Robert Kirkman, we'll see. In those word association games, whenever the word "decapitation" comes up, even French Revolution immediately blurts out: "Robert Kirkman!"