May 2, 2013

Age of Reptiles

Omnibus Vol. 1
by Ricardo Delgado

It was simply the beautiful pictures that caught my eye on a library shelf, and good thing because that's mostly all this book consists of. The thick volume is a compilation of three comics- Age of Reptiles: Tribal Warfare, Age of Reptiles: The Hunt and ditto The Journey. They are all stories told entirely in pictures, and all about dinosaurs. Unfortunately I don't know the names of all the species featured- but the first two books seem to center around a few groups of predatory dinosaurs- some smaller carnivores and the bigger tyrannosaur as well. They fight over food and territory, have regular skirmishes, prey on each others' eggs and young. The second book seems to foreshadow dire times- a lot of the landscape is dry and barren, and the third book shows massive groups of dinosaurs migrating in search of new food sources.

This last part didn't have as interesting a storyline to me- it was all about the difficulties of the herbivores traveling (getting quite gaunt and worn with hunger) and the predatory species following along to pick them off. But I was intrigued by the colors- you could tell the artist really had fun giving the dinosaurs vivid patterns and colors. In The Journey I kept thinking "hey, those ones look like ostriches, and those all striped like zebras," and suspected that the artist had intended to make it seem like the migration of African animals. Sure enough, at the end there were some marvelous pages from Delgado's sketchbook including some color studies where he'd noted which antelopes, giraffe and other African beasts the colors were supposed to mimic.

I was intrigued by how much the pictures reminded, or taught me about life so long ago. How old sharks and crocodiles are- they were there, right alongside the dinosaurs. I'd see a panel with a fierce-looking dinosaur stalking a large insect and not know if the insect was huge or the predator small until another familiar dinosaur chomped on them both (a frequently repeated scene, actually- hunter becoming the hunted). There were fantastic fishes and aquatic beasts, and I loved the depictions of flying ones (pterosaurs?) as parasite-pickers or scavengers or just squabbling cliff-dwellers with their own little dramas going on. The perspective angles showing their flights and viewpoints were awesome.

The drawings are just wonderful. I missed some of the storyline because I was just staring at the artwork instead of paying attention to exactly what was happening. The so-very-lifelike anatomy. The amazing linework and texture, mostly created with ink. It's very impressive. And I loved the inclusion of essays where Delgado described other artists who had inspired him. I even looked some of them up. I had never heard of Ricardo Delgado before, nor seen his work, so I was disappointed to find that my library doesn't have any other books featuring his art, not even another volume of these dinosaur comics. But if you can find them, do take a look. Especially if you have kids crazy about dinosaurs. It's just amazing.

Oh, but there's lots of blood. Dinosaurs fighting, ripping each other up and feasting on the fallen. If it's too disturbing for you, or too violent for your children, then give this a pass. Otherwise I recommend it!

Rating: 4/5 ........ 397 pages, 2011

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