REVIEW: Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #27

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #27 / Writer: Brandon Montclare / Artist:  Natacha Bustos / Letterer : VC’s Travis Lanham / Publisher: Marvel Comics / Release Date: January 31, 2018

Brace yourselves, I’m here to review Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, but I feel like a little discussion on young people, children, and comics is in order. I mean—if there’s one group of people (at least) who are generally under–catered to in terms of superhero comics, it’s children and young people. That’s not to say there aren’t any, but most comic publishers know that their target audience is older nerds. They might know, intellectually, that there are children, teens, and  young adults who read comics obviously. Thing is; they won’t necessarily cater to them because…um, they’re not exactly flushed with cash?

In days of yore they might be willing to settle for a child’s meagre allowance, back when the comics market had one specifically catered to children. But now? Pfft. Your average single issue costs up to $5, which is a little beyond what most children can scrape together. I’d imagine most children and young people either wait for the trade or…um, find other means to get hold of comics

It’s a different story for the Japanese, European, and British markets. Japan and Europe still have thriving children’s comics—Japan especially. In the UK we have a small but surviving comics markets for children, but they tend to cater more to the gross-out humour/football/boys-being-little-gits genre rather than action–adventure. There’s…not a lot for girls, apart from tie-in magazines that have little comics inside, but no specific comics with them in mind. Sadly.

I have male friends in their forties who collected comics about war and football (we’re a predictable nation) alongside movie tie-in comics and the like, but they are loooong gone (apart from movie tie-ins). There used to be a thriving girl’s comic market, but that’s gone too.

Naturally I’d side-eye any parent who thinks it’s appropriate to let their young children read 2000AD. At least wait until they’re a teen. Jeez.

(Yeah! What kind of loser does that?!)

So seeing both Marvel and DC begin to branch out into comics aimed at and starring young people which just so happen take place in the main canon is a positive step. Given how prevalent superheroes are now, it’s a very fiscally savvy step as well.

I work with young children, mostly up to the age of six, but I have worked with older children and…well, there are a lot of them who love superheroes and happen to be ‘reluctant readers.’ Surely comics starring their favorite heroes is a really good idea? Luckily there are a lot of children’s books aimed at them, with appropriate reading levels, but…no comics set in the main canon. Not many stepping stones into the vast, complex, but ultimately rewarding comics universe.

Apart from Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur.

It’s a miracle that this comic has survived the recent cull of titles at Marvel. Perhaps a testament to how overall good this series is that it was spared. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also had appearances by classic X-Men, a Hulk, Dr Doom, and half of the Fantastic Four. Where else would a young kid meet these classic heroes? My thinking is that the most likely scenario is that if you’re reading Moon Girl, you either got it from the library (where you can go on to check out other books starring these characters) or your parents are either nerds or indulgent enough to let you go to a comic book shop. Or give you a Comixology account. Therefore, if you read this, you would have ready access to other well known Marvel heroes and they’ve got their hooks in you for life. Another thought occurs that since the animated Marvel cartoons back in the day (Spiderman, Hulk, Fantastic Four, X-Men) probably hooked in a lot of children to superheroes and comics. Presumably this is a way to net up children who either saw the movies or the current Marvel cartoons.

As for myself, I’ve been subscribed to this series since it began, and it made me wish I had enough money to provide a comics library to the children I work with—just so they can read this and Ms. Marvel . Both are well known comics set in the main canon, branching off from famous heroes from Marvel canon and happen to star a smart young woman of color. Both draw on other Marvel characters who, while they are well known to comics fans and older nerds, weren’t as well known to younger people. I didn’t know who Devil Dinosaur was (he wasn’t in the cartoons, was only in a short nine issue series in the 70s and comics-wise I was a DC girl). Marvel made the very savvy move of going “Hey, kids like dinosaurs, let’s make a comic about a smart kid with a pet dinosaur- and we just so happen to have one knocking around.”

This particular “smart” kid just so happens to be the smartest human in the whole 616 universe. Lunella Lafayette is so determined, intelligent, and compassionate, you feel every frustration at the people who set limits on her, only to be reminded that she’s still a child. She’s perfect hero material, but it’s so much to put on a young teenage girl. Yet Lunella keeps going, even at this point—where she no longer has Devil Dinosaur (long story, read the rest). Instead, she has a Doom-bot head, a HERBIE unit, and two members of the Fantastic Four.

Seeing Lunella connect with Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm, after she has been given the title of World’s Smartest Person (stealing the crown from Reed freakin’ Richards) is so heart-warming. I really hope it’s a huge boost for young people thinking of going into STEM or who just love superheroes. Especially seeing her being the one pretty much in charge. After a little persuading, she is soon the de facto leader of the Fantastic Three, and it seems not ten minutes after agreeing, they have to face Galactus and The Super-Skrull.

Again, what better way for young people to be introduced to a part of the Marvel legacy that, as of writing this, still isn’t part of the MCU. I’m not the only one who thinks Disney might be looking to Moon Girl as a potential cartoon series on Disney XD or even a series of animated shorts…or maybe a Disney channel TV movie? It’d even be a good tie-in for the Runaways! Lunella is like a super-competent Inspector Gadget (so Penny basically), a not annoying Jimmy Neutron or a heroic version of Dexter from Dexter’s Laboratory. AND SHE HAS A PET T-REX.

This is a character that deserves her own TV show.

The series has so far been a treat—accessible, yet epic, new but still bringing in the old, and all around a central hero who is as passionate and as smart as you could hope for. Natacha Bustos’ art reflects this perfectly; it’s dynamic, colorful and bold. It blends a hint of manga with a bolder, classic American comic book style perfectly aimed at a young audience. There’s always been a streak of classic kids cartoons—super genius kids fighting crime and using gadgets—and it’s in full effect here. It’s so charming you’d have to be the world’s most boring human to not at least crack a smile. Aside fro a good escape from the repeatedly exhausting upheavals that Marvel has foisted on its readership; it’s just general, all-round good fun. As sad as it is not to have our old Dinosaur friend back just yet, the Thing is a pretty good replacement.

Overall? If you love bold, fun superhero antics with cool gadgets, robots and dinosaurs, pick this up immediately.

Verdict: 4.5 out of 5

I’m a thirty something British nerd-mum and wannabe author, fueled by tea, poor decision making and a need to be distracted. Cursed to watch favourite characters die and ships sink. Send help.

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