- Script – Cullen Bunn
- Art – Drew Moss
- Colors – Ryan Hill
- Letters – Crank!
- Publisher – Oni Press
As a father, I frequently find that kids seem a little alienated by the current crop of comics on the shelves. Comics are such a valuable medium, especially for kids who are just learning to read, and yet there is precious little in the direct market that speaks to them. Spider-Man’s all grown-up now, the Justice League are regularly off dealing with disembowelment and even Archie’s struggling with a zombie apocalypse. Children’s comics are easy to find, but the truly decent all-ages title, the kind of comic with the universal appeal of Pixar or Adventure Time, is a rarity.
Say hello to Terrible Lizard. Somewhat surprisingly written by Cullen Bunn (who’s probably best known for his work with some of the more genocidal anti-heroes of the Marvel universe, as well as his mystical western ongoing The Sixth Gun), Terrible Lizard #1 is an all-ages title from the kings and queens of the hip indie comic, Oni Press. Between the cult hit Pacific Rim and the successful Godzilla revival, it seems like rampaging monsters are cool again; as far as comics are concerned, we deserve a better skyscraper-destroyer than Fin Fang Foom.
At its heart, Terrible Lizard #1 is a quick and concise origin tale. Bunn wastes no time establishing Jessica, our main character, and her relation to the eponymous lizard of the book‘s title. As good as orphaned by the demands of her father’s top-secret scientific research, Jessica is bored. Her narration seems true to life; she narrates her troubles with friends and family in a melodramatic tone that is all too familiar to anyone a few years removed from teenage life. Inquisitive and rebellious, Jessica stampedes past security to visit her stern scientist father: an mustachioed human frown with a secret heart of gold. When a ‘Temporal Displacement Experiment’ goes haywire, Jessica suddenly comes face-to-face with a fully grown T-Rex. The T-Rex immediately imprints upon her as its guardian (lucky, that!), and that’s all she wrote for this engaging first issue.
The core concept is silly in all the right ways. Bunn’s light and fluffy script combined with Drew Moss’ animated pencils evoke the best of Cartoon Network’s wacky and wonderful output. Its concept appeals equally to all genders and ages, and that’s a rare thing; my daughter, partner and 13 year-old step-brother all agreed on the appeal of Terrible Lizard‘s premise. Fast-forward a few months and I’m sure we’ll see a glut of Terrible Lizard cosplay and associated merchandise. Most importantly, it’s an accessible first issue which immediately pulls you in and leaves you wanting more, thanks to a well-paced, action-packed story and an energetic cliff-hanger.
Special mention should go to Ryan Hill for his delightfully lurid color palette. The titular Terrible Lizard is rendered in a fantastic yellowy orange, which makes him pop out of every panel he stars in. When the experiment is going well, Hill bathes entire pages in a neon blue. When disaster strikes, the blue gives way to a bright red that just screams “Danger!” In my favorite panel of the whole issue, Moss visually depicts the T-Rex’s roar with Banshee-style circles that emit from the monsters cavernous jaws, colored orange and black by Hill. In the corner, Jessica sits with a shell-shocked expression, her hands tightly covering her ears. It’s evocative stuff.
All in all, Terrible Lizard #1 is a rich and dynamic first issue, a fantastic all-ages take on the massive monster (or Kaiju, if you want to be specific) genre that will undoubtedly prove to become a pop-culture monolith.
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