Ricardo Delgado (writer, artist)
Dark Horse Comics
June 3, 2015
(Spoiler Warning: This article contains spoilers for Jurassic World and Age of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians by Ricardo Delgado)
My knowledge about dinosaurs rivals that of the average nerdy ten-year-old, and I went to see Jurassic World like so many others interested in the return of my childhood film favorites. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. It wasn’t the mechanics, the CGI, or even the corny acting that let me down. The problem was deeper and more upsetting than all that. But luckily I have an alternative to offer you. Shortly after the film ended, I picked up the first two installments of the four part series from Dark Horse Comics, Age of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians by Ricardo Delgado, colored by Ryan Hill. This is the dinosaur fix I was looking for.
The problem with the newest dinosaur action film was what they didn’t update. Sure, they made the dinosaurs look cool. I was slightly wowed by the newest giant creature they presented tothe audience, but the manager of the park, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), made a great point when she remarked something like, “Kids aren’t excited about dinosaurs anymore; they need something more.” We do need more, we kids of nostalgia. We need more than sitting through sexist bullshit just to see dinosaurs on the big screen. Claire is a competent, intelligent, hardworking woman who is made out to be a cold, unfeeling workaholic. No thanks.
Luckily, I stumbled upon Age of Reptiles. Somehow I had missed out on the original Eisner-winning series, but I’m just in time for the newest series, “Ancient Egyptians.” This four part art series started in June and will wrap up in September. I can’t stop looking at these awesome pages.
The Dark Horse website has informed me that the protagonist is a Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, but I’d just been thinking of it as an ancient alligator. (Until an actual ancient alligator came along, and then I had to reassess.) For all of you dinosaur-loving nerds, I suggest checking out the Wiki on this dinosaur. Delgado picked a pretty interesting species, and it seems I wasn’t far off the mark in thinking of it as part of the crocodilian family.
So, the reptilian hero of our story starts his journey in the lush green riverbed of ancient Africa. The reptile swims expertly through the water, snapping up smaller beasts for sustenance. None of this ridiculous “She’s killing for sport” nonsense of the Jurassic World variety. The dinosaurs are simply dinosaurs here, and that’s interesting enough.
No need to gender them for metaphorical, “power-hungry” reasons. No need to strap saddles to their backs, throw strong bass lines behind their movements, or assign them screeches that sound like my hungry cat. Dinosaurs are still cool, still unknown and fascinating and wondrous. The child—and adult—in me is fulfilled by watching the food chain in its ancestral form.
Where is this giant headed? What are the obstacles this dinosaur faces? Who knows! Instead of the constant, overwrought dialogue of dinosaur experts and amusement park managers, we get silence. The kind of blissful, color saturated silence that becomes meditative.
The art is addictive. It’s simply beautiful, but it’s also easy to follow. The story is clear, though the characters are all “realistic” animals. The reader watches this Spinosaurus keep on keeping on, and they begin to cheer for the beast. I did. I want my ancient protagonist to make it to some happy end. Perhaps there is a stream of endless fish where it can lay in wait for larger prey. These two issues made me yearn for sequels, instead of feel shame for doling out the dollars to get them.