“Terrible Lizard” is enjoyably average in its first issue, an all-ages comic for kids who’d like a warmer version of “Godzilla” or “Jurassic Park.” The human characters, usually the emotional center of monster stories, are lightly sketched tropes, but the monster designs and the premise could eventually be a load of fun. When there’s precious little shelf space for all-ages work, a fast-moving, exciting book like “Terrible Lizard” #1 isn’t a bad choice.
In the issue, Jess, a young girl whose father experiments with time and space, skateboards into a “temporal displacement” gone haywire and bonds with the T-Rex who’s suddenly appeared in the lab. Of course, it turns out the T-Rex isn’t the only monster who’s crossed into this world.
Artist Drew Moss and colorist Ryan Hill offer effective, but not expressive, work in the monster-less scenes. Emotions and movements are conveyed clearly, and the panel compositions are varied and readable. However, the human characters are ultimately too blocky and linear, so they don’t feel active. Even Jess’ skateboarding doesn’t look very fluid. Hill also colors Cosmos labs in a duller, grey-green palette that helps to emphasize Jess’s emotional state, but also adds to the sense that these people don’t really move.
Everything changes when the monsters are in-panel, though. The opening interior page, sprawled like a B-movie credits roll, is vibrantly colored and full of action. Hill gets to go wild with orange and periwinkle, and Crank!’s choice of font is perfect. That splash got me through the next few pages, which were unobjectionable but lackluster. The art has another pick-up when the T-Rex finally arrives. That same blockiness that hinders the human characters gives the monsters phenomenal bulk and presence. The T-Rex is all square muscle, with its rows of pointed teeth shown as both awkward and intimidating. He perpetually looks like he’s making a duckface selfie.
Cullen Bunn’s script gets the job done, but it’s still simplistic. In an all-ages comic, I can let some amount of naked explication slide, but some of Bunn’s lines are just too easy. (The protagonist, Jess, introduces herself with the voice-over “My name’s Jessica…but my friends call me Jess.”) Jess is also something of an enigma, which makes her difficult to relate to. Her skateboarding rebelliousness doesn’t have an origin or aim, and it’s not clear why she makes her way to her father’s lab in the first place.
However, Bunn’s pacing is excellent. The book moves rapidly, and placing the story after that exciting monster opener was a smart choice. My only criticism centers on the arrival of the T-Rex. Bunn spends quite a few pages on the scientists’ reactions to their experiment going haywire – space that could have been better used for character development either pre- or post-experiment.
“Terrible Lizard” #1 looks like it’ll be a fun combination of B-movie monster madness and touching girl-and-her-pet stories, like a Jurassic version of Pokemon. The series is worth a shot, but it needs some more panache to get an enthusiastic thumbs up.