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Review time! with Rexodus

by  in Comic News Comment
Review time! with <i>Rexodus</i>

“Wrap my leg around the table, I’ll make the trip when I’m more stable”

Rexodus is a classic example of too many cooks (almost) spoiling the broth. It feels more like a television show at times, as there are so many people involved in its creation. Two people – Eric Lee and Paul Wizikowski – are credited with the “original concept,” while both Lee and Wizikowski, along with Kevin Anderson, James Farr, and Mark Steele are credited with the story.

The book has three inkers – Serge LaPointe, Kevin Patac, and Sean Parsons, three colorists – Camila Fortuna, Dustin Evans, and John Rauch, and two letterers – Anna Film and Jason Yang. However, it hangs together pretty well because only James Farr scripts it and only Jon Sommariva pencils it, making it a bit more unified than we might expect with all those names on the credits page. It’s a comic that was developed by a company that produces stuff for entertainment studios, so it’s not surprising that it has so many creators, but at least at some point, the production company was smart enough to get out of the way and let the comics people do their thing. Dark Horse published this, and it costs $12.99.

Rexodus begins 65 million years ago, with dinosaurs fleeing the planet. Yes, in this comic, dinosaurs had a pretty advanced civilization, which included the ability to build spaceships. They’re fleeing because an oily substance, the black blood, is about to kill them all by encasing them and taking over their bodies. The leader, K’vark, sacrifices himself so his son, Kelvin, can get on the ship and escape. Kelvin foolishly ejects and gets back to Earth, but right before he left the main ship, the hibernation process started and he was put to sleep, and his escape pod buried on Earth. So you can imagine what happens in the present!

As you might expect, Kelvin gets uncovered. A company finds the site in their search for an energy source, and they call in a paleontologist, who brings his daughter, Amber, along. She is, naturally, a smart-as-a-whip teenager with a snarky attitude, because that’s the way kids are in stories like this.

The CEO of the company wants Professor Dixon to figure out what they’ve found and declare the site an archaeological preserve so that they can keep drilling and the professor can puzzle together the clues and the government never gets involved. Amber accidentally opens Kelvin’s escape pod. Kelvin, of course, can speak perfect English (they comment on this in the book, but never explain it – it’s best to just go with it), but before he can explain what’s going on and before Amber can explain to him what’s going on, the CEO attacks him because he thinks Kelvin would be a fine specimen for study. Naturally, the black blood gets released and quickly absorbs everyone except Amber and Kelvin (and including her father), but Kelvin’s escape pod had set off a beacon that the dinosaurs out in space heard, so they come and pick Kelvin and Amber up before the black blood gets them. And we’re off!

It’s a fairly basic set-up – two mismatched people (I think Kelvin counts as a “person,” even though he’s a bipedal dinosaur) are thrown together, don’t like each other, realize they have things in common, battle adversity, and decide on a common purpose – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Amber soon learns that her father might not be dead, so she’s determined to get him back, while Kelvin discovers that his father is considered a savior to the exiled dinosaur population, but of course no one believes that he’s who he says he is. There’s a scruffy captain who captures them but eventually becomes an ally, there’s a female dinosaur who believes Kelvin and who eventually ends up with him (it’s a kid-friendly book, so they’re just sitting with each other giving each other smoldering looks), and there’s a society ruled by priests who “interpret” the ruler’s mutterings and don’t like it when anyone challenges their authority. None of this is exactly breaking new ground, but there are a few reasons why it works well.

First, the fact that everyone’s a dinosaur adds a nice, oddball spin to the proceedings. Second, while Amber is a wise-cracking teen, Farr does a good job with her – she is always asking interesting questions that don’t get answered (why do the dinosaurs have space travel but not cell phones?), and she takes to navigating the dinosaurs’ world quite well. She’s the reader’s point of view character, so it’s nice that she is written quite well. Kelvin is also interesting for different reasons – he has lost his father but hasn’t quite processed that yet, so finding out that it’s been millions of years and his father is a legendary figure is a bit disconcerting to him. Like many heroes, he’s out of step with the society in which he finds himself – he wants to get things done and can’t understand the machinations of the bureaucracy. While the roles they fill (like the other characters) might be rote, Farr does a decent job giving them good personalities and making sure their relationship feels organic. That’s never a bad thing, because it manages to get us invested in their quest, even though the quest itself is something we’ve seen before. It’s a bit disappointing that we never actually find out what the black blood is. The black blood itself gives us some clues, and Kelvin seems to know what’s going on (not surprisingly, as he was there when it first appeared), but Farr never gets around to telling us. It seems important, but in the end, it’s just a plot hole.

Sommariva helps, too. When you’re dealing with a plot that is fairly predictable, you need the characters to be compelling (which they are, for the most part), and you need the artist to step up. Sommariva gives us a few panels where it’s difficult to figure out what’s going on, which is perhaps a function of his cartoonish style – he’s very good at distending and distorting figures, which helps make his art crazy and kinetic but occasionally hinders its readability. For the most part, though, his art is very nice. He has an angular, frenetic style that fits the “animated” feeling of the book, and his designs for the dinosaurs are terrific. They don’t look like people simply masquerading as dinosaurs, they actually look like evolved lizards. He makes them all different species (Amber confuses one of them by using the human classification for one of them, which of course they don’t know), and while they all look cartoonish, he manages to make many of them quite menacing.

His action scenes – again, with rare exceptions – are well choreographed and exciting, while his exaggerated way of drawing faces helps the characters emote nicely. Amber is a typical teen, and Sommariva gives her big eyes so that she’s never subtle about her own emotions. He draws a great Arch Chancellor, the ruler of the dinosaurs – it’s large and decadent, and we can understand how the Lore Master – the priest – could be the power behind the throne. He also does a really nice job with the black blood creatures – he gives them long sinewy tentacles that reach everywhere and creepy faces that mimic the creatures they’ve absorbed, which is pretty neat. The colors on the book are always bright, so everything is very clear, and those colors help make the oily darkness of the black blood stand out even more. The art helps the story a great deal, which is what good art should do.

Ultimately, Rexodus is a decent, entertaining adventure, but it’s kind of forgettable. It’s a nice price for what you get, and I’ll probably give it to my daughter, who will probably enjoy it, but it’s nothing that will make you think about it long after you’ve read it. That’s perfectly fine – disposable entertainment is nothing to sneeze at – but it is something to think about. I liked Rexodus, but I’ll probably never think about it again. That’s just the way it is!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

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