Age of Reptiles by Ricardo Delgado is a series of comic books set in the Mesozoic era telling tales of dinosaurs and the violent lives they lead. This omnibus collects the first three story arcs of this series, which were original published separately: Tribal Warfare (1993), The Hunt (1997), and The Journey (2009). The first tells of a feud between a pack of Deinonychus and Tyrannosaurus after the latter steals a well-earned meal from the former. The second is about an Allosaurus who survives an attack from a pack of Ceratosaurus that kill his mother who grows up and seeks revenge against his assailants. The final story tells of a mass migration of various dinosaurs to warmer and more lively lands and the obstacles they face along the way, focusing on both the herd and a mother Tyrannosaur with her young who follow.
This series strikes an interesting balance between realism and imagination. Within each story we are ostensibly watching nature at play, as individuals of certain extinct species interact with or combat one another for survival. In terms of shape, none of them are anthropomorphized. I cannot speak to how rigorously accurate each are to the anatomy of the fossil record, but at a guess I’d say they’re pretty close. Counterbalancing this is a significant flare of drama injected into the events that unfold, depicting love, hate, triumph, and tragedy in the lives of these ancient creatures. I particularly enjoyed that with the sides that are established in each story neither is completely vilified. I usually found myself rooting for one side over another, but it’s ultimately shades of grey in a harsh natural world where you have to fight and kill to survive.
The drama in nature we behold achieved through stellar artwork that not only brings the dinosaurs and their world to life, but also manages to evoke human emotions from inhuman creatures. Little moments of impatience with straggling pack members, pride in their young, or hate toward an adversary are made instantly recognizable on these reptilian visages. Never did this come across as cartoony either, which might have offset the often-brutal imagery that unfolds. What aided the drama further was some truly expert panel work. It’s clichéd to say, but it really did lend a cinematic quality to it all, especially reading it digitally as I did, where the app I used transitions from panel to panel rather than by page.
The only thing about the art that gave me trouble was that sometimes it was hard to recognize a distinction between dinosaurs in pack or herd. At a few points I found myself thinking I was following the same dinosaurs from a previous scene in the story, only to realize that this wasn’t the case and then feeling the need to backtrack and look for the small distinguishing characteristics in their designs. This was an unfortunate disruption for me in a comic book I otherwise found was very easy to get swept away by.
The most striking thing about this book, which I chose to withhold until now, is that it contains no written words whatsoever. These dinosaurs do not talk to one another, naturally, but we do not get any narration to guide us nor even any sound effects decorating the page either. This was the most impressive aspect of the whole book to me, as it is completely a feat of visual storytelling. And despite this lexical absence I could hear the simmering silence of a vengeful Allosaurus lurking in the shadows, the chaotic torrent of a herd trying to cross a river full of massive crocodiles, or the anger of a Tyrannosaur’s roar at the sight of her adversaries escaping. I was never told what was going on and I didn’t need to be.
If you have even the slightest passion for dinosaurs (who doesn’t?) I’d recommend checking this book out any way that you can get your hands on it. Physical editions appear difficult to get for a reasonable price, but it is very available inexpensively in digital formats. The art is exceptional in the ways I’ve already gushed about, as well as being simply bright and colourful, making even the most savage of the creatures pleasing to look at. One little caveat I will emphasize here is that this book can be quite violent. It felt like nature to me, but the fact of the matter is you do see animals eating and/or ripping each other apart. While I don’t think it’s ever horrific, if you’re averse to that sort of thing it’s good to know going in.
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5