Age of Reptiles Omnibus volume 1


By Ricardo Delgado (Dark Horse)
ISBN: 978-1-59582-683-1

There’s an irresistible, nigh-visceral appeal to dinosaurs. Most of us variously and haphazardly evolved hairless apes seem to be mesmerically drawn to all forms of education and entertainment featuring the monster lizards of our primordial past.

Designed as a purely visual experience, this hypnotically beguiling series of sequences from Ricardo Delgado offers one of the most honestly awesome brushes with prehistory ever imagined. Age of Reptiles opens a window onto distant eons of saurian dominance and, completely devoid of sound or text, provides a profound, pantomimic silent movie that focuses on a number of everyday experiences which simply have to be exactly how it was, way back then…

Crafted by one of the most respected concept and storyboard men in Hollywood, these dino-dramas offer – even in comicbooks – a unique reading experience that must be seen to be believed, which is why I’m forgoing my usual laborious forensic descriptive blather in favour of a more general appreciation…

The tales originally appeared as a sequence of miniseries between 1993 and 2010 before being subsequently collected as individual compilations. In 2011 this titanic tome, part of Dark Horse’s excellent and economical Omnibus line, gathered the material into one handy Brachiosaur-sized book to treasure forever. In this way older material stays in print as classy, full-colour digests (slightly smaller in proportion than regulation US comic-books but larger and far thicker than standard manga “tankobon” volumes, running about 400 pages per book).

Following the expansive praise of Animator, Director and Producer Genndy Tartarkovsky in his Foreword the original introductions to initial outing ‘Tribal Warfare’ (from Ray Harryhausen, Burne Hogarth and John Landis) precede a fantastic extended clash between a pack – or perhaps more properly clan – of Deinonychus and a particularly irate opportunistic and undeterrable Tyrannosaur.

The savage struggle, literally red in tooth and claw, takes both sides to the very edge of extinction…

As in all these tales, the astoundingly rendered and realised scenery and environment are as much leading characters in the drama as any meat and muscle protagonists and all the other opportunistic scavengers and hangers-on that prowl the peripheries of the war, ever eager to take momentary advantage of what seems more a mutual quest for vengeance than a simple battle for survival…

That theme is further explored in ‘The Hunt’ (with Disney chief Thomas Schumacher offering his observations in the introduction) wherein the eat-or-be-eaten travails of a mother Allosaurus end only after she dies defending her baby. The culprits are a determined and scarily organised pack of Ceratosaurs who then expend a lot of energy trying to consume the carnosaur’s kid amidst scenes of staggering geographical beauty and terrifying magnificence.

Their failure leads to the beast’s eventual return and a bloody evening of the score. Think of it as Bambi with really big teeth and no hankies required…

The theme of unrelenting and ruthless species rivalry and competition is downplayed or at least diverted for the final episode.

‘The Journey’, with introduction and appreciation by educator and illustrator Ann Field) concentrates on an epic migration across the barren surface of the world as millions of assorted saurians undertake a prodigious trek to more welcoming feeding and spawning grounds, dogged every step of the way by flying, swimming and remorselessly running creatures ever-eager for their next tasty meal…

Supplementing the feral beauty of these astonishing adventures is a full Cover Gallery from the assorted original miniseries and book compilations, Delgado’s fulsome and effulgent Essays on his influences (‘Ray Harryhausen and the Seventh Voyage to the Drive-In’, ‘Desi Arnaz and the Eighth Wonder of the World’, ‘Real Dinosaurs: the Art of Charles R. Knight’ and ‘Zen and Zdeněk Burian’) and a fabulous, copious and envy-invoking Sketchbook section with everything from quick motion studies to full colour preliminary pieces for the final artwork..

Although occasionally resorting to a judicious amount of creative anachronism and historical overlap, Delgado has an unquestioned love for his subject, sublime feel for spectacle and an unmatchable gift for pace and narrative progression which, coupled to a deft hand that imbues the vast range and cast of big lizards with instantly recognisable individual looks and characters, always means that the reader knows exactly who is doing what. There’s even room for some unexpectedly but most welcome rough-love humour in these brilliantly simple forthright, primal dramas…
© 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2009, 2010, 2011 Ricardo Delgado. All rights reserved.