A Nerd and Her Dinosaur: Moon Girl is the Hero We Need [Review]
The first issue of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is a perfect introduction to Moon Girl, whose given name is Lunella Lafayette. Lunella is a nerd. Like, a big nerd. She’s the sort of kid who hates school because it doesn’t challenge her, and the other kids make fun of her for knowing so much. She’s the sort of kid who wears a T-shirt with a realistic picture of the moon on it (which is also a nice meta-joke about the idea of “Moon Girl” as a conventional superhero identity).
Basically, Moon Girl is exactly the sort of kid who reads comics. Or at least, she’s the sort of kid who reads comics if kids still read comics. And Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is the sort of comic (along with books like Squirrel Girl and Lumberjanes) that gives me hope that kids reading comics might still be a thing, or could become a thing again. At least there are comics we can feel good about handing them to keep that hope alive.
Moon Girl is also a black girl growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan (Ben Grimm’s old neighborhood). It’s amazing that we live in a time when Marvel is publishing multiple series with female POC lead characters. But the thing is, that shouldn’t be amazing; it should be the norm. Hopefully, in time, it will be. But for now, the introduction of a character like Lunella Lafayette into the Marvel Universe feels very fresh and exciting.
While her school is trying to teach her things she already knows, and her parents are encouraging her to make some friends, Lunella is on her own scientific quest. By the end of the first issue, that quest has led to Devil Dinosaur (or rather, it’s led Devil Dinosaur to her). The story of how they become friends is still to come, but this issue left me excited to read what comes next.
Without giving too much away, it’s made quite explicit here that this isn’t a reboot or a reimagining. The Devil Dinosaur in this book is the very same T-Rex that Jack Kirby created in the 70s, and who appeared in Fallen Angels in the 80s. As the sort of person who has a copy of Devil Dinosaur #1 displayed in my living room, this sense of continuity makes me very happy, even as I’m relieved that there isn’t enough of it to scare away new readers who might be less versed in Marvel’s 1970s psychedelia.
In the manner of most single issues these days, this isn’t a whole story — it’s a first act. But it left me happy and wanting more, which is absolutely what a first issue should do. Writers Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder make the most of the space they have, and I think this series has potential to be at least as good as their previous work on Rocket Girl (and that’s high praise).
Artist Natacha Bustos is new to me, but I absolutely love the work she’s doing here. Her depiction of Moon Girl feels like a fully realized person, from her facial expressions to her nerdy affectations to her natural hair. Devil Dinosaur looks a little more like a real dinosaur than he used to (he has the correct number of fingers for possibly the first time ever), but he also has fiery eyes and an expressive face that manages to display his intelligence without making him look at all human. Colorist Tamra Bonvillain also brings a lot to the table; the whole book is bright and colorful and fun without ever sliding into garish. For a book co-starring a red Tyrannosaurus Rex, that’s perfect.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is a series I will definitely stick with, and also one I hope to buy in trade for the children in my family (I’m the relative who gives you comics you didn’t ask for — I’ve yet to hear complaints). It’s an all-ages book in the truest since of the word, and I think it’s the story of a nerdy girl and her dinosaur friend that the world’s been waiting for.