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A review a day: Neozoic

Oh, the high concept! Who doesn’t love high concepts?!?!?!?

As far as it goes, Neozoic has a pretty good one. In Earth’s distant past, a spaceship crashes into an asteroid and alters its course, which means it smashes into Earth’s moon instead of landing on the planet. This means there’s no environmental catastrophe and no mass extinction of the dinosaurs. 65 million years later, dinosaurs and humans exist side-by-side. Deal with it!

This trade, which collects eight issues, is written by Paul Ens, drawn by Jay Korim, colored by Jessie Lam, and lettered by (sigh) Troy Peteri (if you look at the scans, this is what I’m talking about when I say I don’t like Peteri’s work). It’s published by Red 5 Comics and comes with a price tag of $24.95, but you do get a big chunk of comics for that price. I don’t think it’s totally worth it, but it’s not a bad comic.

Ens’s story is certainly ambitious. The nominal lead is a woman named Lilli Murko, who’s there on the cover. She’s a member of the Predator Defense League, soldiers who keep the perimeter of the human settlements clear of dinosaurs. Monanti City, where the action takes place, is often besieged by the dinosaurs, so the PDL is an important and highly honored part of society. Early on the story, Lilli rescues a “Talpid,” a gray-colored girl who happens to be hanging out in the middle of a group of dinosaurs. She takes the girl back to the city, which apparently isn’t a great idea. Talpids are some kind of different race, obviously, and they’re forbidden in the city. So the girl’s people launch an attack against the Monanti (as Lilli’s people are called) and war breaks out (although, as we find out, their motivations are more sinister than rescuing the girl). That’s the main plot, as the Monanti fight against the Talpids and the dinosaurs that are under their thrall. Ens follows several characters throughout the book, as different people fight their individual battles in different ways until Lilli, who fled into the forest with the girl, returns to help with the insurrection. Because she brought the Talpid girl into the city, she’s considered a traitor, so that adds an interesting layer of tension to the proceedings – we know she’s fighting to save the city from the Talpids, but her own people don’t.

Ens also makes sure religion is an important part of the story. The Monanti worship what they call the “Triety,” and the king, Ulas, is “divinely appointed.” Ens does a good job showing that the religion is simply part of the characters’ lives while also letting us know that, like any other form of government, more secular concerns often trump spiritual concerns. Ens doesn’t explain the religion too much, but he does point out that the Monanti believe that they ought to be separate from everyone else, which is partly why Lilli bringing a Talpid girl into the city is such an affront. It’s a nice look at religious discrimination, because Ens portrays it as both a positive and negative force in the community. Which religion often is, after all.

The story isn’t too deep, of course. It’s an action/fantasy story, so Ens gives us plenty of action, from sword fights to dinosaur-killing to property damage. It’s a fun read, although Ens doesn’t really explain some crucial things. We don’t ever learn too much about the Talpids and why they look like they do. I understand that Ens probably has more stories planned (this is listed as “volume 1″ and there was a new story for FCBD this year), but even if he does give us more Neozoic, that seems kind of important. They’re apparently telepathic and have some control over the dinosaurs, but we don’t know much else. It feels like a big hole in the middle of the story. Ens also doesn’t really think too much about this society and its technological capabilities. At a few points it appears they have video cameras, but otherwise, there’s no evidence of any electronic technology, which seems really odd. Everyone fights with non-mechanical weapons (swords, bows) and they ride horses, elephants, or tame herbivorous dinosaurs. Maybe the camera isn’t actually a camera. If it is, it’s weird. And if this is supposed to be taking place in the “present” but in an alternate universe, why haven’t humans made more technological advances? Simply because of the presence of dinosaurs? It’s possible, I suppose. The cameras still bug me.

Korim is a decent but not great artist. He does a nice job with the world, which looks like a place where dinosaurs would live alongside humans. Monanti City is a riot of Asian/Middle Eastern/Meso-American architecture, and Korim has a lot of energy in his action scenes, which is good in a comic like this. The biggest problem with the art is that all the characters who are about the same age look the same. The king is bald, bearded, and old, so we can tell who he is, and Clawson is also an older man, so he’s distinguishable, but Korim draws all the young people very similar, and occasionally, with such a big cast, it’s tough to tell who’s who. Even the hair styles are similar with both the men and the women – they’re of the length that would be called “short” on women but a bit long on men, even though they’re the same length, and all the hair is a bit shaggy. The women have smaller eyes and noses than the men, but otherwise, everyone looks vaguely the same (a few men have facial hair, too, so there’s that). It’s a bit frustrating. Ens usually keeps good track of the characters, so it’s not confusing for too long, but Lilli, for instance, looks very much like Petra, so when they’re both running around kicking ass, it’s occasionally disorienting.

Neozoic is an enjoyable comic, to be sure. Ens doesn’t dig too deeply into the society of the Monanti (or the Talpid), but he does a good job showing how dinosaurs, which (from what we know about them) were pretty terrifying, would have an impact on humanity. I didn’t love this comic, but I liked reading it. Perhaps you will too!

Tomorrow: An unbeatable bargain!

11 Comments

Thanks for pointing this out, Greg. Maybe I’ll pick up a copy.

While Neozoic is a fun little comic, that opening sequence always annoys me. Part of me wants to yell at Ens to read some more science books because Neozoic displays a really bad understanding in that regard but that’s not really the problem. The opening sequence adds absolutely nothing to the comic unless you read as some kind of justification for the fact that humans are living with dinosaurs but Neozoic is a fantasy comic so you really shouldn’t have to justify something like that. It would probably annoy me less if it didn’t seem to be a trend in comics, trying to justify stuff that really doesn’t need to be.

Eric,

I think the opening sequence is great. It has nothing to do with the main story.

(Spoiler paragraph: The opening introduces bird people who are having a space war. The bird people detect that too many missiles have been fired at their spaceship and their ship explodes. The result is that the spaceship travels hundreds of millions of miles (about the distant to the nearest stars), hits an asteroid, pushes the asteroid into the moon and results in a massive explosion.)

It seems to be one way to introduce the story without the weird science geek flavor of this-one-action-changed-history (see Valiant’s Solar, New Universe’s Star Brand, etc.). Instead it is setting the reader for a fictional story by showing a clearly fictional story.

That’s my opinion anyway.

You’re totally right… I confused the characters quite often. Otherwise, I really liked the look of the book, coloring included.

The “high” concept. you make it sound like it’s a dirty word.

The two girls in the third illustration are twins!

So what’s the big problem with the lettering, which looks like a computer-generated font? The pale coloring? The extra flourishes on the letters? I guess it’s a bit harder to read than usual.

Rob (re: the lettering): All of the above. I don’t like the flourishes, which make it harder to read, and the coloring of the word balloons doesn’t help. Even when it’s black-on-white, it’s still harder to read.

Yes, they’re sisters, but that doesn’t change the fact that almost everyone in the book looks alike.

Since you’re ragging on Peteri…does he letter every comic this way? Maybe it’s an artistic quirk for this series only. Maybe Ens asked him to do it this way. Etc.

Rob: No, he does it like this all the time. Not the coloring of the balloons, but definitely the font. That’s why I didn’t get on him about Abyss, because it was so different from his normal work.

Now I see what you were talking about.It’s kind of annoying to look at.

now where is the Pluto review?!!!

just joking Greg.

Yeah, I’m a bit behind on the manga reading. I’ll probably re-read Monster and review it first, then Pluto. I haven’t forgotten, though!

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