By Nick Edwards
Another Chalk Marks comic from Blank Slate – their high production value comic series highlighting new and upcoming artists with a bite size, easy to get finished bit of comics. It may be only 26 pages long, but it feels like a lot more than your standard comic – oversized, beautifully presented, thick paper, dustjacket – very nice.
Anyway, I reckon this really is one where you pretty much can judge a book by it’s cover…. a really, really gorgeously stupid, eye-popping front cover that pretty much covers everything you’re about to get into…. 8-bit computer gaming, Jurassic Park adventure, metaphysical romp, childish things, weird ancient things…. and all in the company of 13-year old Nigel from Chipton.
He seems like your average kid, he really does, computer games, comics, sci-fi, heavy metal music, crushing on the girl at school, fellow geek for a best friend. Yep, perfectly normal…… right up until the sixth panel:
(….”Brian is a dinosaur”. Brilliant. From Nick Edwards’ Dinopopolous, published by Blank Slate)
So yes, Nigel and Brian the twin-mounted laser cannon wielding dinosaur spend their time solving mysteries. In a way that, and seeing that page above should really tell you everything you need to know to really enjoy this.
There’s something of the Baxendale here, with all the classic ridiculous Brit comic silliness that entails. But it’s got a lot more, as Dinopopolous is shot through with references and weirdness from so many other places, and it’s a load of fun spotting them.
It opens with a great Indiana Jones-ish bit of excitement, goes on to do a bit of Basil Exposition from Austin Powers….. there’s even something Alien-esque in the monsters perhaps. And hell, if you squint and imagine it just right, that ending maybe even has a glint of the 2001 about it, especially when it gets all weirdly out of body in the final bit.
But one big thing going all the way through it, and your appreciation of this will depend on either your age or the age of your kids…. is Phineas and Ferb. Yes, the Disney Channel cartoon series. Trust me on this, it’s one of those shows that is just loaded with inspired madness, a level of corporate acceptable weirdness and plain old fashioned knowingly clever stuff.
And that’s what Dinopopolous reminded me of… Baxendale via the very best the Disney Channel has to offer. With quite a bit of metaphysical Kubrick-esque sci-fi weird thrown in. And if that doesn’t make you intrigued, I have no idea what’s wrong in your brain.
This time round (and yes, I really, really hope we’ll see more of Nigel and Brian – the story is certainly set-up to go on and on), he’s been handed his latest mission by the suitably mustachio’d mission handler Lancaster Perrifold. There’s a mythical beast to find under the Earth; the Miracle Bird of Ndundoo, a bird that poops jewels. No, really. Lots of jewels.
His mission, find the bird and get it back before it falls into the hands of Nigel and Brian’s arch-enemies (don’t you love the fact a 13-year old has an arch enemy?) Julian and the Evil League Of Lizards. Archaeological adventuring ensues. It is simply an enormous load of fun.
Edwards is really playing around with the artwork as well, using his pages so well, literally taking us on trips through pages when necessary, creating tunnels, across the pages, and then opening out into something that quite righly feels like a platform 8-bit adventure on the comic page towards the end.
Faults? Not many at all… colour would have been lovely, just based on the beauty of that cover and being intrigued to see how much more weirdness a little technicolour might have added. Not that I have a problem with the art at all mind, it’s gorgeous, ridiculous, silly stuff in black and white. But still…. that cover…. that colour…
Another fault …. It just isn’t long enough. Or possibly it just ends too soon… with Edwards’ ending here a little too quick to resolve, a little too underwhelming after the expansive, entertaining build-up. But that’s a small, small thing.
Hopefully, just like Luke Pearson’s Hildafolk, here’s hoping a short, punchy testing of the waters may be enough to develop a whole full-length graphic novel. That I’d love to see.