My son and I are travelling with my brother and his family. I have taken the opportunity to read with my 8-year old niece, who has virtually no experience with super heroics, although a few years ago, I did read several trades of Tiny Titans to her.
I was pretty sure that Marvel had a good selection of all ages books and decided to try Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur before Ms. Marvel or Patsy Walker: Hellcat, which as it turns out are actually rated T+.
We are both loving it. Lunella Lafayette is a 9-year old girl living in the Yancy Street area of marvel’s New York, who not only has the regular problems with fitting in as an especially, exceptionally bright kid, but she’s worried about the roving cloud of Terrigen Mist.
I don’t know how she found out she carries an Inhuman gene, but if I did and I was super smart, I would be terrified too. The not-fitting-in with brains fits and especially being told what to do and what to be in life resonates really well thematically with the prospect of the impending loss of control over her humanity. Also, the other kids call her Moon Girl because of her name.
She’s actually constructed herself a makeshift lab underneath Public School 20 in New York and is good at sneaking out of bed to look for the cure to her Inhumanity. And one night she encounters a bunch of cave people and a strange Kree Omni-Wave Projector device that moved them from the distant past to the present.
Now, it’s worth going back to 1970s Kirby Marvel to note that there was a comic series way back when called Devil Dinosaur, about a T. Rex with flaming eyes, befriended by a cave boy from the Moon Clan.
The old Moon Boy is mortally wounded by the Killer Tribe when they steal the Kree device. He begs Devil Dinosaur to find the Killer Tribe and to make sure they don’t keep the device. And we move back to the present and Lunella needs the Kree device to advance her research.
Hijinxes and misunderstandings and a growing friendship between Lunella and Devil Dinosaur blossoms. The cavemen in the present becoming a Yancy Street gang is awesome and Devil Dinosaur carrying Lunella around by her backpack strap like a big dog is fun.
If I had to pitch this to an agent in an elevator, I would say “9-year old super genius befriends a Clifford the Big Red T-Rex and goes on adventures through the Marvel Universe.”
She meets Ms. Marvel, who ironically she almost fangirls over, gets a kind of Nemesis in a disillusioned and not-quite fitting in Kree boy who comes to capture her as an enemy combatant and falls in love with her (gross!, she says), the Thing, Amadeus Cho the Hulk, and Iron Heart.
The art by Natasha Bustos is fantastic and pulls off the irony, humour, and adorableness demanded of the scripts of Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare, who were hired by editors and Devil Dinosaur fans Mark Paniccia and Emily Shaw to come up with a modern day version.
Some of the fun is also in Lunella awkwardly running contrary to superhero conventions by rejecting violence as a solution to most problems, which puts her at odds with her big, dumb dinosaur partner, and most of the Marvel Universe.
But the core of the story is of a girl looking to fit in and find her peeps, and in Devil Dinosaur she does find someone who has no expectations on her at all, and who accepts her for who she is.
If you’re like me and you have kids in your lives who are 9-12 years old, I totally recommend you sharing this with them as a fun gateway to the Marvel universe. Some of the words are a little challenging for 8-year olds, but we worked through them, or I read the harder bits, and we enjoyed the adventures. If you’re not sure what to get as gifts, I’m sure the trades will be a hit.
Derek Kunsken writes science fiction, fantasy and horror in Gatineau, Quebec and likes comic books more than TV or movies. His first novel The Quantum Magician came out last year, but he’s been writing short fiction for magazines for over a decade. He tweets from @derekkunsken.