Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Air Quotes of Evil

Today, we're back with issue #3 of Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur. It's the last of the three issues in the Timely Comics edition, which featured the materials coming out post-Secret Wars," and collectively known as the All-New, All-Different" era, and collected the first three issues of the new publication line. In most cases, I have to wonder if that left readers unsatisfied, since the modern model for comic book storytelling puts an emphasis on pacing for collected editions, and making each arc feel like its own discrete story, often with somewhat of a resulting lack of cohesion from arc to arc. However, by the end of this issue, it will become apparent that this won't be a worry for our characters.
collected in my "Timely Comics" edition, so in a small way I feel like this is, at least for me, a close on the first chapter (or with hope, just the prologue) of this book. The "Timely Comics" editions were published a few months into the post

Let's Recap: Super-genius 9-year-old Lunella Lafayette has been reluctantly bonding with the time-displaced Devil Dinosaur while also fearing that he might eat her. DD has been reluctant to let her go home because he doesn't want to let the Nightstone/Kree Omni-Wave Projector out of his sight and Lunella is just as stubborn about leaving it behind. Meanwhile, the evil cavemen of the Killer Folk have picked up some rudimentary English  and robbed some clothes off some unsuspecting subway riders and NYC police. Lunella finally convinces DD to let her leave, Nightstone in hand, but she isn't out of Big Red's sight for a minute before she is jumped by the Killer Folk.

Before I get into the issue, let's take a moment to appreciate this cover. Remember last time, how I went on at length about the waning usage of sound effects words in comics and how they exist as a visual element in the storytelling? Well, as of this issue, I am convinced that Montclare and Reeder are making an active effort to rehabilitate the onomatopoeia in comics. I love that not only do we have Devil Dinosaur's "roar" in big yellow and pink bubble letters, but that they physically interact with the page like an actual roar would, literally being the physical force of the roar nearly blowing Lunella over. It's also a fun visualization of their dynamic, which is an ideal "show, don't tell" moment for the cover.

The inherent dangers of the self driving car.
Picking up right where left last issue, with the Nightstone in hand and Lunella apprehended, the Killer Folk are still worried about the big honking dinosaur that followed them into the future, but one of them has thrown caution to the wind, jumping up and down until he gets a car thrown on top of him. I'm going to assumed Devil Dinosaur threw that with his massive jaws because, well, T-Rex arms.

Before you get too worried that one of our protagonists just offed someone (I don't know why this is a concern, considering he's a freaking dinosaur), don't worry. They just rolled the car off him. It has a huge dent in it, but the guy seems okay. I know the Rule of Cool should probably negate logic in this instance, but I have to wonder if cavemen in the Marvel Universe are supposed to be OP. They're about the size of a modern 10-year-old child. Granted, these are warriors and average civilians in the subway could be taken unawares. Being able to get the jump on trained police officers, who have guns, tasers, mace, and a night stick is a bit more implausible, but still within the realm of possibility. Being able to walk away from having a car thrown on top of you is really where I ought to draw the line.
The car didn't even knock off his hat, let alone hurt him. 

Of course, where there is a car crashing down from above, a T-Rex can't be far behind (add that to sentences that I don't think I would have ever said), and what ensues is a positively fun "hot potato" fight sequence, of who's got the Nightstone. It ventures on positively Rube Goldbergian territory, with Lunella using a spring loaded device in her back pack to pounce on one caveman, and later one big swing of Devil Dinosaur's tail launches another caveman into the air to snatch the macguffin back from Lunella.

Ultimately, however, the Killer Folk escape with the Nightstone, and Lunella is none too pleased. And she blames Devil Dinosaur completely. I think it's an understatement to say she didn't handle it well. I'm still at a loss for why she comes across so unpleasantly in these sorts of moments because she's a nine -year-old and children are awful or if this utter deficit of basic empathy is a singularly defining character trait for her.

I appreciate the fact that they've definitely made an effort to establish this prickly temper part of her personality. It does a great job of demonstrating that she's not just a girl who is misunderstood. For as much crap as people give her, she does have some blatant personality flaws. She's got some growing up to do.

Once she has finally made her way back to the Lafayette household, her parents replay the news story about the incident in her school yard. They are none to please with what happened to her today, despite the fact that she got home in time for supper without so much as a scraped knee. Parents, amirite? They're solution to their daughter getting kidnapped by giant red T-Rexes is to forbid her from doing extra curricular science projects. Yeah, attempting to limit your child's intellectual growth-- that'll teach her not to get attacked by cavemen.

Where to begin...?

On the one hand, I'm puzzled that they honestly treat this like something she had any control over. Granted, she's little miss science, but from what we've seen of her practical applications, they mostly take the form of gadgets: sneakers with button activated roller skates, remote control snitches, and the aforementioned backpack. Blaming her for bringing a dinosaur into the present and that is ran off with her in its mouth seems like a quantum leap in her ostensible capabilities... as well as victim blaming.

On the second hand,  A DINOSAUR FROM THE DAWN OF TIME RAN OFF WITH THEIR DAUGHTER TODAY. Please take a moment to note the lack of relief at her safe return. Yeah, I'm starting to see where little miss personality gets it from.

Air quotes are the new
resting bitch face.
On the third hand (don't try to limit me to your wacky 2-handed system), is there something wrong with this family that they need to watch all their media through a wee little phone screen? I mean other than the fact that this book is aimed at millennials and millennials love them some smartphones, it doesn't make any sense. when a tv screen (just about all of which have the option of rewinding in realtime, nowadays), or even a tablet would be more pragmatic for a whole family to watch at the dinner table (which, being New York, I assume doubles as the living room). I mean, no wonder Lunella is already wearing (presumably thick) glasses if her parents are making her watch a 2"x 4" screen across the table every time something is amiss.

The next day at school, her teacher continues to demonstrate some pretty dubious efforts to relate to special and/or gifted children. She has had exactly two scenes in this series thus far and both have been defined by being condescending and abrasive towards Lunella. Okay, teachers aren't prone to appreciating a student who doesn't pay attention in class. However, the fact that she keeps singling Lunella out with a fair sense of intentionality belies some personal issues that probably ought to be addressed in counselling.

Those quotation fingers are the proverbial cherry on this insult sundae. This woman seems to make a point of taking every opportunity to infantilize Lunella. Is this this petty self-esteem issues at work or something more sinister?

Actually, these guys are a lot more personable.
The art makes her use of quotation fingers feel so labored and intentionally belittling that I'm starting to get that vibe you'd get when watching episodes of Pokemon. Whenever Jesse and James are in incredibly transparent disguises that Clark Kent would think are too obvious, but it's their shitty human interaction skills that give them away. What if she is from some clandestine shady organization that is aware of Lunella's potential and they're trying to discourage her from making a scientific breakthrough that will put her organization out of business? Okay, ridiculous headcanons aside, maybe she's just a crappy teacher.

Something tells me this woman only got a teaching degree to pay the bills as a backup until she got hired by a scientific research firm, but has been stuck in front of a classroom longer than she cares to acknowledge, the chances that she is going to make tenure are looking bleaker every day, and so now she's basically in a "fuck it" state of mind and is using her relative power to troll the only person in the room smarter than her.

Asking to be excused, Lunella goes to the girl's lavatory, where she is reminded that her peers are pretty much just as awful. Even without the relative authority of an educator, they manage to be toxic towards her by leveraging their communal social clout over her.

The girls in the bathroom are doing something involving a lit match and a roll of newspaper. Are they lighting a joint? Making a stink bomb? I find it odd that they're using match sticks when you can get a Bic lighter at any convenience store. It makes me think that this is something that would be illicit of an elementary school student and thus really out of my frame of knowledge.

Well, that's one way to get them to laugh with and not at you.
... Or maybe the other way around?
The girl holding the lit match drops and completely forgets about it when upon teasing Lunella for getting to go around with a dinosaur for a day, she roars at them like a dinosaur. And as odd a reaction as that is, it's only fitting that they get a laugh out of it. Honestly though, I'm disturbed by what these girls view as mockery material. Getting taken away by a carnivorous dinosaur and living to tell the tale should elicit only two responses: sympathy or wonder. However, considering this is a world in which superhero battles regularly cause your GPS to reroute your commute, Norse gods and mutants can disrupt weather forecasts, and a giant purple-clad alien periodically tries to eat the Earth, perhaps getting carried off by a T-Rex is about on par with getting caught throwing up a kiddie ride at an amusement park in the Marvel Universe.

Of course, this is no concern to Lunella (or is it? nothing about her inner monologue would imply that she even cares about engaging with her peers-- and yet she makes the attempt. Hm...). Instead she goes into one of the stalls and climbs into an air vent... with the lit match visible right next to toilet paper strewn on the floor.

Lunella comes out in her secret lab beneath the school. It tells you something in a story with cavemen and dinosaurs, and the looming fear of a cloud that turns you into a super-powered being, that this is what finally breaks this books already tenuous suspension of disbelief.
Can we just file this under "kids' clubhouse wish fulfillment?"

Not only does she have a secret lab in the (sub)basement of her elementary school filled with equipment that she couldn't have possibly snuck down there without someone noticing (how a 90 lb soaking wet girl managed to get it down there is also up for question, but I'm sure the creators will say she used a hover boards or some sort of comic book science), and that she even managed to hide a freaking T-Rex in there. Devil Dinosaur could not have possibly managed the height clearance needed to get into the main doors, let alone getting down into the basement. Back when I was in school, I think I might have gotten away with sneaking something ridiculous into the school, if I so chose, but contemporary schools are Fort Knox compared to what my generation grew up with, in terms of security.

But in its defense, reality is no excuse for fiction. This is a comic, an urban fantasy. And hoo boy is this place a fantasy. If I were a fourth grader, I would be over the moon to have a secret hangout like this.

Lunella is rambling on to her mute conversation companion, reiterating her objectives and concerns about her Inhuman genetics, and she manages to be both grating and endearing at the same time. Like most kids, she manages to balance being endearing and a horrible id monster.

Devil Dinosaur is distracted by a distinct smell, however. Up in the school, for some questionable reason, Montclare and Reeder chose to confuse me by cutting to a panel back in the class room where Lunella's teacher, who looks like a flat out mad scientist (more evidence to support my "she's secretly a villian" theory) as she shows the students a lit Bunsen burner. It feels like a proposed false lead that even the creators didn't feel like pursuing after one panel.
That is the face of an evil schemer. 
Instead, we head back to the bathroom where the lit match has set the bathroom ablaze. I've concluded that the only thing worse than this school's teaching staff is its safety procedures. Any accredited school conducts regular fire drills at least once per month, and each and every class room should include its own instructions for both a primary and alternate path for a safe egress. Unless that bathroom has a consciousness that targeted and surrounded the science class room, there is no reason why jumping out of a third story window. And even if this is part of their fire safety plan, it probably includes a rollup rope ladder.

"Squawk! It's a living"
Of course, now I find myself comparing this situation to the Triangle Factory Fire. And I need to stop that now before I allow a comparison of public schools to pre-union sweat shop conditions to dominate the rest of this entry.

Lunella comes up through a sewer manhole cover that she should not be able to lift by any stretch of the imagination and she tries to assess the situation until her new friend bursts onto the scene, literally bursting up through the street, causing a lot of property damage, as any self-respecting time-displaced dinosaur is wont to do. Lunella gets him to use his head back and tail to act as an emergency slide to get her classmates to safety.

This kid gets it. 
Now, before I even had a chance to reflect on what wonderful cartoon logic her solution is, one of her classmates does it for me by making a reference to The Flintstones, which subsequently gives me hope that kids really do watch classic cartoons.

Just when all is said and done, the class rescued, and Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaurs are the heroes of the day, instead of a cheers and thanks, we are treated to a cameo from a character who confuses our favorite red-hued theropod for a bad guy. Because it wouldn't be a Marvel crossover unless the heroes fight first and bond later. Enter: Amadeus Cho, the Totally Awesome Hulk. Of course, Lunella being Lunella, she instantly assumes he's an idiot. Okay, as horrible as she is as a child, imagine how well prepared she's going to be for deflecting unwanted advances when she gets into her teen years.
Aw yeah! Next Issue: Me fangirling over Amadeus Cho.

This book is ridiculous and it charms the pants off me. I've said different variations on that for the past three issues, and I'm worried I'm starting to sound like a broken record.

For the next few weeks, I'm going to be doing something a little different. After all, we have officially arrived both at my favorite time of the year as well as my least favorite part of my country's four-year election cycle. I've got some ideas on how to tackle both these, but you'll have to wait and see...