Some books draw you in with a detailed plot synopsis, giving you a list of reasons you should pick up the book. Then there are books like Terrible Lizard #1. All Oni Press has to say is that it’s the story of a teenage girl and her pet T-rex. Sold. Cullen Bunn and Drew Moss have tapped into the fantasy almost everyone has had since their first visit to Isla Nublar.
This is the story of Jess, the daughter of the head scientist of Cosmos Labs. It’s not the place you’d typically find families and as such Jess feels incredibly alone. She doesn’t have any friends her age to hang out with. Instead she rides her skateboard through high security laboratories for fun. That’s how she comes to be in the lab on the day her father is giving a demonstration of temporal displacement technology to the U.S. Military. The experiment goes wrong and accidentally brings a mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex forward through time. Lucky for Jess, the beast imprints on her and becomes surprisingly docile. Unlucky for her, he’s not the only monster she’ll be encountering.
Bunn knows that the material in the story isn’t too serious and he embraces that in this first issue. He treads through familiar territory, giving us the lonely, rebellious teenager and the father who is too obsessed with his work. It’s familiar, but it’s still fun. The scene where Jess rides past the heavily armed military guards made me smile. It’s the awareness of these tropes that make them work well here.
This first issue is focused on setting up the world and characters, not offering much in the way of story. Because there’s a lot to explain, there are some story beats that feel too convenient. Why would the military let them keep a giant T-Rex without any sort of argument? Still, that’s part of the charm of the book. It’s not focused on telling you a deep story. It’s focused on setting up some awesome moments and over-the-top action. Judging from the last page, there will be plenty of those in future issues.
Moss’ art works well with the story, reined in when there are people in the panels and overblown when the monsters show up. Moss gives the readers a great sense of scale by portraying the T-Rex as crowded into the panels. I really enjoyed his monster designs in the book. As far as his page layouts go, they’re perfectly functional if not unique. Also, colorist Ryan Hill does a great job of setting the mood on each page with subtle color cues.
If you love the idea of a teenage girl and her pet dinosaur fighting mutant monsters, this book is for you. Terrible Lizard doesn’t feel like an especially new idea, but it’s a well told story. Cullen Bunn and Drew Moss are setting up a series bound to impress by the sheer magnitude of the spectacle. Besides, any book with a Tyrannosaurus Rex on the cover is worth a look. This one is no exception.