I’ve noticed that, in the comic world at least, dinosaurs are becoming quite trendy. The resurgence in their popularity seemed to begin with Axe Cop, and a supporting cast that not only includes shape-shifting sidekick Dinosaur Soldier, but fan favourite Wexy, a giant, flying, fire-breathing T-Rex. Then came Super Dinosaur, Robert Kirkman’s attempt to break the all-ages comic market, starring a talking, cybernetically-enhanced T-Rex. And most recently, we’ve heard about Grant Morrison writing a comic (and the screenplay for the movie adaptation) called Dinosaurs VS Aliens. Now, joining the trend is Attackosaur: Robot Dinosaur Police Force, a self-published effort by Welsh cartoonist Martin Smith.
Being a talking Tyrannosaur with cybernetic implants, the main character could easily be compared with the lead of Robert Kirkman’s new series. But Rex is more caustic in his choice of vocabulary and surly in his demeanour than his Super Dinosaur counterpart, the “grizzled veteran cop” archetype in a dinosaur’s body, helping him to shine as a protagonist in his own right. The reader-POV access character he’s paired up with is vacuous actor Dan Chance, on Mars to research his latest film role, unaware he’s caught up in a conspiracy to assassinate “The President of the World”. Yes, the story takes place on Mars, meaning that not only do we get dinosaurs, we get Martians!
This alludes to the major strength of this first issue of Attackosaur: Smith effortlessly weaves in such high concepts as “robot dinosaur cops on Mars” into a coherent narrative that flows naturally and dabbles in the surreal without alienating us readers. The dialogue is suitably snarky and flippant throughout, and while a couple of the one-liners fall flat, they come at such a rapid pace that the memory of a dud is sure to be quickly replaced by another gag drawing a smile. If there’s any misstep in the scripting, it probably comes with the introduction of the Dan Chance character, who we first see in the form of a trailer for his latest film, Wolf Cup Final. In the context of the issue as a whole, I get what Smith was trying to do here, but the way it was paced in the comic itself was a bit jarring and uneven. I’d say it was more a cinematic technique than one that fits easily into a comic book narrative.
Unfortunately, Smith’s art fares less well than his writing. He’s actually really good at drawing the dinosaurs – one visual gag with a T-Rex squeezed into an elevator is a particular success – but his human figures are sorely lacking. Their anatomy is sloppy, and the faces are quite bland and largely expressionless. While there are a couple of good location shots, for the most part the lack of detail stops us from getting a sense of place, all the more unfortunate given how delightfully idiosyncratic the setting of this story is. It’s a shame, because I think a stylised, cartoony artist of the Rob Guillory mould could have really brought Smith’s off-the-wall ideas to life and made them jump out of the page. Smith himself acknowledges that he’s more a writer than an artist, and I think that’s clear with this issue, as while the writing shows much promise, the art is competent but inconsistent.
It has its flaws, but the first issue of Attackosaur: Robot Dinosaur Police Force is a charming little comic. If you like dinosaurs, robots, Mars, or robot dinosaurs on Mars, or if you just like quirky, offbeat fare, then this may be a comic you want to check out.
You can buy Attackosaur: Robot Dinosaur Police Force #1 from attackosaur.com.