IDW Publishing, 21 pages, $ 3.99
Writer/artist: John Byrne
Colorist: Ronda Pattison
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Cowboys vs. dinosaurs? By John Byrne? Yay!
Well, kind of. As it turns out, there are no real cowboys in the book, contrary to what the cover suggests. It’s set in some U.S. desert small town where folks have cattle, all right, but it’s the present day, unfortunately.
The second big disappointment is that there are no dinosaurs, either. Well, that’s not true: Technically, they’re in there a couple of times. But it’s like in those bad horror flicks where you don’t see the creatures themselves, but look at people reacting to them from within their sharp-toothed mouths.
The actual, whole-hog dinosaurs aren’t seen until the cliffhanger ending, however.
Which is terribly anti-climactic, of course. The comic says “Jurassic Park” on the cover, so it’s kind of annoying of Mr. Byrne to turn the fact that the creatures in the comic are bloody dinosaurs into a cliffhanger.
Then again, the cliffhanger is still a surprise, of course, because, as it turns out, it’s not the fact that it’s dinosaurs that Byrne was being coy about, but the type of dinosaur. It’s a nice sleight of hand that I didn’t see coming. Then again again, it’s also still an anti-climax, because Pteranodons (Pterodactyls? Pteroramalamadingdongs? Flappy dinosaurs!) are about the most unexciting of all the dinosaur creatures.
Be that as it may, The Devils in the Desert is pretty painting-by-numbers creature-feature fare. It’s not terrible, exactly, but the characters and the dialogue have got all the creative charm of an old S.T.D. education pamphlet.
To Byrne’s credit, though, it’s a perfectly up-to-date effort as far as the panel-to-panel storytelling is concerned. The story is told exclusively in horizontal, “widescreen” panels, and—apart from a single very odd panel where a vertical image is just tilted to fit the grid—unlike many of his peers, Byrne actually makes them work. Also, all the text that appears in the book is dialogue—no inner monologues or other narration.
The problematic part, in terms of the page-to-page stuff, is what you don’t get to see. At one point, the characters find the remains of a horse that’s been attacked and half eaten by the dinosaurs, but Byrne doesn’t show it, for some reason; at another, a character points at a very odd trail left behind by some kind of creature—and there’s plenty of room in the panel to show the trail, but there’s still nothing there to see. I assume that latter one is a coloring error, but still.
For a cowboys vs. dinosaurs comic without cowboys or dinosaurs, I guess this is still okay—it did surprise me with the ending, for that matter, even if I thought the reveal was lame.