This month Dark Horse Comics is releasing the Age of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians trade paperback, which collects the four-part comic book series published last summer by artist Ricardo Delgado with Ryan Hill as the color artist. This is the fourth installment of the Age of Reptiles series that commenced with Age of Reptiles: Tribal Warfare (1993) and was followed up by the Eisner Award-winning Age of Reptiles: The Hunt (1997) and Age of Reptiles: The Journey (2003). In this installment, a spinosaurus, one of the largest carnivorous dinosaurs to have lived, is the featured protagonist.
Age of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians takes place during the Cenomanian Age, when the pyramids and pharaohs were not yet a glimmer on the horizon of the Bahariya Oasis that would eventually become part of Egypt. Delgado creates a riveting and consuming story about dinosaurs – facing life and death each day – without the use of text (verbal or sound effect) and with little use of anthropomorphic characteristics.
Long, wide establishing shots to extreme close-ups, Delgado’s art takes on a cinematic quality. For example, on the opening page of the series, the first two panels stretch across the width of the page and feature a high-angle establishing shot of a lone dinosaur walking into the frame along the swampy oasis. In the remaining frames of the first page, Delgado teases the reader with obscured views of the spinosaurus, and in one panel, his shadow is cast against a tree. Then, in the first panel of the second page, the majestic dinosaur fills the panel and overflows into the gutter at the top of the page, before Delgado pulls back out to reveal the protagonist and his surroundings – the main character and a driving force for the events that will unfold in the pages to come.
Delgado has coupled the cinematic spectacle with the expertise of a paleontologist. There is a visual meticulousness about the world he created as he explores the oasis from every angle – from the sunny sky above and from the murky waters below. Hill’s colors accentuate and heighten Delgado’s precise compositions of the dinosaurs and the environment. Although based in science, there is an obvious reverence to the intelligence of these animals, and, hence, a touching tale is revealed.
With forewords from famed novelist Alan Dean Foster and Dr. Barbara S. Grandstaff, a vertebrate paleontologist, each adds an interesting perspective to this trade paperback edition. Essays from Delgado provide insight into his interest and inspiration for this series. He follows up with a cover gallery and sketches that, taken altogether, should be an enticement for any dinosaur enthusiast.