Sixty-five million years ago, an alien ship is cruising in the general vicinity of Jupiter when the crew’s unseen opponents blast the vessel to smithereens. One of the pieces strikes a passing asteroid, nudging it off course by a hair. This is the rock that, in our timeline, killed the dinosaurs. In Neozoic, the asteroid was deflected just enough so that it strikes the moon instead, taking out a sizable chunk of the satellite in the process.
The dinosaurs never go extinct as a result, leading to a modern-day world of besieged humans, giant T. rexes and – if the cover is any indication – women with two right hands.
Neozoic is an upcoming title from the new comic company, Red 5 Comics. It’s written by Paul Ens, with pencils by J. Korim and colors by Jessie Lam. And to skip to the end, yes, I thoroughly enjoyed it, although as a first issue, it’s really only a tease of what’s hopefully to come.
Ens works with an interesting premise: Instead of having dinosaurs continue to dominate the mammals after their aborted extinction, the two groups have been engaged in 65 million years of evolutionary competition. Humans have evolved and are the same as we know them, so are horses. Wolves, however, have grown to gigantic sizes to prey on the dinosaurs. The terrible reptiles themselves are pretty much the same ones we know from the fossil record. A T. rex plays a central role in the first issue but is depicted as much larger than the real thing, more for dramatic effect than scientific speculation about what the species would have evolved into. Neozoic isn’t a hard-science take on the alternate world theme, but rather a fantasy with dinosaurs substituting for dragons.
The main problem with the first issue of Neozoic is that, as a first issue, it needs to provide a lot of backstory about its universe in a short two-dozen-or-so pages. Add on top of that the fact the comic has a rather large cast of characters. Ens and his team make the smart decision of keeping the opening story fairly simple so the reader can absorb all the new information: A young architect is working on a project outside the walled city on Monanti, much to the disdain of a squad captain from the famous Predator Defense League, whose mission is to defend the city’s population from the predators beyond its walls. Needless to say, the league will have to put its skills to use, and before the end there are hints of a romantic subplot, political intrigue and a mystery involving the dinosaurs.
The art by Korim is highly stylized, eschewing the ultra-realism of, say, Mark Schultz for a more cartoon-like look. For the most part it is excellent, and his jungle environments in particular stand out. There are a couple anatomical irregularities with the humans, though. I couldn’t get over the oddly-formed round gut on one character, and readers both here and elsewhere have pointed out that the female on the cover has two right hands. I strained my eyes looking through the comic to see whether that was some strange feature of the character or just a mistake, but if she is supposed to have two right hands, I didn’t see any evidence of it.
Also a shout out to Lam, whose colors are appropriately muted for the setting and manage to capture the hazy atmosphere of the outdoors.
It’s hard to give a final word on Neozoic because this is only the first issue of what could be a long-lived series, but I like what I see. The writing shows promise, and the art is more than satisfactory. This is not a comic for people who insist that the science in their fiction be as accurate as humanly possible, but if you get a kick out of watching a hot chick take down a T. rex with nothing more than a sword and a gauntlet that shoots acid -- à la Buffy the Vampire Slayer with dinosaurs -- this title is for you. I’m definitely interested in seeing where this one is going.