With “Cap’n Dinosaur,” Kek-W and Shaky Kane want to take you back to a time in comics and give you the full front-to-backpage experience with it. Will you want to join them? Read our review to find out. Warning: it’s a little bit more twisted than you remember.
Written by Kek-W
Illustrated by Shaky Kane
Writer Kek-W (2000 AD, Rudy Rucker’s FLURB) and artist Shaky Kane (THE BULLETPROOF COFFIN) take the law into their own hands and bring readers a complete, all-new, CAP’N DINOSAUR tale in this one-shot issue.
An homage to the classic comics, CAP’N DINOSAUR pulls inspiration from mail-order-advertisements found in comic series of the 1950s and 1960s. When a mysterious drowned man falls out of the clear blue sky, The Cap’n and Honey Moon follow a trail which leads them to a deserted amusement park, but what they find will take readers’ breath away.
Cap’n Dinosaur strikes a pose on his cover and cuts a decidedly Kirby-esque figure whilst doing so. Yes, Kek-W and artist Shaky Kane are making a deliberate effort with “Cap’n Dinosaur” to harken back to the classic elements of comics you might find in the early days of Marvel, where the “Fantastic Four” started what has now become an institution. But while the style and storytelling are inspired by that era, they do not entirely embody it in the way that “Cap’n Dinosaur’s” supplemental material does.
The story itself is incidental – Dinosaur and his partner Honey Moon (I dare you to dream up a more “1950s” name for a crime-fighting femme fatale) investigate the mysterious death of a man with lungs filled with water who fell from the sky, which ultimately leads them to carnival grounds overrun with a legion of supervillains that should make fans of the Superfriends chuckle. The plot itself reminds me of some of the later, most visually-inventive issues of Mike Allred’s “Madman”, where it wasn’t much more than an excuse to push the hero through a fun adventure, usually with an aesthetic goal or theme more than a true story arc in mind.
That’s not to say that writer Kek-W isn’t doing awesome work here. While the plot is intentionally thin and mercifully skips any attempt to give a greater context or backstory to anything, the issue is full of laugh-out-loud one-liners and tone-perfect cheeky noir dialogue. Literally almost every page has at least one line that would fit perfectly on the pages of a “Dick Tracy” comic, but is also absurd in a self-aware way. “Swami Midnite! But I saw you die!” is hilarious, whether in context or out, but it’s also the sort of line that routinely shows up in more theatrical classic comics. I have to wonder – did writers back then know how funny it was?
Kek-W plays the story out like some of the great Spider-Man/Sinister Six stories – that is to say, this one-shot is a gauntlet of the Cap’n against his greatest foes. In reality, it’s an excuse for 30-odd pages of straight-faced absurdity and comedy that also includes funny advertisements for fake comics, real t-shirts, and (maybe?) future stories in this universe. I know I’d take the “Shakyverse” over “Millarworld” any day. Functionally, this “Cap’n Dinosaur” one-shot could be issue #1 or issue #100, it really doesn’t matter. It’s utter rejection of context could easily put-off readers who need that sort of thing, but this is the kind of experiment in concept and style that is worth taking a chance on.
At this point, I’ve mentioned Jack Kirby, Spider-Man, Dick Tracy, Mike Allred, and Superfriends in a variety of contexts in relation to the content of “Cap’n Dinosaur.” This is because Shaky Kane’s work here, whether intentionally or consciously or not, recalls all of these in one way or another. Kane’s art resembles Allred’s (or perhaps, more appropriately, Alex Toth) in the way that clean, economic line work coalesces to somehow create a dynamic and varied landscape for adventure. Toth’s designs intended for animation served to cause less work for the animators by being as simple and elegant as possible, while still possessing the potential for great character and originality; that’s pretty much the deal with Shaky Kane and “Cap’n Dinosaur.” Not a single line is wasted or misplaced, and yet Kane conveys a great deal of variance and experimentation with layouts, perspective, and momentous action beats.Continued below
Kane navigates the Cap’n through a room of fun house mirrors, a dizzying hypnotic event, and a gaggle of other forceful and colorful brutes that won’t go down easy. And we’re better off for it, because Kane is at his best here when he’s coming up with new ways for “Cap’n Dinosaur” to receive or dish out punishment. It’s not for kids, but it’s not gruesome or violent – it’s a little bit of madness folded inside self-aware noir adventure.
Kane colors his own work, but you’d be forgiven if you mistook it for the bright, pop rainbow palette of Laura Allred. Kane finds a place for every color in the basic spectrum, making the entire affair seem like a carnival, rather than just the amusement park scenes themselves. After all, a world where a Dinosaur-costume wearing detective and his domino masked friend crack unsolved mysteries would have to be colorful.
As the art form ages and grows, modern artists are looking back on the stories and experiences that inspired them to do what they do. As a result, we’re starting to see more and more of these types of homages. Kane and Kek-W clearly wanted to strike some very specific notes. They wanted to craft more of an experience than a story. They definitely succeeded, but they put their own stamp on it in doing so. The kind of storytelling you see in “Cap’n Dinosaur” is reminiscent of the simple, colorful one-offs of the Silver Age of comics, and the kind of advertising and back matter resembles the Silver Age as well. But while it resembles that sort of thing, the content is all Kek and Kane; a little demented, a little in-your-face, and has to be seen to be fully understood. Even then, you might not.
That’s the spirit behind “Cap’n Dinosaur”: creating a homage to something everyone would recognize, and turning it on its head.
Final Verdict: 9.0 – A one-shot of the highest order; meant for fans of classic comics with their own off-kilter comedic sensibilities.