REVIEW: ‘Cretaceous’ Graphic Novel

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Cretaceous

Let’s face it. Dinosaurs are RAD. They were the biggest, baddest monsters the world has ever seen. And if there’s one thing that humanity loves, it’s monsters. For as long as we’ve been finding fossilized dinosaur bones buried in the earth, humans have wondered what these behemoths must have been like. Since we don’t have time machines, it’s up to scientists and artists to answer that age-old question. Luckily for us, we’ve got a new look at what life might have been like in the age of giants. The graphic novel Cretaceous, written and illustrated by Tadd Galusha and published by Oni Press, offers a snapshot of life on Earth 145 million years ago.

While there are no characters, Cretaceous charts the interconnected lives of a few dinosaurs living in ancient Montana. One is an injured Triceratops fighting its way to its ancestral burial ground.  The real star of Cretaceous though is the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex. When a pack of Albertosaurus attack its family, our Tyrannosaurus embarks on a journey to reunite with its lost offspring and reap revenge on the creatures that separated them.

Cretaceous is the rare breed of graphic novel that lets the pictures do the talking. It’s 100% free of dialogue, conveying its story entirely through gorgeous illustrations and bold panel layouts. “Silent” comics are hard to pull off, to say the least. But with Cretaceous, Galusha makes it look easy. The book contains so much kinetic energy that it almost feels like the pages turn themselves. The titanic clashes that litter its pages propel the narrative forward at breakneck speed.

However, text free doesn’t mean kid-friendly. When dinosaurs clash in Cretaceous, it gets brutal. Reading the graphic novel can be a visceral experience. After all, the book presents a world of blood dropping from teeth and claws, a savage landscape where life and death exist together in violent harmony. Every battle is a fight to the death where dinosaurs tear through each other with the sort of raw ferocity we haven’t seen in millions of years. These scenes are shown in full graphic detail, which includes the deaths of cute little baby dinosaurs.  Some readers might find this understandably upsetting.

But while Cretaceous is violent, it’s never gratuitous. As part of his research, Galusha watched nature documentaries full of predators taking down prey. As a result Cretaceous reflects that influence. Galusha presents his fictionalized Cretaceous era with a documentarian’s eye, balancing the natural drama of animal survival with grounded research. The book never lingers on its violent scenes, showing us just enough in each panel to convey the raw brutality of the era. As Galusha put it an interview with Syfy,

“I wanted the reader to feel the hardships that the animals endure by simply surviving day to day. A beautiful brutality, if you will.

If you grew up watching dinosaur documentaries on the Discovery Channel or wished you could take a trip to Jurassic Park, then Cretaceous is the book for you.  It’s a gorgeous book full of prehistoric conflict that is absolutely worth your time.

Creatceous will be available in comic stores everywhere March 27, 2019.

Cretaceous
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TL;DR

If you grew up watching dinosaur documentaries on the Discovery Channel or wished you could take a trip to Jurassic Park, then Cretaceous is the book for you.