Page 45 Review by Stephen
What an unexpectedly moving little book with the most gigantic co-star!
I am, I concede, quite easy to reduce if not to tears... then at least to swallowing hard in a bid to stave off such embarrassing soppiness when it comes to films, TV shows and graphic novels. However, pets are going to hit me where it hurts, particularly if the pet gets hurt, and sure enough within the first few pages young Ely's beloved dog lies six feet under.
To try to mitigate his son's distress, Dad sends Ely to stay on his grandfather's farm.
"I thought you said I was too young to go work for Grandpa!"
"When a boy loses his dog he gets a lot older," replies Dad with perception.
There Ely stumbles first upon a bully and then upon a living, breathing and improbably cute T-Rex, drawn in beautiful Bill Watterson fashion (see CALVIN & HOBBES). The beast is loyal, playful and stupid but also, unexpectedly, petrified of fire. Why? Well, there's a great sequence later on involving real or genetic memory (depending on where you think the T-Rex came from), in which fire sends our Tommysaurus Rex into another blind frenzy as the reader sees what the dinosaur sees in its mind's eye: flaming meteors and lava.
It's an all-ages coming of age story in which Ely learns the painful extent to which a pet may prove both tenacious and loyal (those last dozen pages really put me through the wringer - I'm such a big boy's blouse!), plus the nature, power and true value of forgiveness.
The bully's well evoked and his portrayal well judged: he really pisses you off, then you begin to understand why he does what he does... and then he pisses you off even further. As bullies do.
There's a cameo by Ray Harryhausen (he of stop-motion film fame) and those final forest-fire scenes are nothing short of blistering, particularly the light playing on the big lizard's form.
Doug's cartooning is an expressive joy throughout, his T-Rex top notch, and I'd surmise from the greatly improved reproduction that every page has been reshot. The blacks are now black rather than a grainy grey so that the inverse silhouettes are crisp and clean greatly enhanced by the new colours which are rich and warm and thrilling. It's like the whole thing's been reborn.
Jeff Smith, creator of BONE and RASL gave this a big thumbs-up, as did Guillermo del Toro.
P.S. Sorry the interior art is a bit wonky. I could only find two early images in colour online, so had to photograph these myself, holding the book open and at the only angle which would minimise a reflective shine on the paper. Worth it, though. Aren't the colours fabulous?