In my most recent review of Spider-Gwen #22, I was impressed that several disparate plot threads from earlier in its current storyline came together thematically as the story neared its conclusion. Something similar happens in the conclusion of “The Land Before Crime”, but while the pieces are moved into place, they don’t quite fit as well as they should.
Clearly, Devil Dinosaur being lost to Stegron’s mental control and losing control of himself speaks to Eddie as he sees the parallels between Devil and his symbiote. This point loses its emotional impact, though, because we don’t really have any reason to care about the dilemma. Moon Girl was dropped into the middle of the story last issue, and has done little except be snide to Eddie and exacerbate the situation by ignoring Venom’s advice in the first place. As I’ve mentioned, I’m not familiar with Moon Girl, but this isn’t a great first exposure to her.
Further, last month’s inconsistencies and repetitiveness continue. For the second month in a row, the issue begins with the heroes fleeing the underground, and Stegron is ultimately defeated by a large flood. Speaking of Stegron, his master plan is to dump his chemicals into the water mains to transform most of the city. This is all well and good, but what’s been stopping him from doing that before now? Did he want to give the humans a sporting chance?
But the questions don’t stop there. How the heck did Venom figure out his plan, despite Stegron never telling him? I mean, good on Venom, because he didn’t just know what the plan was, but he knew exactly where Stegron would go to implement it, and when it would go down. And after spending the last two issues building up the overwhelming odds of trying to stop Stegron’s army, actually doing so…is pretty darn simple. Despite earlier issues showing an enormous number of these monsters, there only appear to be a half dozen or so to go through before achieving total victory.
In other words, we weren’t given the big “Venom vs. Dinosaurs” action piece so much as we got a rehash of the Venom-infected tyrannosaurus from Old Man Logan. This is not a worthy substitute.
The artwork, while consistent in quality, suffers from the repetitive nature of the story: there’s only so many shots of featureless, cavernous backgrounds I can take before it starts to blur together. What I will give kudos for is the internal consistency with the symbiote’s abilities and mass. When Eddie uses the symbiote to temporarily bond with Devil Dinosaur, Eddie’s own chest and arms are exposed, as they were when the character was drawn by McFarlane, Larsen or Bagley and he used the symbiote’s matter in such unconventional means. It’s a nice concession to realistic logistics in a fantastic situation that’s been ignored by other incarnations of the character.
I really wanted to like this arc a great deal more than I did, because the premise was so off the wall that it should have been a lot of fun. Web Warriors showed me that Costa can write high-concept comic action, and this would have been much more enjoyable had it been in that vein. What we actually got was two average issues of story unnecessarily spread into three padded parts; the book definitely suffers for this. I may have had concerns with the Lee Price era on the title, but at least my interest was held. At least next issue, told directly from the alien costume’s POV, has a unique spin to it that makes me hopeful; Costa’s best issues on this title seem to be the most unconventional.
“The Land Before Crime” may make some knowing winks to the “Jurassic Park” franchise, but that’s not the proper franchise to compare it to. Nor it is appropriate to analogize it to low-budget cheese like “Carnosaur”, which could circle back around to enjoyably bad. The best dinosaur film to describe this story as is Disney’s “Dinosaur”: dull, colorless, and ultimately forgettable.