Dinosaur Explorers Vol. 1: Prehistoric Pioneers GN
Publisher: Papercutz
Release Date: August 2018
Price: $12.99 (TP) / $16.99 (HC)
Creator(s): Redcode and Albbie (writers); Air Team (art)
Format: 184 pgs., Full-Color, 6.5"x8", Trade Paperback/Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-5458-0129-1 (TP) / 978-1-5458-0128-4 (HC)
Age Rating:  N/A
ICv2 Rating: 2.5 Stars out of 5

This rare misfire by Papercutz tries to be too many things at once.  The non-fiction parts of the book are beautifully illustrated, and factual enough to appeal to a wide range of readers.  The fiction parts are painfully bad manga-style tales of a mad scientist with a bunch of young teen assistants, along with one grown-up and a toy-sized robot.  For reasons known only to the artist, the prehistoric creatures in the story are drawn at about double their real sizes, relative to the humans.  This could have been made into a plot point by a better writer, but in this case is simply mentioned in a footnote at the beginning of the story as "Hey, it makes a good story."  No, really, it doesn’t.  It creates fake dangers, and reduces the need for close-up framing of smaller creatures, but it doesn’t enhance the story at all.

There are no dinosaurs in this first volume, other than in the title, although they might show up in the second or third volume of the series.  The reason is that the mad scientist’s lab and staff have been transported back through time, and they can only gradually return to the 21st century.  Since they went back all the way to the Cambrian period, dinosaurs don’t exist yet, at the time the story is taking place.  That premise means lots of exploring in various time periods, but the main teen is portrayed as an idiot, and the others as other various clichés from older manga.

The artwork of the actual prehistoric beasts is excellent.  The artwork of the fiction story is "okay for manga" art, and the combination is jarring.  If readers can keep a perspective on the weird oversizing of the prehistoric beasts, the book will be informative and interesting.  So far, the fictional story is ignorable at best, intrusive at worst.  Kids who want to know what came before the dinosaurs will be the audience for this volume.

--Nick Smith: Library Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.