“Hey Liz, how’s your telescope?”“I don’t know Kelsey, how’s your mom’s pill addiction?”30 Rock, “Reunion”
Meet Lunella Lafayette.
She’s an undeniably bright kid — heavy-handedly indicated by the way she decorates her bedroom. She’s got a poster of Neil Degrasse Tyson sandwiched between posters of satellites and the solar system (and all behind her lava lamp). That’s just one wall. There basically isn’t a wasted inch: everything in this room insists that Lunella is a bright, special kid. Well, almost everything. Artist Natacha Bustos includes an insert panel of the notices on Lunella’s cork board from the various Marvel Universe Super Schools that have rejected her. Right from the first page, we’re already meant to be asking “hey, why is this little girl having a hard time being accepted?” But that blanket fort seems to offer an answer, albeit an incomplete one. She just works too hard – that’s something we should celebrate, right?
Maybe not. When she’s late for school, Lunella flips a switch, transforming her shoes into roller skates. My first though was that this transformation looks insane – like those wheels just magically appear.
Where do those wheels come from?! My second thought is that this isn’t a particularly innovative invention. We already have shoes that turn into roller skates, they’re called Heelys. And then my final thought — and this is one that the writing staff of Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder want to express as well — is “that’s not very safe.” She can barely stay up, and she causes a traffic jam on her way to school. Her genius ideas aren’t very effective, smart or original.
Am I being too critical of a child? The next scene at school supports my claims. Lunella may have gotten into the classroom on time, but she’s still late to her seat. When the teacher tells her to sit down before she writes her a tardy slip it comes off as more justified than bullying. Further, Lunella’s kind of a shit in class, doing things like comically repeating “after me” instead of the words that come after “repeat after me” and trying to expose the ignorance of the curriculum. She’s asked to explain the theory of evolution, and instead nitpicks her teacher’s words, and rages against the idea that evolution is a theory.
Reeder and Montclare make it difficult to love this kid, but the world she occupies doesn’t make much more sense. I’ve read that scene in the classroom four or five times, and I still can’t really work out what the hell is happening. Lunella doesn’t answer the question and then the other kids start making fun of her, but not in any way that seems connected to what she’s saying. Apparently, right in the middle of class, one of her classmates erupts with a “whatever you say, Moon Girl” and they all start laughing at her. I suppose, to be fair, I should point out that the teacher starts this whole interaction by calling Lunella a “know-it-all.” No one comes out of this scene looking sympathetic.
While I’ve have a hard time with Lunella’s base-reality, it does make the comic-book-y conceit of “child gets a dinosaur” a lot more interesting than it would be otherwise. I don’t have a solid read on what Devil Dinosaur’s deal is — that flashback sequence is too mired in the politics of primate tribes to shed any real light on what he is how how he acts — but it is thrilling to consider how Lunella will use her new dino-pal to make some misguided decisions.
Spencer, what did you think of this issue? Are you more familiar with DD than I am? I saw an editors note that could have directed me to more information about the squabbles between the Small-Folk and the Killer-Folk, but then I realized I don’t care about that at all. Also, is it weird that Lunella thinks the biggest problem facing the world is that we can’t detect Kree?
Spencer: I don’t think the problem is that we can’t detect the Kree — I think Lunella’s Kree detector is searching for a solution to the problem, although even Lunella seems a bit unsure what the orb she tracked down actually does. As for this big problem, it almost definitely has to do with the Inhumans.
Remember, the Inhumans were originally tampered with by the Kree and contain their DNA, tying them into Lunella’s mission. Montclare and Reeder are a bit vague with Lunella’s internal monologue, but it appears that she’s afraid of becoming an Inhuman — I’m not sure whether that’s just a general worry, or if she’s aware of having Inhuman DNA, but either way, I’d venture to say that Lunella’s big problem is people being transformed against their will by the Terrigen mist. That’s a fairly justifiable concern, but it’s muddied a bit on the next page when Lunella claims that her “brain is all the superpower [she] needs.” Is this just intense faith in her abilities, or some kind of stigma against superpowers? I’m curious to find out.
Anyway Patrick, you’re not wrong about both Lunella and the adults in her life coming across as unlikable at times, but I still think you’re being hard on Lunella. The only time her attitude legitimately bothered me was during her little rant about evolution, and only because she completely misunderstands the use of the word “theory” (which means something entirely different within the scientific community than it does everywhere else). A scientist would know that, and I’m not sure if we’re supposed to believe that Lunella, as bright as she is, doesn’t, or if it was a mistake on Montclare and Reeder’s behalf.
Other than that, though, I’m not bothered by Lunella’s behavior because she’s a child, and a rather young one at that; I can justify her snarky attitude a lot better than I can justify her teacher calling her a “know-it-all,” or her gym teacher shaming her and taking her possessions in front of the whole class, because she’s still a kid, while they’re adults who should know better. Hell, they’re teachers — they have a responsibility to rise above their students’ level. I know Lunella doesn’t make it easy — in fact, I know that many bullied kids bring it upon themselves in some ways — but that doesn’t justify their behavior.
Patrick’s not wrong about the quality of Lunella’s ideas either, but again, she’s a child. Roller-skate shoes may not be original, but how many elementary school-aged children have original ideas? Isn’t it impressive enough that she can build shoes that can literally grow wheels out of thin air? She’s in elementary school! As for the danger, well yeah, Lunella’s inventions can be dangerous, but that’s all the more reason why she needs some guidance. She’s got genius-level skill, but without guidance, she becomes a danger to herself and others. Lunella’s fallen through the cracks in terms of education, and none of the authority figures in her life have any idea how to handle her. That won’t turn out well for Lunella or anybody around her, and the lion’s share of the blame falls on the adults in her life who just don’t understand her — or don’t even attempt to.
Really, I feel like Lunella’s story is just her facing an almost endless series of indignities. The details may be a bit exaggerated, but that just makes this feel even more like an accurate take on a child’s perspective of childhood. Children really have no agency in their lives and little-to-no recourse if they’re wronged — moreover, every wrong feels like the biggest injustice in the world because of the heightened emotions of youth. No wonder they get so frustrated so easily! Throughout the issue I can see when Lunella’s purposely being difficult, but I can also understand why Lunella acts the way she does, and fully sympathize with her. Perhaps Lunella would be difficult to spend time with in real life, but as a protagonist, I’m thoroughly on her side (as long as we see her evolve and grow from here, of course).
Natacha Bustos’ art is a huge asset when it comes to building sympathy; while her and colorist Tamra Bonvillain’s work is fun and lively throughout, it’s really with Lunella’s facial expressions that Bustos shines. C’mon, how could I not be charmed by this face?
On the other end of the spectrum, Bustos perfectly captures the fear Lunella feels as she comes face-to-face with Devil Dinosaur.
Bustos clearly and effectively portrays Lunella’s emotions to the reader, allowing them to better empathize with her even in her more difficult moments. She also always keeps Lunella’s most childlike features forefront — be it her size, posture, or even her hairstyles — continually reminding the audience of Lunella’s powerless, fragile position in the world.
With that in mind, I think I’m getting a better idea of how Devil Dinosaur will fit into Lunella’s life. Obviously, Devil will be the best friend she didn’t realize she needed, and she’ll fill the Moon-Boy shaped hole in his heart, but Devil will likely also be her protector and advocate, in his own dinosaur-y way. Still, that isn’t going to fix all of Lunella’s problems. Perhaps her adventures with Devil will simply help her better handle her everyday life? I’m curious to see how their relationship will come together once they get a chance to truly interact.
As for the scenes set in the past, I agree with Patrick that I kind of glazed over all the rival-clan stuff — trying to establish both that society and Lunella’s life in the same issue is just too much to follow at once, and Lunella’s time-period is the easier of the two to connect with. The one moment that stuck out to me from that story, though, is Moon-Boy’s death.
Lunella is a clear stand-in for Moon-Boy — right down to the moon on her shirt mirroring the shot of the moon in the sky in that second panel — but what caught my attention was the other parallel Montclare, Reeder, and Bustos seem to be drawing here. Just like Lunella, Moon-Boy has no idea what the Nightstone actually does, and Moon-Boy’s belief that the Killer-Folk possessing the Nightstone automatically makes it evil is similar to Lunella’s somewhat vague, perhaps irrational fear of the Inhumans. I’m not sure what to make of this observation yet, but it feels worth pointing out.
Ultimately, much of this issue is set-up — Montclare, Reeder, and Bustos have established Lunella, Devil Dinosaur, and their worlds, but we’ve yet to see their dynamic together, which is the series’ central premise. I can see why that might be frustrating to some, especially when many of these characters are still at a difficult stage of their development. I want to see more of what Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur has to offer before passing judgment on it, but for now, I think issue 1 provides a firm foundation for the rest of the series to build on.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?