“The Smartest There Is!” arc continues, this time with an appearance by the X-Men. Are they guest stars or just set pieces? Is the issue good?
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #17 (Marvel Comics)
The issue begins with Moon Girl and half of the Extraordinary X-Men roster riding a subway train, then going to an out-of-business record store. As the heroes make their way there, we’re treated to Nightcrawler acting out of character in a way that feels like it’s supposed to be funny but just falls flat. Lunella broods as usual while Devil Dinosaur is delightfully cute in the background, receiving a surprising lack of focus for a character whose name is in the title.
This issue is plagued by many of the problems that have defined the series for its last several issues. Devil Dinosaur has been reduced to a supporting character in a book that is marketed as being half his own. We don’t get any charming interactions between him and Lunella; the only time she really acknowledges him is when she’s telling him to shut up. Devil getting less page time could be forgiven if Lunella or the guest characters were the focus of more interesting storytelling, but they’re not. This issue surrounds Lunella with great X-Men characters, yet we don’t get any cool new dynamics or interactions.
With that said, the X-Men’s appearance isn’t totally wasted. One scene features them clad in their mid-1980s uniforms and battling a horde of Doombots inside a shopping mall. It’s a nice callback to a classic era, and the art team does a great job of making the action sequences fun to read. Penciller Natacha Bustos and colorist Tamra Bonvillain imbue the issue with a sense of joyous camp that helps elevate an otherwise bland and overly drawn-out plotline. There are some panels where the line-art looks a little rushed, but for the most part Bustos’ work is solid. Devil Dinosaur and the Doombots are especially well-rendered.
Overall, this is a decent issue. It owes its success primarily to Bustos and Bonvillain, as a less skilled art team could not have carried the weak writing. The plot feels like a copy and paste of this story arc’s previous issues with little but the specific guest stars altered. There are a handful of charming character moments sprinkled throughout the issue, but the script still feels too formulaic to be very exciting. Thankfully, the issue makes up for what it lacks in strong writing with its campy and fun aesthetic. With that said, if you’re looking for a good jumping-on point then you may want to wait until the next arc begins.