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'Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur' Review: Brilliant Rush of Stories and Emotions
Adapted from Marvel Comics, the series quickly establishes a distinctive tone and attitude.
Now Streaming: The opening sequences rushed by so quickly that I was afraid my poor brain would overload and I’d have another stroke.
Soon, though, the pieces assembled themselves together in my head and it all started to flow. Imagine this: a lead character who actually talks and reasons and jokes and feels all the feels, just like someone her age!
Developed by Steve Loter, Jeffrey M. Howard and Kate Kondell, the animated series is based on a Marvel comic first published in December 2015, which itself took inspiration from Jack Kirby’s Moon-Boy and Devil Dinosaur. (Marvel Comics has a character profile on Devil Dinosaur that looks dauntingly comprehensive.)
Since I did not encounter the character during my adult comic-book reading years, the look of the series is what first arrested my attention. Set on the Lower East Side (L.E.S.) in Manhattan, New York, the series is told through the eyes of Lunella Lafayette (voiced by Diamond White), a 13-year-old Black girl whose loving family owns a roller-skating rink in the neighborhood, which lately has been beset by serious power outages.
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Lunella is presented as an incredibly smart young woman with a great capacity (and desire) to learn, which she manifests by trying to replicate the design of a mysterious device that opens a time-travel portal, through which a T-Rex steps through and …
No, the T-rex does not eat her!
Instead, the T-rex instantly bonds with Lunella and saves a young girl from a falling object that surely would have killed her. That girl, the Puerto Rican/Jewish Casey Calderon (Libe Barer), quickly befriends Lunella the next day and volunteers to become her manager. (In the only overtly Marvel moment, she volunteers to manage the new superhero without compensation, figuring that it will pay off in social media mentions.)
It’s rather remarkable that the opening episode introduces Lunella and her family, as well as paints a picture of her home neighborhood, that is fiercely defensive and and empathetic and loving. And then it also introduces a villain and makes clear the threat that the villain poses to said neighborhood (i.e., the hero's home), placing it into the context of neglected down-market neighborhoods in the big city.
And then it also introduces the hero’s new companion, and also shows their naming process (instigated by Casey), and also shows more about the neighborhood, and also shows more about the hero’s family (with voices provided by Alfre Woodard, Sasheer Zamata, Jermaine Fowler, and Gary Anthony Williams).
The show also includes enough plot to stuff a full-length feature, condensed brilliantly into 46 minutes. It pulls this off deftly. Though initially the show felt rushed, it’s not; instead, the pace reflects the emotions of its lead character, which becomes more readily apparent as the episode progresses and Luna faces serious challenges that weigh her down. As she regains a more a balanced, positive view of her dilemma, the pace perks back up, reflecting Luna’s attitude and never-say-die emotions.
And there are five more episodes to watch!! Brilliant! [Disney Plus]