Review: Flesh - The Dino Files / Written by: Pat Mills, Kevin Gosnell, Studio Giolitti, Geofrey Miller, Ken Armstrong / Illustrated by: Kevin O'Neill, Ramon Sola, Jamie McKay, Biox, Massimo Bellardinelli, Felix Carrion, Rufus Dayglo / Published by: 2000 AD, Rebellion / Release Date: Available now
Whatever theory you have about how the dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago, chances are you didn’t guess that a 23rd century corporation were sending cowboys back in time to round up herds of dinosaurs in order to meet food shortages in the future!
This collection of Flesh stories spans 35 years, from the very first issue of 2000 AD up to its most recent sequel Texas, and while the content is every bit as absurd as it sounds it’s also immensely satisfying. I first read Flesh collected in a 2000 AD annual as a little boy and that’s absolutely the right perspective to approach a collection like this from. At the time I was in awe of the ferocity of the dinosaurs, the perpetual bloodshed and the downbeat cynicism of a story where for once man fails to tame nature and pays a terrible price. As an adult I appreciate the vicious morality more fully than I could before, but at the same time I have a more critical eye for the fact that on almost every page careless cowboys find their way between the teeth of a tyrannosaurus. Adding to the cheesiness is the fact that these hapless victims normally shout out lines of dialogue like “Choke, I’m being eaten”, just in case the reader was in any doubt as to their fate.
Appreciating the restrictions of the material and acknowledging that in this plot-driven spectacle of man versus nature the driving thrill is watching the punishment of the cowboys, what you’re left with is a spectacular ride that combines western and sci-fi in a battle royale between men and dinosaurs. Claw Carver’s selfish attempts to get rich at the expense of his peers are legendary and despite the different time frames used in the stories there are recurring characters throughout to provide a nostalgic link. In the grand 2000 AD tradition the array of writers and artists are there only to serve the plot and as such the quality tends to waver from team to team, but when the right notes are hit we bear witness to giant, gore-stained dinosaurs that can’t be beaten, trapped in the time-stream and driven to devour the pesky humans that made the mistake of crossing them. Pat Mills can probably be credited with the most memorable aspect of Flesh; an unseen narrator talks us through the motives of the dinosaurs, explaining what drives them to pursue their attackers so relentlessly. I really warmed to the narration, like some perverse nature documentary, and found that it added an extra layer to the story and helped me to root for the these monstrous creatures.
Nostalgia might account for some of my love for Flesh, but the fact remains that from an early age I dreamed of dinosaurs and the carnage that they could inflict on their enemies. Throw in giant spiders and scorpions, morality plays between lawless men and copious amounts of blood and you’re looking at a winner. The most recent instalment of Flesh, Midnight Cowboys is currently being serialised in the pages of 2000 AD. We should probably go and check that out. People not fascinated by dinosaurs need not apply.