Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur make apparent changes to the comic book series by Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder, ageing the titular hero up from 9 years old to 13 and removing all of her connections to the deep comics mythology of the Kree and Inhumans. But the most potent change seen in the pilot episode “Moon Girl Landing” is how happy and comfortable Lunella Lafayette (Diamond White) is in her skin. Rather than presenting the comics-version of the character – an anxious, misunderstood genius desperate to find a place where she can demonstrate her brilliance, the show anchors Lunella deeply in her community, creating an empowering tale that thematically and stylistically emulates Speder-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
A charming introductory musical number takes on the appearance of an animated comic, popping with vibrant colours as Lunella skates through New York’s Lower East Side and quite literally sings the praises of her diverse neighbourhood. But when its beloved small businesses – including the roller rink that Lunella’s multi-generational family runs are hit by a rash of mysterious blackouts, Lunella suggests calling the Avengers only to be told that the superheroes both have bigger fish to fry and also don’t go below 14th Street.
It’s a very clever way to distinguish the tone and stakes of this kids’ show from the higher-powered stories of the MCU. It also draws attention to the neighbourhood’s vulnerabilities, a dark, goofy force threatens to rip apart the fabric of the community, and it’s up to some brave kids to bring everyone together to fight for what they have.
That means it’s time for Lunella to use her considerable intellect and science lair to save the day. When Lunella accidentally opens a portal while attempting to decipher the notes of a missing super-scientist, she is joined by a red tyrannosaurus with the personality of a loyal dog. Lunella’s social media-obsessed classmate Casey (Libe Barer) pretty aptly describes Devil Dinosaur (Fred Tatasciore) as Clifford and expressively animated as mischievous and gleeful as he stomps around on the hunt for hotdogs.
Lunella quickly gets the idea to combine her brains and her new friend’s brawn. The 45-minute premiere follows all the classic origin story formula as she finds a crucial friend and ally in Casey, puts together a costume pulled straight from the comics, experiences some early success followed by some significant setbacks, and eventually saves the day.
The New York seen in Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur has all the colourful vibrancy found in The Spider-Verse, and whilst its characters might be as well known, its fight scenes are just as dramatic. It does a great job of emulating the comic-book feel of what is regarded by most as the pinnacle of modern superhero animation.
Loosely based on the comics of the same name, Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur tell a charming and relevant superhero origin story geared towards kids. Although it relies on well-established genre story conventions, the soundtrack and colourful animation will no doubt win over older fans looking for something similar to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Episodes 1-5 of Marvel’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur premiere on Disney+ on March 1st.