What must the Earth have looked like after the End Cretaceous? The world alit in the fiery cataclysm of the Chicxilub meteorite, but while the initial disaster quickly burnt out, the environment took millennia to truly recover. What of the impoverished devastation of the first few years of the new geologic era? Those desperate times are brought vividly to life in Mike Keesey‘s graphic novel, Paleocene.
While I’ve previously featured some of Keesey’s work here before as one of the authors of the counter-creationist volume God’s Word or Human Reason?, this comic book series is of course a different beast altogether. This post-apocalyptic story follows various individuals as they attempt to find a way to survive. At first, we watch as the leader of a troop of prosimians (early, lemur-like primates) takes a small group of males with him to find better forage, while his mate, her children, and the others left behind struggle to feed themselves. Both groups soon find themselves besieged by a large, predatory bird, inflicting a reign of terror on the beleaguered primates.
We see just enough to strongly empathize with the fear of our primitive relatives, before the perspective shifts to that of the predator itself. We see that, far from a malicious, alien presence, this bird itself has struggled to survive, and, forced away from the once-fertile hunting grounds of its youth, feels the same desperation as the primates upon which it now feeds. I suppose, however, it is not quite right to say it is not something of an alien presence. With the shift in perspective comes a shift in the writing style, emphasizing that though this predator is of roughly equal intelligence to the prosimians, it comes from an entirely different evolutionary branch, with different modes of interaction with the world. In conversing with the rivals that ultimately drive him from his home, as well as in his own mind, the bird speaks in high, courtly prose (often rhyming as well), as befitting the showy and boastful nature of birds throughout time.
This fascinating story presents readers with an empathetic dilemma, creating a genuine desire to see these two diametrically opposed parties succeed, even knowing that the success of one likely means misery for the other. Paleocene has only just finished introducing its key players, however, and the real struggles still lie ahead. I can’t wait to see how this tension gets resolved in upcoming issues!
If you would like to stay up to date with further releases, you can follow both Mike Keesey and the Paleocene comic’s official Twitter accounts, as well as Keesey’s Patreon for sneak previews and other extras. You can purchase Paleocene in either physical or digital form on Keesey’s online shop, as well as other comics and products he has created. (As a bit of cross-promotion, Keesey was involved in a paper analyzing some Columbian rock art, which also makes an appearance in Greer Stothers’ Kaleidoscope of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life.) I highly recommend this series thus far, and am pleased to give it the Dino Dad Stomp of Approval!