by Adam Benay
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, words by Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder, art by Natacha Bustos, Hip Hop variant by Jeffrey Veregge (Vince Staples’ Summertime ’06)
Lunella Lafayette is a 9 year old genius who attends public school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. She has a problem with authority, specifically with her teacher, who chides her as a “little-miss-know-it-all.” Her classmates aren’t much better, teasing her for her spacey, oddball demeanor by assigning her the nickname “Moon Girl.” Lunella is obsessed with escaping her predicament and reaching a world where her intellect is viewed for the strength that it is.
She is also aware that she has the “Inhuman gene”, which means that if she is exposed to a mysterious mist that has descended upon the Earth (stay with me), she could transform into a monster. In her premiere issue, she attempts to make herself immune to the mist, and in doing so, accidentally brings the mutant Tyrannosaurus Rex known as Devil Dinosaur from his prehistoric dwelling to present day New York. Devil Dinosaur soon forms an undying affection for Lunella and becomes her loyal protector.
Vince Staples is nothing if not precocious, and in his debut studio record Summertime ’06 (2015), he exhibits the same chip on the shoulder/fuck-you attitude that makes Lunella such a cool character. Recently in the Marvel universe, a test went out to measure the smartest beings on planet Earth. When the results came back, the number one spot went to Lunella. Vince, only 23 years old, shares the same prodigy-status, and not just in the recording studio. You can check him out unabashedly making the case to Time Magazine that 90’s rappers are overrated, or sharing the bill on Bill Simmons’ sports talk show with broadcasting legends Bob Costas and Al Michaels.
Lunella and Vince are certainly the “precious dream” Nina Simone talked about in “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.” As a Jewish kid from one of the whitest places in the country, I am a voyeur into this experience, but, as Nina said, the “joy of today is that we can all be proud to say- to be young, gifted, and black is where it’s at.” Still, it is wrong to compare Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur to Summertime ’06 without discussing the glaring difference in content. The gangs in Lunella’s neighborhood resemble the cartoonish ones from The Warriors, not the grim brutality of the real-life Crips, who Vince has claimed affiliation with.
In the real world, Lunella’s insubordination might cause her to slip through the cracks, regardless of her intellect. In the real world, Vince didn’t have a Devil Dinosaur to protect him from the violence and crime he grew up around. On “Lift Me Up,” he tells us that his life was anything but a fairy tale: “Ho, this shit ain’t Gryffindor, we really killin’, kickin’ doors.” The chorus of the track has Vince praying to be lifted out of that world. Another track, “Like It Is,” begins with a repeated sample of Andre 3000 proclaiming, “I tell it like it is, then how it could be.” Vince and Lunella represent each half of that statement, respectively, but they both are testaments to the brazen brilliance of youth, and they both are entertaining as hell.
NEXT WEEK: New Jersey’s finest will be in full effect as Ms. Marvel gets an education from Ms. Hill. Face front, true believers!