Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #042: Seeds of Hope

Friday, June 19, 2020 at 8:00 am Comments (0)

X-O Manowar #29, #30


Turok: Impromptu Grief Counsellor.


When we last left Turok, his blood brother Aric had been captured by the Spider Aliens and inflicted to damage so strong not even his X-O armour could withstand it, destroying it utterly. It has been his source of power, his anchor since he first escaped their capture, and without it, he is but a mere man.
That’s dramatic and all, but who’s in the mood for some continuity headaches?


Rai #0 (1992)
In my fruitless endeavour to chronicle every gosh-darned appearance of Turok, I have to mention his third ever appearance in the Valiant universe, after Magnus: Robot Fighter, after Unity, was in the pages of Rai #0. Released on November 1992, before his crossover with X-O Manowar had even hit shelves, the creative team had already assumed that would be Turok’s new status quo, as the two are seen preparing for another dinosaur hunt. I hope that getup was Aric’s idea.

Rai #0 was a pivotal issue for Valiant, as it effectively summarised two thousand years of events leading up to the comics set in 4001AD, and even alluding to the incident that birthed Deathmate. Valiant was big into this grandiose stuff, as it effectively foretold the final fate of Archer’s partner Armstrong, the lineage of Geomancers, and the status quo for characters who had yet to be formally introduced — like Turok!


Secret Weapons #1 (1993)
What’s curious is it sets this scene as taking place in Spring 1993… and then later adjusted it to June 25th 1993 when many of its events were recapped in Secret Weapons #1, released in September 1993, by which point Turok’s solo comic had already started. If you so wanted, you could finagle a way of working this into a reading order, pretending Turok and Aric found another chance to go dicks-out for dinosaurs in between their respective adventures…

… but it’s ultimately pretty pointless. For Turok collectors, they’re just another two comics to add to the pile of one-panel cameos. For anyone invested in the character, it’s nothing but a reminder of the flat characterisation they had for the man in his early days — he hangs out with Aric, he might talk about spirits and namedrop tizwin to remind folks he’s ethnic, and on a good day he might actually hunt some dinosaurs. I can’t express enough gratitude for writers like Tim Truman taking the reins, because Turok was otherwise little more than a notch on Valiant’s bedpost, having bagged all three of Gold Key Comics’ properties.


Anyway! Randy provides covering fire while Paul and Turok try to save their buddy. Aric’s been taken to the Spider Alien queen for a more personal execution…


… but after Paul lands himself in the beast’s mandibles in Aric’s stead, Turok blasts the queen to pieces. The group all manage to escape, having laid waste to a good chunk of the enemies’ forces, though Paul’s left in a bad state.


Despite the advancements of Orb Industries, there’s nothing they can do to quell the poison in Paul; he’s already lost the use of his legs, and it won’t be long before it kills him. Aric confides in Turok his guilt; his hate for his enemies has cost him not just the X-O armour, but the lives of his friends. He owes them a debt of honour, but what good is that if he no longer has his Good Skin? He’s nothing more than a man now.



If anything, it’s given him a treasure to place within his azze-kloth: Without the suit, the X-O ring has no function, but he cannot bring himself to abandon it. Turok is quick to comfort him — it may not be as hands-on, but he can still fight the good fight through Orb Industries. And though he may curse their pity, he has no shortage of comrades to count on. Turok must bid adieu, but he looks forward to meeting up with Aric and Randy once more.


Turok may be out of the picture, but Aric’s still got a messy situation to resolve. Solar tracks down the other surviving X-O armour and its seed, which will grow him a new suit… so long as it has a human host to ‘integrate’ with. Aric is appalled at the thought of asking a friend to give their life just for him to have his toy back, but Paul volunteers. He’s not too thrilled on the whole “dying a slow, agonising death” business, see. It does put the kibosh on his and Randy’s relationship, but Aric needs the Good Skin if he’s to fight his enemies, and Paul would sooner depart on his own terms than be another casualty of the Spider Aliens.


Not that it won’t be messy. After some lovely shots of body horror, the seed does the deed and reconstructs Paul into the bio-organic armour. X-O Manowar is back in business.

A melancholy send-off to what I assume must have been a big turning point in Aric’s story arc, one that demonstrates the strength and camaraderie of his allies, and even finds kinship among them. A lot of this four-issue arc is dedicated to soap opera stuff — Randy and Paul’s relationship, Ken’s lot in life as Aric’s eternal gofer — but it’s carried extremely well by Jorge González’ writing and especially Rik Levins’ artwork (with inks and colours by Kathryn Bolinger and Andrew Kovalt!). The action feels visceral and messy, but the emotion feels true and earnest.

It’s perhaps not the best showing for Turok, who’s lost in the crowd partway through the first issue, though he’s simply blundered in at a time when there’s a lot more supporting characters and plot threads to juggle. That’ll be a recurring trend with Turok and Aric’s future meet-ups, so much so you’ll wonder why he even showed up…!

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