Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #058: The Snake Man

Friday, August 14, 2020 at 8:00 am Comments (0)

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #16


Drop everything, Turok needs to promo an event comic!


The sky over Big Bend Country has turned a frightful shade of pink, with an ominous black void hanging over the Earth. This would be of no interest to a couple of drug-runners out in the sticks, if this occurrence hadn’t also coincided with a worldwide electronic blackout, stranding them in a conked-out jeep. What else could go wrong? Are they going to get attacked by bionisaurs or something?


Oh.


Turok has sought spiritual guidance in response to these bad omens, and is met with cries from the earth. That, and the visage of Sandria Darque — the sister of Master Darque, a practitioner of the dark arts who’s a frequent meddler in Shadowman’s affairs. The big M.D.’s in the middle of some necromantic shenanigans at the moment, courtesy of an alien power that’s also granted Sandria with the ability to teleport. She can’t stand by and let her brother run amok like this, and is using her newfound power to recruit help wherever she can, hoping to undo all the chaos her brother has strewn.
More relevant to Turok’s interests, an enemy from his past has been revived by this alien power — a shaman, one who is harvesting strength from the dinosaurs. All she can do is point him to Big Bend County, before disappearing as cryptically as she appeared.


The two bionisaurs have since travelled to a small town and made a home for themselves hunting the cattle and townsfolk. Everyone’s taken shelter in the town hall and counting on qualified volunteers to take on the beasts; it’s not like they can call for outside help. Enter Sidewinder. A mysterious stranger who looks every part the hero they need. He doesn’t ask for payment; all he wants is the dinosaurs’ pelts.


Turok arrives in town, having tracked the dinosaurs’ movements. Ever since the void appeared in the sky, the bionisaurs have been acting strangely, losing their enhanced thinking capabilities and reduced to the slathering primitives they once were. He finds a coral snake lurking behind one of the houses, and slaying it suddenly brings back the memory of the shaman he fought all those years ago…


… back in 1860, before he and Andar had begun adventuring together. He had been riding in Big Bend Country when he encountered a pair of Apache raiders ravaging the caravan of a white family, and sought to intervene on their dishonourable affair.

This is the first time we see a glimpse of Turok’s life before his time in the Lost Land… and with it, finally a rough idea of when his adventures began, taking place in the latter half of the 19th century. We’ll see a slow trickle of flashbacks throughout the Valiant run, offering more insight into our hero’s life, history, and pre-history.

It admittedly undoes a few facts that were stated in the original Son of Stone comics, the most notable of which is, well, Turok interacting with white folk! The earliest issues of the Gold Key comics made a point of repeatedly stating Turok and Andar lived “some hundreds of years before the coming of the white man to America,” though to be fair, that introductory paragraph got dropped pretty sharpish.
One thing to remember is that Valiant’s runs of Magnus: Robot Fighter and Solar: Man of the Atom, for all their allusions to the classic Gold Key iterations, did not treat themselves as continuations of the old stories, and Turok is no different. While familiar elements are carried over (Chichak and the Spider Clan but one example), these stories are effectively reboots. We can assume some parts of Son of Stone are still canon, but I’d bet the story where Turok drinks magic shrinking juice probably never happened. (we won’t be covering that one for a while, but you don’t want to miss it! or maybe you do, it’s pretty dumb)


Turok fended them off, slaying one with a tomahawk, but was too late to save the travellers — Snakehandler had seen to that. The two locked blades, but Turok got the upper hand and slayed the Apache shaman, who uttered a prophecy of his return… which, until now, sounded like hogwash.


Turok awakens from his vision to find a bionisaur nearly on top of him, and just barely slices it from belly to neck before it does the same to him… and he’s still got the other one to worry about.


He’s in no condition to take the beast head-on — that last one was enough to take the wind out of his sails. Instead, Turok improvises a pit trap over a cistern, and lures it into plummeting through its weak covering. Before he can end its life with a single arrow…


… the hunter, Sidewinder, appears to knock him out. Turok recognises this guy — it’s Snakehandler, the Apache shaman! He’s here to take this honker’s energy and be on his way, but not without a little parting gift: a coral snake. It sinks its jaws into Turok and Snakehandler makes his leave, happy in the knowledge his enemy will be a goner within the hour.


As Turok lies dying, the visage of Sandra Darque appears before him once more, and she’s got good news and bad news. The good news: Turok’s had so many run-ins with snakes he’s developed an immunity to their venom; he’ll live to dinosaur hunt another day. The bad news: Snakehandler has gone. He is a creation of the Chaos, and will continue to walk this world… but she won’t be there to help him with it.


A strange little bump in the road for Turok. Although a pretty straightforward romp — slay some bionisaurs, allude to some unknown threat in the background, the usual — it’s a curious way of trying to tie in Turok’s brand of adventure with the world-threatening events spanning other Valiant stories. It does give us the barest of glimpses at Turok’s life before the Lost Lands, and I gotta call particular attention to Mark Pusateri’s colouring, which does wonders with all the purple cosmic hues surrounding the whole affair.

The story pushes Turok’s native elements to unexpected but pleasing prominence, from his war cry to praying in his native tongue, as well as dredging up that inexplicable Kiowa-snake feud last seen in the Turok Yearbook. The issue even has a letter from George N. Poolaw, the then-treasurer of the Kiowa Business Committee, who expresses his appreciation for the series’ revival and extends his support from the Kiowa tribe of Oklahoma regarding their native stories.
It’s a great gesture to see it printed, and nice to acknowledge Native American representation reaching its audience, even if it wasn’t nearly as mainstream as a nationally-syndicated TV show or whatever. It’s probably not the main draw for most folks, but I’ve been particularly enjoyed seeing Turok’s native heritage explored. The dinosaur stuff is good too, but the Kiowan experience is something I see less of… which feels brutal to say out loud. Dinosaurs, extinct for several million years, probably have better media representation than most Indigenous people…!

Despite the branding, the threat of this issue has no bearing on the overarching story of The Chaos Effect, nor is the titular snake man ever seen again, despite constant queries from readers in the letters page. What do we miss by not reading The Chaos Effect?


The Chaos Effect: Omega (Nov 1994)
Oh, you know. The usual.

The major takeaways from the series is X-O Manowar #33’s venture into space, where Aric, the H.A.R.D. Corps, and the Armorines team up to finally put an end to the Spider Alien menace, with vengeance enacted upon the killer of X-O’s previous armour, Aristedes. What he doesn’t know is one of the Spider Aliens’ ships was downed before it left the atmosphere during the worldwide power outage… and that’s a loose end we might see tied up with our pal Turok in tow!


The Chaos Effect: Alpha (Oct 1994)
The first issue does include Turok among glimpses of Valiant’s heroes across the globe all fighting their own part in the all-consuming war… clearly overestimating his involvement. But for any collectors in the audience out to get every single appearance of the dinosaur hunter, here’s another one-panel cameo for the checklist. You can thank me later.

The event ends with the final fate of Archer and Armstrong, as they and the Geomancer are whisked through a time arc in a final bid for victory by Master Darque. While the four are believed to be dead, the epilogue consists of journal entries from Geomancer Geoff McHenry, explaining what happened inside of the time arcs and where they are now. Long story short… they’re in the Lost Land.


The Chaos Effect: Omega (Nov 1994)
We never got a clear answer on what the heck happened there after Unity, though the imagery sure suggested the place got pulped. Geomancer explains the redirected chaos energy was swept all the way back to the Big Bang, where it “formed a pocket between reality and unreality”, which just so happened to result in a perfectly-reformed Lost Land, complete with Mothergod’s rainbow tower.

This won’t be addressed in Turok’s own comic for a few issues, but for all intents and purposes, the Lost Land picked up exactly where it left off. Still without the people who were strewn throughout time, but all the cataclysmic shenanigans assumed to have occurred after Unity simply didn’t happen. At least, I’m guessing. It’s all very vague, and trying to comprehend all this stuff when it’s outside of linear time makes my brain sizzle.

I’ve said “long story short” already and clearly didn’t mean it. The Lost Land’s back in action, but it’ll be a while before Turok gets to visit it! ‘Nuff said!

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