Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #002: The Mystery of the Mountain

Friday, January 31, 2020 at 9:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #002: The Mystery of the Mountain

Turok: Son of Stone #656

Nearly an entire year later, Turok returns to Four Color Comics and picks up exactly where it left off!

Having made pleasantries with a primitive tribe of “stone age Indians” native to the Sunken Valley, Turok and Andar have begun showing them how to make and use their own bows and arrows. The language barrier is apparently no longer an issue, though the locals’ verbosity is a little stunted by comparison.

The tribe don’t do too badly for folk only acquainted with bashing things, though one bull-headed tribe member, Sinak, doesn’t quite master the finer points of it, snapping his bow and tussling with Turok to try and take his. Lanok and the others have to hold Sinak back before he goes too far, and as punishment, he’s put on sentry duty by the canyon’s narrow entrance…

… and in the morning, he’s gone! Another unlucky schmuck takes his position the next night, and also disappears without a trace. Turok and Andar volunteer to take the position to see what could have taken them.

They soon find their answer: a big honkin’ Pteranodon! Spying the cave it emerged from, they venture inside and find it to be a hive full of the beasts! For the tribe’s safety, they’ve no choice but to wipe them all out; “even little ones grow up to be man-eaters!”
Turok: Son of Stone sticks fairly rigidly to a uniform six-panel setup, only rarely deviating from the norm in these early stories, but the wide panels boast some particularly lush art, making for some lovely establishing shots. This sequence in particular has some great colouring too, the darkness of the torch-lit cave evoked beautifully through moody reds and inky silhouettes.

Their supply of torches is burned through in the skirmish, forcing them to follow cracks of daylight to find the surface again… and it leads to an entirely different valley, even bigger than the last one! It’s just as full of colourful wildlife as before; saber-toothed tigers, large carnivorous avians…

… even an adorable, helpful raccoon!


Now’s a good time to mention that this issue opens with Dell’s “A Pledge to Parents”, a faux-plaque that states their comics only contain “clean and wholesome juvenile entertainment”, and assures parents it doesn’t contain any nasty stuff, “only good fun.” This is effectively Dell’s answer to the Comics Code Authority, affirming their own in-house duty to “eliminate, rather than regulate, objectionable material.” They were already answering to Disney for their licensed strips, so they hardly needed a second-stringer authoritarian like the CCA to monitor things.

It’s a good way of bringing into context the tone of Turok: Son of Stone. The series doesn’t revel in the death of living things, either in its writing or in its art. The eradication of the pteranodons could easily have been a bloodbath (and almost certainly would’ve been if this were the Valiant run), but when Turok or Andar are forced to kill a threat, it is always to preserve human life, even if that entails using the meat and skins for their own survival. The lives of other animals may be lost, but it is depicted simply as nature playing its course. Right after the raccoon bites it, the bird gets bodied by a passing tiger. There’s no lesson to take away from it, no pathos – that’s just the way the cookie crumbles!

Anyway, here’s Andar getting wrecked by a bison.

Turok and Andar encounter a woman, Yellana, whose tribe’s hunters have all gone missing, leaving their clifftop village without food and protection. They may not speak the same tongue, but she’s eager to help, and even asks for a little of Turok’s poison for her spear to aid them in their search.
The comic dabbled with language barriers occasionally early on, and in this case Turok and Yellana mostly communicate in sign, translating what he can understand of her speech to Andar when necessary. This little obstacle got weaned out as the series progressed, it seems. It served mostly as a formality to establish these folks weren’t native to the land or time they came from, but only muddied up pages with unintelligible grunts, narration boxes, and a whole lot of hullabaloo. It doesn’t help that Yellana speaks perfect English in a couple of panels anyway. An oversight? Translated for the readers’ benefit? Who cares?

Their search leads them to some funky fauna, including a doedicurus and a herd of mastodon, but still no hunters. Only a spearhead from a skeletonised animal carcass to suggest they’d passed here. There are tracks, though – human tracks!

Their trail leads them to a big stinkin’ cliff, one with a troubling number of corpses at the bottom. If they slipped down there, they’d be done for.

Which, surprise, is exactly what happens, courtesy of a panther attack! Turok has the skill to sink an arrow into it mid-free-fall, and paired with Yellana’s spear and Andar’s assist, the cat gets enough poison to lose its fighting spirit. Sweet skills aside, they’re still down the bottom of a chasm. What now?

As fortune (or misfortune) would have it, the hunters from Yellana’s tribe are also in this pit! They’ve been stranded here for weeks but have been lucky to survive on other beasts that fell in as well. Turok and Andar put the panther to use and make ropes from its rawhide, allowing them to latch onto a tree at the clifftop and pull everyone to safety.

There’s also some hogs up there, but they just goad them into falling off the cliff. This happens a lot.

Also, rope facts.

Armed with food, the hunters return to the village and welcomed back with open arms, and Turok and Andar have a home for the time being, but they’ve no intention of settling down: the exit to this valley must be out there somewhere!

With the initial premise out of the way, this is very much the standard for Turok: Son of Stone stories. Turok and Andar stumble from one predicament to another, struggling for survival and aiding whoever is in need, often jettisoning their prior allies for whoever next needs their help — not out of malice, but simply having resolved their problem and a need to move on. Would you like to have seen what became of Lanok’s tribe and their learning the ways of the bow? Too bad, they’re in a whole other valley now, and this dame’s looking for help! Well, I say that, but Lanok and company will manage to crop up a lot in the next few issues one way or another. Just you see.

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