Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #005: The Secret Place

Monday, February 10, 2020 at 9:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #005: The Secret Place

Turok: Son of Stone #5

Turok and Andar get a pet!

This issue begins with a three-page history lesson of the Sunken Valley, explaining how it formed over the course of millions of years, eons before Turok and Andar first set foot in it. It’s perhaps the most backstory the land ever gets, although nowhere near as fantastical as in other depictions of Turok, but it’ll do in a pinch.

While teaching Lanok and the boys more archery, a massive quake rocks the island, sending a wave that sends all their boats downstream, trapping them. The tribe immediately believe it to be the work of “the great Manitou”, though Turok isn’t one to jump to conclusions (despite what the misapplied speech bubble might suggest).

Luckily, one of the boats washed up on land, so Turok and Andar set out to the mainland to investigate the cause of the quake. There’s a suspicious plume of smoke rising from the land…

… and frightening whips of fire to go with it! The river seemingly dries up, now flowing through one of the newly-formed cracks, and rocks are raining from the sky, as if things weren’t bad enough.

All this commotion causes a cliff to come crumbling down, giving the two an escape route if they can climb fast enough. Andar still blames the Great Manitou for all this mess.
“Manitou” is a word from Algonquian culture, roughly translating to “spirit”. It’s pretty much the essence that watches over every living thing, including the land, though it’s also applied as an adjective to things that demand respect, like revered elders or big scary birds. The Great Manitou effectively serves as the voice of god in stories from local folklore…

… at least, I can only trust it’s local folklore. Most of the sources on Algonquian culture are credited to white authors and are over a hundred years old, not to mention the long history of Native American culture being appropriated by Christian missionaries, it’s unclear whatever you’re reading is the original tale or re-interpreted for modern audiences. Most articles on terminology don’t even delve that much into their original usage, instead muddying the waters with their new, appropriated meaning.
I mention this only because it’s notable for being one of the few loan-words the comic employs that isn’t groaners like “ugh” or “squaw”, though it’s still effectively a fancy synonym for crediting natural disasters to god’s will.

There’s no smoke without fire, and there’s no great balls of fire without a volcano. If they keep moving, they could safely get away from the incoming lava flow…

… but if they did that, they’d be leaving their friends to die. I respect how our heroes, at least in these early issues, always do what’s right. Even with an easy way out, they never take the simple action. Nobody asks to save a village from a volcanic eruption, but when the opportunity arises…!

They clamber down the mountain again and backtrack all the way to the island of Lanok’s tribe – the wildlife are too busy booking it to hunt, though a few hoppers are still on the lookout for an easy lunch.

Following the now-barren riverbed, they return to camp and surprise everyone who thought they’d died. Despite their pleas, the tribe aren’t willing to move. Turok calls them sissies and they instantly change their mind.

They follow their path back along the riverbed, using their poison arrows to ward off any threat that dares stop them. They voyage through a previously-submerged tunnel, winding in a new canyon safe from the volcano’s reach — especially now that the tunnel blew up and is walled off now.

The second story begins with a village celebrating Turok and Andar’s slaying of a mastodon… so you’d think this should follow directly from issue #4’s “The Mastodon”, right? I don’t know, honestly. Lanok isn’t name-checked, so we don’t even know if this is the same tribe or not. They’re depicted differently than usual, garbed in big fur throws and with no knowledge of bows. The art in Son of Stone is rarely consistent, and what little chronology the series has quickly goes all over the place, so don’t worry about it.

Lanok wasn’t chums with a shaman, either, and Turok’s not happy to see him. “He is a friend of nobody but himself!” The old coot wants to know the secrets of their poison arrows, but Turok politely tells Anaki to take a leap.

This is a recurring theme throughout the series: Turok and Andar’s knowledge they must keep secret from the locals. Their bows and arrows already gave them an advantage, and the poison has saved their bacon almost constantly since they discovered how to brew it; they’ll learn a few more tricks as the series go on. They use their weapons strictly for good, fighting to protect those who cannot protect themselves, but if they were to share it, who knows how it’d end up.
Lanok’s crew evidently hadn’t any vendettas that meant they couldn’t be trusted with bows, but the last thing the Sunken Valley needs is an arms race. Tribal scuffles would get a lot more catastrophic than just a few bruised noggins.

Anaki’s not privy to the destabilising influence of a war economy, he’s just out to gank some poison. He drains their supply in the night, leaving the pair without their secret weapon against a busy morning of monsters. They know how to tell when someone’s tailing them, though, so they they pretend to brew up a new supply of poison using bogus ingredients, and that keeps Anaki off their back.

While sourcing some real poison, they hear a strange animal cry – it’s a baby “longnose”! They rescue the little mastodon from the pit it’d fallen into, and it takes a shine to the pair. Even after they’ve brewed their poison and acquired new containers for it, the little thing continues to follow them.

I am all over this. Turok’s whole thing is about surviving encounters with wildlife, yet you’d think having an animal companion would make life so much easier. On one hand, credit where it’s due for not falling into the trope – so many “survival man” stories shoehorned in impractical furry sidekicks, among them Tarzan’s Cheeta and Ka-Zar’s Zabu, some of them perhaps ill-fitted for the variety of adventures their masters went on.
On the other hand, I’m a little miffed that in the franchise’s long-running history, Turok has never had a recurring dinosaur companion. Let me have this! I don’t care how impractical it is, it’d be neat!

They return to where they duped Anaki and follow his trail – based on the tracks, he was attacked by a buffalo and barely survived, forcing him to retreat to a cave. All that’s inside is a pool of water, leading Andar to believe he simply fell in and drowned…

… but Turok investigates, finding the pool leads out to an opening! Anaki is lying in wait with his stolen merch, and uses the last of his strength to fire on Turok. He misses, and he dies. Get fucked, Anaki.

Turok leads Andar through to the opening, where they put Anaki to rest and do a spot of exploring. It’s a whole new valley to explore, full of vegetation and natural resources, accessible only via the pool… but there’s no wildlife to be found. Without game to hunt, this place is no use to them…

… but for the baby mammoth, it’s perfect! All the vegetation it could hanker for, and free of dangers and predators. With a bit of finagling, they drag it through the pool and into its new home. They have to leave it behind for now, but maybe sometime they can return and bring along some company for it…?

Anaki the shaman admittedly does very little with the job title, acting only as a cryptic asshole that nobody likes, but having a foe who works with lies and deception is a nice change from the wordless savages they usually contend with. Although Turok and Andar usually try to make peace with the people they meet, they know they can’t just trust any ol’ schmoe who comes their way.

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