Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #010: Stone and Steel!

Friday, February 28, 2020 at 9:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #010: Stone and Steel!

Magnus: Robot Fighter #12

Turok and Andar face off against threats from the 41st century! Also, some bozo who fights robots guest-stars? He won’t last, surely.

The story begins in the year 4001 as Magnus casts judgment over a dispute in the lower roads of North Am, where two parties argue ownership of a girl, Willow Talltree. It quickly devolves into an all-out brawl, with bodies dropping and 41st century lingo flying, before Magnus and Willow make off to explain things in private.

… buh?

Magnus, Robot Fighter
stands alongside Turok as another Gold Key comics property, first published in 1963. In the futuristic city-continent North Am where humanity has grown reliant on robots and artificial intelligence, Magnus stands in opposition to the status quo, rebelling against unruly machines, and urging humanity to value its free will. While the subtitle might make it sound like he’s a one-man robot genocide, his goal is more about moderation, for society to find a balance without surrendering its independence to the whims of machines – less robots, not no robots. In any case, this is his only interaction with Turok, so we don’t need his life story.

Willow’s party discovered a passage to an ancient land, untamed by modern man and the very definition of “back to nature”. The only problem is, the locals keep trying to lay siege to their settlement and turf them out. Magnus is uncertain after hearing one Doctor Laszlo Noel is responsible for building the settlement–

Magnus: Robot Fighter #13 (1966)
Dr. Noel had not yet appeared in the Valiant continuity, but his debut in the Gold Key strip had been reprinted a couple of months prior. He served as a semi-recurring villain in the original comic, in his first appearance performing some screwball scheme involving putting himself and his followers into deep sleep to make a new home far from the robot lovers of Earth… but still entrusting robots to man the ship in the interim, nearly dunking the lot of them into the sun.

Magnus: Robot Fighter #19 (1967) / Magnus: Robot Fighter #45 (1976)
Despite banishment from North Am for his “anti-social acts”, he’d show up again with similarly short-sighted schemes to eradicate all robots, employing thinly-veiled analogies to incite anti-robot propaganda into the masses. In his last appearance he finally joined forces with Magnus, got magic powers, then sacrificed himself to blow up a robot planet that threatened to destroy Earth. We’ll assume that’s non-canon for this version, though I’d love to know how they’d roll that one back.

In any case, Magnus goes with Willow to assess the situation. And, wouldn’t you know it, following a winding path through a dark, uncanny cave eventually leads to a lost valley! And in that lost valley are dinosaurs! Although ordinarily equipped to fight robots, Magnus holds his own, his enhanced strength ideal for chucking the beasts around like puppets.

And here’s our boys– it’s Turok and Andar! They witness this scuffle from a nearby cliff top and are impressed by the stranger’s strength.

They can’t let a dude this buff join the bad guys, though, so Turok pops an arrow in his chest.

Magnus’ form-fitting onesie isn’t just stylish(?), it’s also armour-plated, meaning he lives to robot-fight another day. He and Willow make it to Dr. Noel’s settlement, its silver chrome aesthetic looking a trifle garish in the jungle locale.

Inside, the bad doctor argues his case: he and his followers are merely escaping the cycle of tyranny in North Am and making a home for themselves, and if deposing savages is what it takes in the name of peace, so be it.

Speaking of so-called savages, the locals come a-knockin’ with a veritable army of mounted dinosaurs, Turok and Andar among them! They breach the gate, though a few of Magnus’ right hooks send them running. He uses non-lethal force against them, but Dr. Noel isn’t so kind even to the men retreating.

Magnus dislikes the thought of forcibly removing the natives, and despite their claim of escaping technology, the colonists have only gone and built a robot-dependent society again, only now it’s mucking up a perfectly good ecosystem. Noel isn’t a man who takes criticism in stride and decides to have Magnus shot, forcing him to leg it out of the city…

… where he gets another arrow in the chest for his troubles. The city believe him dead, but knowing he’s their enemy now, Turok considers him an ally. The tribe lay in wait outside the city, when suddenly they’re set upon by gunmen and dinosaurs!

Andar’s snatched up by a honker, but Magnus cleaves its arm clean off: these things are robots created by Dr. Noel! They manage to ward them off, but there’s too many losses for them to sit and lick their wounds; they need to strike first, and strike fast!

Magnus offers Noel a chance to surrender, but he scoffs at the thought: how could primitives like these stand a chance against robot dinosaurs? Why, with bloody huge spears carved out of tree trunks, that’s how. Noel, once eager to make Willow his bride, sees how she gets goo-goo eyes whenever Magnus shows up, and ditches her to make his escape.

I should mention Willow spends the entire issue being fought over by horny men and women, with little agency of her own, though she knows when it’s appropriate to knee a dude in the nards. In fact, she’s regarded the whole story as “spoils of war”; thinking Magnus is dead, Noel claims her as his own before he bails, and then the natives descend upon her until Magnus asserts that she’s with him. It’s pretty rotten that even millennia in the future (and the wishy-washy time portals in between) women are still subjected to the romantic equivalent of “are you gonna eat that?”

Also, Andar kills a dude. After so many issues of Son of Stone where he and Turok used only non-lethal force against humans, this is a bit gnarly.

Noel and the soldiers have long since legged it, meaning the robots are all that’s left standing – but not for long, after Magnus tears the power generator apart! The honkers no longer draw power from it, freezing them in place…

… and also trapping Noel inside his escape vehicle, a robot apatosaurus. With the command console down and the exit hatch stuck solid, he’s trapped inside his own brutish creation, within spitting distance of the valley’s exit… forever!
(actually he gets out in issue 27 but it’s more darkly ironic this way)

Magnus and Willow return to their native time, forced to leave Noel’s robots just lying around the place. “At least they fit in with the scenery.” Andar is eager to follow after, but Turok knows he’s only got the hots for Willow. Besides, that trail leads to millennia in the future, and the two are still holding out for an exit back to their homeland, in their own time. Their chance will come yet…!

And so, Turok: Son of Stone is absorbed into the Valiant universe; its stars have grown a little, but they look and act very much like their classic selves. Gonzalo Mayo’s art does wonders, balancing both Gold Key properties’ vintage qualities with modern flourishes, the zeerust aesthetic of Magnus’ world offering a charming contrast to the primal prairies of the Lost Land.
Admittedly the crossover potential isn’t utilised to its fullest when Turok and Magnus don’t even speak the same tongue, but did you see a “guest-starring Turok: Son of Stone” banner on the cover? He hadn’t had a comic to his name in ten years! That would soon change, as this story was but a building block leading up to his next appearance…

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