Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #017: The Conqueror

Monday, March 23, 2020 at 9:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #017: The Conqueror

Turok: Son of Stone #12

Turok and Andar meet an old, unwelcome acquaintance.

Always scouting for potential exits from the Lost Valley, Turok and Andar follow the underside of the steep cliff walls… when they see a figure running atop them!

He tumbles down the cliffside, right into the path of an incoming honker, but Turok and Andar down it with poison before more harm can come to the stranger. After realising the smoke signals he was running from was only smoke from a volcano, he introduces himself: he is Gurai of the Mescaleros.

Turok and Andar have heard people speak of that name from before they were trapped in this valley… none of it good. They courteously ignore his power-hungry ramblings and remind him he’s just as trapped as they are, but they’re willing to offer their aid. Gurai walks off in a huff.

… and nearly gets arrowed! A group of hairy warriors come advancing, but at the sight of Turok they put down their arms — it’s Lanok and the gang!
Yep, Turok’s first friend in the Lost Valley is still with us, and according to him, “it has been three suns since Turok visited our cave”. I was going to argue if four issues of content translates to three days of action, Turok’s heart rate must be through the roof… but the last time we saw Lanok, he and his tribe were living on a high mesa. We’ll have to assume their relocation and cave-warming party took place off-panel. In any case, Turok vouches for Gurai, and any friend of Turok is a friend of theirs.

Gurai is shocked by how primitive the locals are; all of their advancements have been the result of Turok and Andar’s teachings, solely for bettering their quality of life and establishing good relations. Gurai, however, sees this as an opportunity to conquer!

He accompanies Lanok on their trading expedition to the lake people, exchanging weapons for fish; they’ve got access to the lake, and Lanok’s crew have more expertise in weapon-making, so it’s only fair. Nuts to that, says Gurai. You’ve got weapons already. Take the fish! They can’t fight spears with haddock!

Turok and Andar suspected Gurai had ill intentions, and arrive after the lake people have been chased off. He scolds the tribe for their behaviour, but they’re thrilled with what can be accomplished through force… and with Gurai now guiding them, they don’t need Turok and his wussy ways!

Gurai immediately makes plans for them to enslave the rest of the valley’s tribes. The concept of slavery is new to Lanok, but when told it means someone else does all the back-breaking labour on their behalf, it sounds pretty keen! Turok and Andar, having been cast out, turn to the lake people to held them defend themselves against a second strike, by showing them how to make boomerangs.

Lanok’s tribe get positively wrecked by these new weapons, and Gurai legs it. Turok calls for a ceasefire, and demands the two tribes make their peace — it’s Gurai they’re after. He booked it at the first sign of defeat, and has since gotten himself cornered by a triceratops’ nest. He may be a slimy worm, but he doesn’t deserve a fate like this. They slay the beast and go to help him–

— and get tied up for their troubles. Gurai’s got it all figured out: he’s found an exit out of the valley, and he’s taking the head of the triceratops with him! Though his tribe may hate him now, they’ll change their tune once they see his sweet trophy, and they’ll make him chief!

And when he’s chief, he’ll do what he’s always dreamed of doing — to take over the world!
Well, close enough.
Gurai’s a really interesting change of pace for Turok: Son of Stone. Not just the first person from the outside world to fall in here, but also the one other person from an adjacent culture the pair have met. It’s curious that it makes repeated mentions of Gurai’s tribe, and even namedrops the Aztecs south of Carlsbad. It’s the first time the series has directly named a character’s heritage, especially when we know nothing of Turok and Andar’s, beyond glimpses of their generalised customs like tipis and whatnot.
One wonders if by explicitly naming him as a Mescalero Apache, is it an attempt to paint him as a baddie? Like, they already hate Gurai, but some of the dialogue seems to suggest they’d be willing to go on the warpath with or without him. I’m not clued up enough on Apache media studies to weigh in efficiently.

Because bondage is never a hindrance to comic book heroes, Turok and Andar break free but are in no position to pursue Gurai — he’s too far up the cliff, and he’s broken all of their weapons… except for the boomerang!

Though it doesn’t stop him, it’s enough to make him drop the evidence of his journey into the Lost Valley… and destroy the fragile path, denying our heroes a chance for freedom. Gurai takes his leave, and though Andar takes solace in driving him out of the valley, he fears what will happen to their tribe back home. Will Gurai’s schemes come to fruition? Will he ever wage his war upon the southern plains?

Don’t count on it. The Mescalero chief tells him to pull the other one.

The Conqueror is a really interesting tale; it’s the first one to show other people from Turok’s time have gotten stranded here, and even the first time we’re shown someone exiting back to the world outside — a feat forever out of our heroes’ grasp! Gurai is a fun threat; their first encounter with a fellow lost soul, but not one with noble intentions, using their same lessons but for power and dominance rather than mere survival.
I can’t speak for how sensitive it is to Apache depictions — Turok and Andar have never been portrayed negatively in Son of Stone, but it’s curious that it makes great efforts to spell out Gurai’s heritage and tribe, all the while playing him up as a power-mad baddie. That, and we still know nothing of Turok or Andar’s tribe.

It’s also a lot wordier than the average story, yet a lot more compact. Many of the issues so far I’ve had to summarise extensively, sparing you multiple consecutive pages of T & A bumbling about in the woods. It’s perhaps one of the best stories so far; sharp, concise, with no wasted pages!

Perilous Voyage is back to the somewhat aimless norm, though. Stranded on an island in an island sea, they find a boy scaling a cliff to procure pteranodon eggs, and takes a nasty tumble from the beasts’ attacks.

The two try to aid the boy, saving him from a mosasaur prowling the shoreline, but are captured before they can resuscitate him. The tribe believe Turok and Andar are the boy’s attackers! The Ru-Dor tribe’s homes are not ordinary huts or caves, but instead pits dug into the earth. Chief Woluk asks his people what should become of those who dare assault his only son, Korr!

Korr puts the kibosh on the trial by waking up and telling them of T & A’s good deed. Well, that solves that. Turok suggests the chief find a safer line of work for his son, but hunting eggs and gathering herbs are their main source of food on the island. The island is composed primarily of chalk, making it easy to dig dens but nigh-impossible to make tools to hunt. Relics from Woluk’s ancestors suggest otherwise — spearheads! Turok presumes they must have gotten stranded on this island and forgotten their old ways over the generations.

For the good of the tribe, Turok decides they must find a way off the island, and they won’t even need rocks to make their tools. A dead mosasaur carcass can be all you need — here’s one they slew earlier! The tribe quickly set to work, building spears from its bones and carving logs with its jaws…

… and in no time, they’ve got themselves a fleet of rafts to make the journey! It’s a long and perilous journey; the tribe have feared the sea for the nasties lurking within. They fend off a zeuglodon and a kronosaur, but a few well-aimed spears ward them off — what they don’t kill, the other sea beasts will finish off by following the trail of blood.

At last, they reach land. There’s game to hunt, minerals to build with, and a whole new world to explore! Turok and Andar take their leave; it’s up to the Ru-Dor to make their future, but they’ll always be there to lend a hand.

Although I can’t vouch for a verified source, Lee Elias is credited as the artist for this issue, and it stands as his only contribution to Son of Stone. Among comics historians, he’s perhaps best known for his work on Harvey Comics’ superheroine Black Cat, but in today’s age of social media and aesthetic blogs, it’s his long career in horror comics that’s kept his legacy alive, among them Tomb of Terror, Chamber of Chills, and other eerie alliterations.
His depictions of Turok and Andar are fairly strait-laced, but the side-characters — the scheming Gurai or the the well-meaning Korr — all look terrific, no doubt from his knack for kooky ghouls and strangers who’d drive the plots of such horror plots and crime stories. Constraining his art to the six-panel page is a bummer, as we don’t see his art at its full potential. Track down some of his covers if you can, they’re frightfully good.

Filed under Dinosaur Hunter Diaries Tagged , ,

Comments are closed.

« »