Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #034: Soul Sacrifice

Friday, May 22, 2020 at 8:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #034: Soul Sacrifice

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #8

Caught between hungry honkers and a crowd of angry cavemen. Just like the old days!

Caught between a rock and a hard place, Turok is in the worst position of all: forced to listen to a villain’s monologue. Chichak, head of the Spider People, boasts that their tribe has been blessed by the spider spirit: not only does their heaven provide ample game to hunt and rivals to pillage… but it’s even brought them Turok, the betrayer of the Lost Land!

Having served under Mothergod, the denizens of the Lost Land believe Turok had turned against them, but his attempt to explain himself — and dunk on their cowardice — falls on deaf ears. “More false words from a false warrior!”

Turok: Son of Stone #39 (May 1964)
The two are referring once again to the events of Unity, but Turok’s history with the Spider Clan goes back further than that — right back to issue #39 of Turok: Son of Stone! It’ll be a while before we get to it, but the “spider men” were just one of many colourful tribes in the Lost Valley, their white, hairless skin making them a standout from the other clans of hairy brutes.
Though they were never the central focus of a story, Tim Truman must have liked them enough to bring them back. Their debut appearance is an iconic one: they captured Turok to fight for their claim to a prize kill, unaware that their rivals, the “monkey men”, had captured Andar for the same purpose!

Speaking of captives, Andy spots Regan and Professor Challenger among the crowd. Regan pleads for Turok not to open fire — the campers’ missing girl is with them as well! Challenger kicks up a fuss, not understanding any of the native tongues everyone is using…

… and gets booted to the water below for his troubles, right in front of the teratosaurs. Chichak makes his leave, having done what he came for — boasting! — and leaves Turok, Andy and Challenger to their fate.

Not if he can help it! Turok straddles the teratosaur and pops one with a precision headshot, before sinking another with a knife to the vitals — but the honker pins him beneath its dead body, and there’s still another advancing on Challenger…

Andy’s here to save the day.
… or not. He wastes a clip and doesn’t even break the skin. The monster turns on him…

… and gets munched by a great big pistosaurus. Why, that’s what they came to investigate in the first place!
Challenger frees himself and shifts Turok from under the weight, but his leg’s in bad shape. They can’t let Chichak get away while his tracks are still clear, so they move on–

— but not before Turok asks for his gun back.
Tim Truman makes a point of discussing this scene in Comics Scene #41.

One key early moment in the Turok-Andy relationship came in #8, when Turok gently took back his pistol after Andy “borrowed” it. Turok’s caution stood in stark contrast to his early Valiant issues, when he fired off more rounds than words. But then, Truman has a ways to go to make up for glamorizing guns in comics like Grimjack and Scout.
“When I was growing up, I would read these comics where Thor would get a building thrown on him,” remembers Truman, who enjoyed recreational gun use growing up in West Virginia. “I would say, ‘Hell, why doesn’t he just shoot the Wrecker?’” But that was then, and Truman has had some second thoughts about guns, violence and comics.
In real life, he and his father accidentally killed a fawn’s mother years ago. souring Tim on hunting. In comics, he watched the firearms he helped bring into vogue fall into, as they say, the wrong hands. “Most comics creators have never fired a gun in their lives,’’ he announces. “Ninety percent of them have never been in a fistfight. That’s the dangerous aspect, ’cause they don’t know that this stuff hurts. My son was real keen to get in a fight at school. I said, ‘Ben, if you make that decision, it ain’t gonna be fun, buddy.’ He found out that was true.
“So, Turok taking Andy’s gun away was sort of a commentary on that whole thing. I couldn’t let Andy keep the gun–he’s a teenager, and we have teenage shootings around here all the time.”

The image of Turok as a hunter who holds respect for the beasts he slays, and carries the burden of what destruction his weapons can enact if used for the wrong cause, is somewhat lost in the wake of his graphic video game output. The Valiant comics, and even some of the Acclaim comics, would make a point of expressing there’s more to the Turok ethos than running and gunning, and it’s an aspect I feel adds compassion and depth to the character — but tell that to people when the video games still remain his most recognisable media appearances, where there’s no alternative to gory wide-scale destruction.

Meanwhile, Regan’s not having a good time of it. Chichak and his people are trying to make her comfortable, but it’s clear they just want her body… and “no means no” means nothing to them. Chichak reacts to her refusing their food as a personal insult, and is ready to bludgeon her if she thinks she’s too good for them.

One of the underlings, Wormfeeder, tries to talk down his leader; hurting her will accomplish nothing, especially if she is to be welcomed into the tribe. Besides, what if they have to move? Turok may be right in that this isn’t their personal heaven… there may still be enemies out there! Regan hopes to escape in the distraction…

… but everyone stops at the sound of a familiar, terrifying roar. Chichak disputes what his underling said: their enemies are merely tests to judge their worthiness… and perhaps this honker would appreciate the sacrifice of a non-believer.

Turok and co. are still following the trail come dawn, and Dr. Challenger, looking more gormless by the second, makes an arse of himself on top of another unexpected prehistoric beast. They also hear the familiar roar–

–and they come face to face with Wormfeeder chained to a rock, behind him “the nightmare of every creature who ever lived in Lost Land”: He Who Slays!

A strictly-action issue, but full of adventure that intentionally harkens back to the classic Gold Key comics, it seems, with plenty of honker encounters and even a run-in with an enemy tribe! Tim Truman had already broadcast his intention to use the Spider People in an interview in Comics Scene #41, eager to draw analogues with the treatment of native people in the 19th century… and slightly spoiling what he has in store for them.

While there’s perhaps not a lot of progress story-wise, there’s some nice little character highlights: showing how dogged Turok can be towards helping people, and even Andy and Regan acting under pressure in their respective circumstances. The fight in the river is perhaps one of the best scenes so far, a rare chance for modern Turok to fight multiple hulking predators without heavy artillery on hand.

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