Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #039: The Cave of Fear

Monday, June 8, 2020 at 8:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #039: The Cave of Fear

Turok: Son of Stone #23

Turok rescues his first damsel in distress.

Our heroes rescue a woman, Ulla, from a manhandling honker, and she’s incredibly gracious for their help — up until they offer to carry her home to her tribe. She’ll be killed if she returns! For whatever reason, the people believe her death was willed by the gods, dispatching the honker to do the deed…

… but Turok and Andar meddling in almighty affairs won’t change her fate! They rough them up and cart Ulla away, chucking her in the cave of fear and sealing her behind an immovable rock door. The guards outnumber them and refuse to budge, but turn tail and run once our heroes rustle up some triceratops to chase them off.

The pair enter the cave, finding no sign of Ulla — only the skeletal remains of ground-hugging beasts. It can’t be the work of the only other beast they find — an elasmosaurus! It KOs Andar with its club-like snout, but Turok quickly takes it out with a poison arrow.

Have you noticed anything different in the panels so far? The lettering is different! The typewriter-style Leroy fontface that was prolific through Dell’s adventure comics of the 1950s is finally abandoned, replaced with hand-lettering we more commonly associate with comic books nowadays. While I’d since gotten acquainted with the old font, I confess it was a bit jarring at first; it gave the dialogue a somewhat cold, clinical feel to it, which wasn’t at all helped by the dry-as-toast writing.
Not that it didn’t have its charms. The typewriter lettering, as minor as it may have been, gave an almost documentary approach to the action, especially in the earlier, more meandering stories. It may not be a tight and orderly three-act plot, but it felt like a look into the everyday lives of our heroes wandering the Lost Valley. With the stories now driven more by action and characters, the hand-lettering ties everything together a little better.

Bending over to check on Andar, Turok suddenly feels woozy, but not when he’s standing — a low-lying poisonous gas! They find Ulla at the cave’s core, confirming his fear the cave is actually the belly of a volcano– they’ll be cooked by lava if they don’t escape fast!

With Turok carrying her on their back, they’re forced to shimmy across pillars of stone to retrace their steps, because the floor actually is lava. They escape to safety… but the relief is bittersweet. If Ulla’s own tribe have acted on her life, where will she live now? Turok and Andar begin preparations to take her with them, until she finds a new settlement to welcome her in…

While they’re gone, the tribal lads find her outside the cave and believe she escaped on her own — the gods must have willed it! They change their tune and carry Ulla home with great reverence; Andar’s a trifle miffed none of their efforts were acknowledged, but it’s better this way, for Ulla’s sake.

Young Earth tells the tale of The Death of the Dinosaurs, though largely focuses on individual species’ methods of fending off predators. The most curious methods listed are the stegosaurus’ “second brain”, or the corythosaurus’ built-in oxygen deposits for hiding underwater… both theories that have long since been debunked.

It proposes dinosaurs simply hadn’t the smarts to adapt to the changing world, dying out as the drying earth reduced the water supply, leaving only each other as the remaining viable food sources. Given some of the galaxy brain stuff Young Earth has thrown out on a whim, I’m a little disappointed it didn’t propose something a lot more dramatic.
… but I won’t lie and say these panels didn’t make me sad. I don’t care how it’s addressed, anything that acknowledges the death of the dinosaurs brings me close to tearing up. I think Dinosaurs: Fun, Fact & Fantasy is responsible for that, which I have stacks of nostalgia for.

Turok and Andar stumble upon a cave tribe they’ve had a prior run-in with — possibly the same folk from last issue’s The Outsiders? — and fend off a wounded honker that’s lashing out at the people in its dying fits. They thank the pair, but Turok’s not so keen on making friends after they held Andar’s feet to the fire for the secret behind their poison.

That’s behind them, surely. The tribe have a secret of their own to share: they know of the secret burial ground where all beasts go to die, and boy Larg can lead them to it! Turok thinks this is a load of poppycock, another excuse to catch them off-guard and learn their secrets. Andar’s won over by it, though. They so rarely find the remains of dead beasts in their journeys… it’s gotta be real, right? It can’t be another excuse to beat him up and interrogate him, right?

It’s another excuse to beat him up and interrogate him.

At least, that was the tribe’s idea. Larg sought no harm against him, and stands by his offer to show Andar the burial grounds; he leads him out the secret back exit of their cave and begin their journey. Turok, meanwhile, finds Andar missing from his camp and knows he’s fraternising with the locals again, but not necessarily of his own will.

The boys are chased up a tree by a styracosaurus, and unwittingly given front row seats to a throwdown between it and a passing gorgosaurus. Both beasts are too wounded to finish each other off, and they tail the horned beast through a cave… finally uncovering the alleged burial ground!

There’s no time to revel in the sight; a man-hungry dimetrodon followed them through the cave, chasing them into the marsh… trapping the lot of them in quicksand! And now another honker is after them! This day just gets worse and worse.

Mercifully, Turok saves them from the beast, and uses a vine to pull the boys to safety. He believes he has an answer for why this is the honkers’ burial ground: the smell of water lures the dying beasts, only for them to be trapped in the quicksand and pulled into the marshy depths, leaving no remains to be found. Andar and Larg are satisfied knowing of its existence, but have no desire to ever return, and now know just how underhanded the natives can be in learning their secrets.

This is the first time we see Andar getting to hang out with someone his own age, and it’s nice to see. The poor kid’s spending the best years of his childhood hunting dinosaurs under Turok’s wing, without the freedom to enjoy being an idiot teenager.
Although the two remain friends, we won’t be seeing Larg again. Continuity’s a fickle creature! Andar makes several earnest friends throughout the series, but due to their coveted tools of arrows and fire, he can never get too cosy for fear of being exploited.

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