Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #053: Prey of the Flesh Eaters

Monday, July 27, 2020 at 8:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #053: Prey of the Flesh Eaters

Turok: Son of Stone #30

The birds are back in town.

You’ll notice something new on the cover above: the series is now published under the Gold Key Comics banner! I won’t deny the bevy of names associated with Son of Stone had me confused; the series was always developed and printed by Western Publishing, but Dell did the legwork of distributing them to storefronts. Western Publishing was now taking on the reins themselves, publishing comics under their Gold Key imprint. It’ll change names again later on, but it’ll still be Western at the helm.
What does this mean for Turok? Absolutely nothing. But it is comic book trivia, so you can use it to impress your friends. Friends love it when you tell them about the minutiae of 1960s publishing arms!

Today’s story kicks off fast — our heroes down a pteranodon with crow feathers in its beak, a creature which they’ve never seen in the Lost Valley! They ponder how such a bird could have found its way in to become another beast’s lunch: the mountainous rim of the valley is too high for even a bird to soar over. There must be a low pass through the mountain it used — and that means there might be a way out after all!

It’s one of those things that happens so subtly it’s easy to miss, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen anything without scales in the Lost Valley, isn’t it? In the first eight issues Turok fought a smilodon, befriended a wolf and a horse, and their first ever catch was a rabbit… yet it’s been a long time since we’ve seen any mammal that wasn’t upright and carrying a spear. At some point, we’re simply to assume all the non-human life in the Lost Valley consists of reptiles and dinosaurs, or dinosaurs-by-association, and any other life must have entered from outside.

Our heroes follow a herd of pteranodon, hoping to track their nesting and hunting habits to see where they could bag a bird… but unwittingly tread upon hallowed ground. A local tribe have considered the beasts to be bringers of good fortune ever since they began laying eggs, and they’ll chase off any intruders with lethal force if they have to!

Our heroes narrowly escape a stoning, and begin winding their way through the jungle to avoid their guards. They’re forced to slay a honker before it descends on them, its cries drawing the tribe in their direction; the two hoof it up the trees and onto the cliffs, eager to follow the pteranodons overhead.

They scale the mountain, keeping a close eye on what directions the pteradons fly. They all head towards locations seemingly with no hope of an exit, but when they reach the top, they spy a pair fighting over a catch… and it looks like a crow!

They shoot the both of them, but it’s for naught; it is a black-coloured bird, but none like any they’ve seen before, perhaps native to the Lost Valley. It seems they were simply mistaken from the start. There’s no time for an in-depth ornithological study — the tribe are on their tail and chase them back down the mountain again!

Andar takes pleasure in the death of living things after this wild goose chase… but now that they have time to compare feathers, they realise it was a crow feather they had after all, and bears no resemblance to those of the native bird! They may not have found what they looking for, but if a crow did get in, there’s hope for them yet. “Let this crow feather be a reminder of hope — hope for a way out of Lost Valley!”

The unnamed single-page animal features still pop up in Son of Stone, this time spotlighting some keen prehistoric avians. It’s a bummer birds have been ruled out following this new status quo; T & A ran into a diatryma way back in #2 (or #656, take your pick), but it seems like we won’t ever be seeing another one, or an encore of its raccoon-gobbling. Boo.

A volcanic eruption spoils an otherwise lovely evening, sending the wildlife into disarray and forcing our heroes to escape through a cave. On the other side, two warring tribe have been forced to share safe land, and neither side is terribly chuffed about it; it could come to blows if nothing is done.

Turok calls out to them, warning them that the lava is still incoming, and helps them set sail for an island in the middle of the lake. What seems like a credit to human cooperation quickly sours when one tribe call dibs on the sweet high ground, while the other hoard their stash of fruit. None of them even have the courtesy to say thank you to their saviours!

What’s worse, the refugee honkers have no idea of the delicate balance of nature, and quickly eviscerate the native herbivores. The two factions of flesh-eaters refuse to make the first move on each other, and Turok fears if they launch an assault on them, they’ll all converge on the puny humans and make short work of them.

So, of course, that’s what the tribes do. The volcano has yet to cool down, but they can’t survive like this until then… not unless the honkers were feasting on someone else instead. They’re not going to sacrifice one of their own — that’s barbaric! — so who’s willing and gullible?

Oh, poor, dopey Andar. No joke, they pulled the “won’t you come for lunch?” routine on him. Turok launches his last poison arrow into an incoming honker, making a better feast for its cannibalistic cohorts, but he’s no closer to saving Andar. If all else fails, use fire — to make a smokescreen!

This issue notably drops the arrows commonly used to guide readers through panels in the correct order, typically when a tall panel interrupts two small ones. There’s never any clear-cut rules for how to follow panels the a right-aligned panel spans two rows, and Son of Stone uses every possible option you can think of. This is the only page in the entire issue to employ the arrows, for an otherwise unprecedented Z-shape panel order!

Freeing Andar under the cover of fire, the two high-tail it to the raft and sail back to the mainland, where the volcano has since settled down. If the tribe has any sense they’ll do the same, and maybe come back with an apology while they’re at it.

While most Dell and Gold Key comics simply feature ads on the back cover, or even the final page of the story, this issue introduces a text-free version of the cover art as the first in a line of Turok pin-ups. This feature would last three more issues before, like many side-features, quietly disappearing forever. It is a nice opportunity to really appreciate the artwork; I admit I don’t give the covers much coverage on the blog, primarily because they’re better to admire on your own than have me pointing out the details, but they’re perhaps the most iconic part of Son of Stone. I’ll have to make a list of favourites sometime when I’ve a bland entry to pad out!

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