Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #071: Mortal Combat

Monday, September 28, 2020 at 8:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #071: Mortal Combat

Turok: Son of Stone #39

Nothing in this world has prepared you for this: Turok vs. Andar!

Our heroes investigate an unexplored pass, believed to be thriving with honkers of all kinds, indicated by the tracks of countless honkers littering the canyon floor… and the two beasts that begin to square up, placing Turok and Andar in the middle of a tussle.

This is a first! No, not the dinosaur fight, that’s nothing new. This issue is the first to drop the two-story format, making for an uninterrupted 27 pages to tell a sprawling, epic adventure for Turok and Andar. No longer as constrained in its page count per episode, this allows the story to truly revel in its bombastic setpieces, dedicating an entire page and a half to these two dinos tussling, even though Turok and Andar serve only as spectators to it… until the triceratops falls on top of their hidey hole, nearly suffocating them until they dig their way out.

They make a meal of the fallen ‘tops and set up camp, thankful that the tyrannosaurus only takes finger food. Turok hears noises during the night, and is abducted by persons unknown but certifiably hairy. Andar wakes to find Turok and their leftovers missing, and fearing unseen danger, stakes out on a cliff to keep an eye out for incoming threats. He’ll stay up all night if he has to!

(so much for that)

Even his high vantage point can’t save him, as he’s besieged by a tribe of monkey men! Andar takes his chances with the steep cliff below, but they snatch him up on their vines and carry him back to their village, proclaiming he will “win or die”

— but ‘winning’ has nothing to do with hunting, and he gets to watch the monkey men’s strategies for taking down even the biggest of dinosaurs: first tangling them up in vines, then walloping them with a dirty great rock. While the tribe descend to claim their prize, it’s not without bottom feeders:

In this case, the spider-men! No relation to New York’s webslinger, we’ve already seen their return in Valiant’s Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, with a new arc starring them covered last week, but this story is the debut of the pasty ghouls. While the monkey men have their tangling vines as their trademark, that’s nothing compared to the spider people slinging sand in their eyes. The two tribes hurl themselves at each other, fighting furiously over the right to this tyrannosaur carcass… until they stop.

If there’s one thing the feuding tribes can agree on, it’s a stalemate; now it’s Andar’s turn to fight! Both sides are to present their best warriors for a one-on-one to truly decide the outcome of this war, and Andar’s scrawny teenage bod is the burliest the monkey men have on hand, apparently! He tries to leg it, but there’s no escaping destiny. And in the spider clan’s corner…

… is Turok! He’s been captured for the very same purpose, and with all eyes on them, there’s no hope of welching — this stupid turf war hinges entirely on these random strangers! This is how we resolved all arbitrary disputes before we invented the coin toss, don’t you know.

The monkey men and spider people serve as ringside coaches and outright saboteurs, calling for bludgeonings and throwing in vines to spice things up. T & A throw out the script and settle for an old-fashioned wrestle, one that sends them rolling towards the nearby lake, before making a break for it. It takes a moment for the tribes to realise they’ve broken kayfabe, and the very outcome of their war is getting away!

Between the angry projectile-heaving mob and the raging rapids, the escapees take their chances with the latter. A fallen tree trunk is the only thing breaking their fall and protecting them from the rocks, until at last, they’re out of harm’s way. Andar’s a little disappointed they’ll never know the final score, but better that than killing each other over it.

Though the story remains about as complex as any other Son of Stone adventure (that is to say: not very), the double-length format gives it room to breathe and relish in each of its setpieces. Every action sequence, even minor ones like the opening dinosaur battle, are treated like epic confrontations, with double-sized panels abounds to better capture all the action. Narration boxes take on double duty perhaps to fill dead air, yet it helps give the story a suitably more epic feeling. This is Turok and Andar fighting we’re talking about! You don’t go treating it mildly!

This single-story format would be dropped for the next few issues, making it seem like an experimental outlier, but it would actually become the standard format for Son of Stone for eight years of its run! Early stories like this would make the most of the medium, delivering stories with twists and turns, or at least peppering the pages in terrific artwork… but like all things, it has its ups and downs. You’ll probably notice a dud when I summarise stories, like, way more than usual.

One last bit of trivia: that first image at the top finally addresses the age of Turok and Andar, placing them at 25 and 15 years old respectively. While Andar has always been the apprentice, it was muddy just how much of an age gap there was between them in early issues; compare Andar’s mature appearance in #5 to his baby face in #16.

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