Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #076: Mystery Wheel

Friday, October 16, 2020 at 8:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #076: Mystery Wheel

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #23

Turok vs. Longhunter: round 2!

Hoo boy. Turok has searched long and hard for Chichak, the former leader of the spider people, now a runaway lashing out at the world around him with his new convict companion, Ripsaw… that is, until Ripsaw gave him the boot. Now the two castaways of the Lost Land are being forced to duel to the death!

Ripsaw’s a creative type, and just shooting people isn’t fun — not unless it’s personal. So he’s tied them up on top of triceratops and is forcing them to joust for his amusement. Regan urges he spare himself whatever sentence this barbarism would get him, but he’s too far gone. He’s on a roll and he ain’t stopping.

The games are on! The two quickly break their bonds and make use of their spears. Chichak is out for blood, but Turok tries to appeal to his wants and needs — getting payback on the traitorous Ripsaw. As far as Chichak’s concerned, that can come later.

Turok’s not so keen on drawing out this charade, but he has no choice — not when Regan’s life is on the line. A missile out of the blue puts an explosive stop to the games. Now who’d do a thing like that?

A shithead like Longhunter, that’s who! Andy bails, having scored a lift from them for leading them here; it seemed the best option given the circumstance. The sporting event quickly turns into a firefight as Ripsaw fights to ensure his bounty goes unclaimed.
This issue boasts some incredibly frenzied artwork, courtesy of the newly-introduced one-time penciller Bill Jaaska, who brings a wild, kinetic energy to the page. Baddies like Chichak and Ripsaw are practically clawing their way out of the page, and the battles are truly larger than life, the triceratops joust looking like some anime bullshit with its whipping speed lines and colour-wash backdrops.
The dialogue has already played up Ripsaw as a slimy, coked-up goon, but it finally comes across on the page with his over-the-top theatrics. Even Longhunter, low-life shithead that he is, has a spark of life thanks to his manic expressions and bevy of colourful goons; I especially love that leather daddy on the dune buggy.

Regan, Wongo and Preacher arm up and get to safety as the four-way feud unfolds. Longhunter homes in on Ripsaw, only for Turok to get the drop and give his nose another dent…

… while Chichak finally gets his hands on the double-crossing warm he once regarded as a friend. There’s enough honour left in the warrior to not end his life, but you can’t deny him the pleasure of breaking some key bones.

Meanwhile, Longhunter gets his shit wrecked and thrown in an oil drum, again. That never gets old.
With the figureheads of both factions down, the fighting is quelled. Chichak is gracious to Turok for his support. From this day forward, they are no longer enemies… and Chichak goes so far as to declare him an ally.

Unfortunately, all this brothers-in-arms stuff doesn’t hold muster in the eyes of the law. Wongo and Preacher are courteous enough to suggest they take the West Virginia state motto at its word and hoof it to the hills… but the sheriff isn’t so considerate, and arrives in a helicopter to open fire on Chichak.

He and Turok bolt into the woods, and Regan tries to stop them — if they run, they’ll both be fugitives. She urges Chichak to stand down and let the issue be settled by law… but Turok doubts his safety, especially after what happened before. They’d sooner live it rough, and Andy follows after.

Unseen by our heroes, the gorge has seen portal activity with honkers coming and going. Turok had last encountered this phenomenon during his fight with Captain Red…

… and an eerie portal fizzles into existence at the end of a tight river valley — where Chichak remembers he and his tribe first emerged in this world. With the authorities on their tail and no turning back, Turok, Andy and Chichak take their chances and plunge into the portal, unaware it’ll take them someplace very, very familiar…

As is the series standard so far, a rip-roaring, action-packed climax to the story arc, full of over-the-top chaos and guns a-blazing. You’re not short-changed on action one bit, with any number of skirmishes between Turok, Chichak, Ripsaw, Longhunter… no shortage of dudes with something to prove! It’s a trifle chaotic, but a satisfying payoff to a long methodical build-up, to see plans and allegiances all come crumbling down.

It seems a big change for the status quo as well. Regan had been firmly established as Turok’s partner (after burning through two dames in the first three issues), and their relationship was an interesting one, teaching each other the ways of the past and the present. The conflict is an understandable one, and one that’s still a danger in these types of studies: when does interest in culture turn into fetishisation? And for people out of time like Turok and Chichak, already out of sorts as it is, what do they lose or gain by integrating? There’s no time for long goodbyes — there’s a freakin’ gunship on their tail! — but it’s sad to see them go. It won’t last forever, though it’s not something we’ll ever see a clean resolution to.

If it weren’t obvious already, our heroes are to enter the Lost Land next issue! We’ve seen lots of flotsam and jetsam since the events of Unity, but no clear idea on what happened to the Lost Land since the incident. Reading only the Turok issues, you’d assume the place got mulched after that fandango, but The Chaos Effect recently implied the land was still in action… and of course it is. Where would all those weird portals be going to otherwise?

As far as I’m concerned, Bill Jaaska has been one of the best artists so far — his depiction of Turok himself may look a little skew-whiff, but the man had an incredible eye for action and expression, balancing the down-to-earth humanity of Regan and Andy with over-the-top screwballs. This was his only stint in the Turok series, sadly, and apparently the very last comic he worked on in the ’90s; he wouldn’t be credited with anything again until 2004 from the looks of it, consisting of a couple of pin-ups and one-offs.
There’s not a lot of details about his life and career — 20th Century Danny Boy has perhaps the best retrospective you can find on his work — and he sadly passed away under depressing circumstances in 2009. It breaks my heart only discovering the man now; knowing he went in such a bad way, and seemingly went unappreciated in his own time.

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