Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #080: The Prodigal

Friday, October 30, 2020 at 8:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #080: The Prodigal

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #24

Enter the Campaigner.

Turok, Andy and Chichak had last leapt into a portal to who knows where, anything to avoid the West Virginian authorities. It means nothing to Andy, but the nothingness around them is strangely familiar to the others. It is the same nothingness that enveloped them when they were jettisoned from… the Lost Land!

Yes, the domain where Turok was lost for years still survives, even after all that’s happened to it, as Keth, the keeper of memories, documents in his tribe’s cave. Remember the run-in with Dr. Noel? Remember that whole Unity situation? Keth remembers.

What about when Turok betrayed his people to serve Mothergod? It’s not something that’s been addressed much; Turok hasn’t discussed his time in her servitude, though he still carries her bow as his go-to weapon. He did turn against her in the end, something acknowledged in Keth’s history lesson… but betrayal is not easily forgiven, as seen by the grudge Chichak levied against him in their last two scraps.

We haven’t seen the Lost Land since Turok’s exit, and given how it was depicted, I’d every reason to believe the place just got disintegrated by… whatever it was that happened. Keth’s tale downplays the destruction, if any — the effects of Unity itself are not addressed, and instead only Solar’s mass exodus is referred to. Those left by the purge have banded together to live as best they can, free once more of tyrannical reign…

… or they would be, if another bloody despot hadn’t popped up to fill the gap. The humble village is attacked by the Campaigner’s armies, still upholding the old traditions of Mothergod and her plans for Unity — for all to align under one banner. Keth’s tribe weren’t up for that kind of mass-murdering nonsense the first time either.

The walls of their village hold against the onslaught… until the pteranodon bombing squad tear a hole in them. Their leader still fights on, but Keth knows a lose cause when he sees one, taking his daughter Mari and grandson Ni-Zak with him.

They are the only survivors.

The war party’s leader arrives to soak in the flames of victory — surely after seeing the great big mess they made of these poor schmucks, everyone will think they’re swell folk and come in droves to join their empire. He believes this is the grand reason he and his kind were left behind in Mothergod’s absence, to carry on her ambitions.

Enter Campaigner! One of the most iconic Turok villains of the time, mostly for his brief reign as series arch nemesis under Acclaim’s tenure, serving as the final boss of the Nintendo 64 game and other small but notable appearances. His seven-panel debut doesn’t tell us much about him beyond being a good ol’ fashioned barbarian type… but sometimes that’s all you want out of a villain. Turok’s been starved for fantastical stuff as of late, and a skull-clad, spike-lathered speech-maker who looks like he raided the props department of Conan the Destroyer is quite possibly all you could ask for.

The flashback in issue #13 has been Rags Morales’ only depiction of the Lost Lands so far, and this story allows him to go ham with the setting. It sure seems like he relishes the opportunity, going all-out in depicting a Lost Land looking every part the mash-up of prehistoric wildlands fused with sci-fi influences, featuring fantastic imagery looking like it came straight from a Frazetta painting.
As minor as it sounds, it’s so nice to see the fauna of Lost Land looking truly diverse once again; the previous Valiant depictions hosted only t-rexes and utahraptors, and the issues of Son of Stone I’m covering lately have featured nothing but reptiles, so it’s good to see pre-history heavy-hitters like the mastodon and the smilodon steal some page space for themselves. Rags seems to be channelling the likes of Boris Vallejo and their exotic depictions of fantasy, like this tiger steed that’s decked to the nines; that tiger knows the series is called Dinosaur Hunter, but it sure as heck makes an impression.

A voice calls out Campaigner on his foolish notions — Seer. A cloaked figure who claims to have observed all the tribulation of the Lost Land, and knows more about its patchwork predicament than any of its denizens could ever know. He proclaims doom in their future, but makes no effort to forecast what it could be before he peaces out. Campaigner doesn’t listen. Killing stuff’s too good to turn down.
Enter Seer! He’s a cryptic piece of shit who I’ll grouse about another day. Let’s just say I’m not a fan.

Just when the Lost Land looks to be in dire straits, a familiar visage appears before Keth and his family: Turok!

I’ll say it now: this is a load. While some readers bemoaned the modern day setting, the simple premise of “Native American hunts dinosaurs” was at least easy to follow, regardless of his origin story. We’re now transplanted into a literal hodgepodge universe of disparate wildlife and technology, where we’re forced to confront Turok’s convoluted backstory… all recapped in cryptic text and confusing cave drawings. I summarised it as cleanly as I could, but I won’t deny I put this issue off for two weeks on my first read-through, parsing Keth’s history lesson was such a hurdle. I like Unity best when I can tell myself, “don’t worry about it.”

Once that stumbling block is over with, this is a hell of a new setting! Yet another bloody evil empire is stomping around again, so there isn’t a quiet moment to just soak in the atmos’, but it’ll be fun to see the old stomping grounds again. A mixture of new characters and old worlds, and maybe some old acquaintances as well?

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