Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #095: The Red Scourge

Monday, December 21, 2020 at 8:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #095: The Red Scourge

Turok: Son of Stone #51

The beaver men make their belated debut.

A close shave with a triceratops leaves Turok and Andar in a bit of a bind; they’ve used the last of their poison arrows! Until they restock, they’ve only got their wits to rely upon… which is a bit of a crapshoot when the locals aren’t exactly the reasoning type. The pair go in search of fresh poison berries, but while crossing the river are dragged beneath the water by assailants unknown!

They emerge inside a hollow dome — one of the stepping stones they had been treading upon seconds ago, and home of the butt-ugly beaver men! The prognathous posse aren’t too keen on strangers, but are willing to let them go on one condition: if they slay the honker that’s terrorising their turf. This is some rotten timing on our heroes’ part, fresh out of their secret killing juice, but they’re mercifully denied a chance to accept or refuse when the honker — a bloody huge brontosaurus — barges into town.

Running away isn’t an acceptable answer either, but Turok knows how they can put the bronto to bed for good, and helps them build an underwater spike trap hidden beneath one of the hollow huts. The beaver men are impressed with his smart thinking — a little too smart for their liking. What’s stopping him from sharing his deadly ideas with rival clans? Once the beast is slain, they set their sights on bumping off him and Andar as well. Brains are nothing but bad news anyway!

Turok’s aware of that, so he makes sure to rig it so he and Andar are on human bait duty, given the unenviable task of luring the brontosaur towards the deadly spikes… but also giving them a headstart on hauling ass once the honker’s no longer a threat. The people of Lost Valley are many things, but courteous ain’t one of them.

Having stocked up on poison herbs, our heroes aim to make themselves scarce from the river region, made difficult by them passing a tribe with a unique manner of fishing: spearing them from the back of a fishy steed! As rad as it looks, Turok’s not exactly keen to mingle after their last run-in with the locals.

Andar compares the fish-riding to “our war ponies” from before they entered the Lost Valley. This is at odds with the notion our heroes lived in a pre-colonial America, as horses left the continent entirely via the supergroup of landmasses, Beringia — a fact I learnt from this very comic, actually! The two did own a horse for all of twelve pages back in issue #8, but the writing took pains to present it as a creature totally new to them, never outright saying “horse” and instead a wide range of descriptive synonyms.

If we choose to ignore the historical timeframe, you could then ask what tribes used war ponies; the comic is coy about the pair’s heritage, so I’ll take any clue I can get. Territorial warfare between the Plains tribes was stacked heavily in the deck of whoever had mastered horses; the Comanche and Cheyenne are often the first names to pop up in history books in that regard, but seemingly only because they were the ones giving white folk a hard time. Horses were introduced to the Kiowa and Apache way of living after the Spanish arrived, though primarily for aiding their own hunting methods; Valiant’s Turok was no stranger to horses, as we’ll see next entry.

T & A begin making their way across after the hunters start packing up, but the locals shout at them to get out of the water — not out of territorialism, but because of “the red wave”! A veritable ocean of ferocious piranhas, their crimson scales the last thing you see before they strip your flesh from your bones! Our heroes are lucky enough to get to shore, because that’d be a hell of a way to conclude your children’s adventure comic. The same can’t be said for this long-necked schmuck, who’s reduced to a skeletonised wreck within seconds. Good eatin’, though.

Turok’s mighty grateful these folks warned them in time! The tribe are unfortunately well-acquainted with the toothy terrors; they sweep up and down the river every month on clockwork, razing the riverbed of all life no matter how big or small. Turok quickly deduces they must go upstream to spawn; if he can investigate where they camp out, he might know how to stop them.
Of course, that’d just be too easy; the tribe’s surly medicine man believes the fish to be a sign from the gods — a sign of what, who knows? — and to interfere with them would bring upon more punishment. Buddy, it’s too early in your lifetime to be experiencing Catholic guilt. Live a little.

The pair quickly discover where the fanged fish hold their fuckfests, as evidenced by them getting the munchies for any croc who dares wade into their waters. The medicine man still preaches fear of divine retribution, but given the choice of godly wrath or facing starvation, the tribe figure anything’s worth a shot. They aid Turok and Andar in building a dam just before the spawning point…

… and having walled off the fish, watch as they then mash up their poison herbs and pour it into the fish’s side of the lake. The fish pile up in a bid to escape, but by the time they open the dam the fish are all dead, without a single egg to be found. The scourge of the red wave is ended, and the tribe are free to fish all they please!

It’s likely this issue was held back to make way for the double-length stories, as the titular beaver men were introduced back in issue #44, a story that leaned heavily on prior villains making return appearances. Rex Maxon’s art is charming as ever, even if the first story has unsightly humans galore. The beaver people are intentionally ugly, but even Turok and Andar look a tad ghoulish! To be fair, gasping for air is never anyone’s most flattering side.

The second story feels very classic in its execution, a throwback to the early helping-dudes-in-need era of Son of Stone, which has been absent lately in the wake of murderous, paranoid tribes. It does bring to mind the question of how the poison works — even back when it was first introduced in issue #1, does that poison effect the taste in any way? It’s cool the fish are gone, but I don’t know if you want to be drinking that water anytime soon.

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