Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #097: The Savage Shadow

Monday, December 28, 2020 at 8:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #097: The Savage Shadow

Turok: Son of Stone #52

Turok and Andar gatecrash a pteranodon sleepover.

This issue has two Keys of Knowledge features, both of which spotlight Native American tribes you don’t often see in cowboy movies, among them the Nuu-chah-nulth (or Nootka) and Tlingit, which is a pleasant surprise. It’s exactly as informative as you’d expect, spotlighting various trinkets and doodads rather than offering a rounded insight into their cultures and livelihoods, but it’s better than naught. I’m learning something, even if it is mere trivia!
I so love the extremely abbreviated trivia given in kids material. Forget providing context for these tidbits of knowledge, something that could clue a young mind into cause and effect — these folks be hairy just because. No mention of the fact they predominantly settled in Alaska and other regions where you best be wrappin’ up.

The in medias res teaser returns after last issue’s hiatus, and brings us an absolute banger of an opening: Turok and Andar hanging on for life, a cave opening belching fire above them and filling the skies with burning pteranodons! The blue skies make this look convivial, but it might be up there with the most nightmarish scenarios the pair have found themselves in.

But we’ll worry about that when we come to it. T & A are en route to a possible exit from Lost Valley, a cliff with a cave that could feasibly lead them home… but first, the long journey to it! Let’s think instead about the mysterious cloud over the night sky, one that sends all the honkers of the lead into a fearful frenzy… and come morning, they’ve been picked clean! Nothing but bones! Once again the imagination soars; what could have left such a wake of devastation? A roving flesh-eating bacteria? More killer ants? The two speculate while having a dip…

… and the answer reveals itself as a veritable cloud of albino pteranodons! They blot out the sky as they descend upon an attacking t-rex, doing what they do best and reducing it to bones in a matter of seconds.
A terrifying image, one already implanted on my young mind courtesy of The Far Side… but the pedant in me has to say, you can’t de-bone (de-flesh?) a t-rex with beaks that huge, surely? How do they nibble between the ribs? You could assume the skeletons from the other night had some bottom-feeders come in to pick up the leftovers, but that’s a grade A museum-quality skeleton right here. Just spray some Febreeze to take away the smell of death and you’re golden. But I digress.

Turok was paying attention to more important things than a childrens comic’s rightful aversion to portraying gore: the pteranodons emerged from the cliff cave they were journeying to! Knowing they only come out at night (mostly), they make the risky ascent up the cliff, scaling it while the beasts are out hunting…

… and as you’d expect, find the cave to be vast and roomy, lined with nests and slippery debris. It’s vast — very, very vast, featuring pits and chasms with no known end to them, twists and turns that have them lost for what feel like hours… and at the end of it all, there is nothing but an empty wall. This is the last thing they wanted to find, especially knowing it won’t be long ’til the pteranodons return home!

The two are given no choice but to abandon their torches, play possum, and hope the pteranodons don’t see them as they go to beddy-byes. One does spot them, and they’re forced to stab it before it snitches. Lying low until the herd return and settle into their roost, they slowly sneak back out to the cave entrance, careful not to stir the slumbering beasts…

… until their abandoned torches set the nests aflame, the whole cave erupting into pandemonium. Given no choice but to run for it, fighting off any who dare stop them, a fortuitous vine is enough to take them back to safe ground again. though they made no effort to stop the threat of these carnivorous, all-consuming terrors, they got what they came for — if there’s no exit, there’s point hanging around.

A lightweight story but one with some boffo artwork and an absolutely killer opening… that doesn’t actually take place as depicted during the story. very much an issue that leans on its lush illustrations to carry the plot, but each setpiece feels plenty immersive.
It’s arguably an insight into Turok’s approach to life in Lost Valley: the albino pteranodons are savaging the wildlife, forcing them to hide in fear during the night, seemingly to no avail… but so long as people aren’t under threat, or they’re doing irreparable harm to the food chain, he sees no reason to butt in. Nature plays its course, and sometimes it can be a cruel mistress, but that’s no reason to lay waste to an entire colony of animals… at least, not intentionally. Should they encroach on a tribe of well-meaning cavemen, though, and that’s a different story.

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