Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #096: Domini Canes

Friday, December 25, 2020 at 8:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #096: Domini Canes

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #0

Turok tells all.

Back in the plains surrounding the Tanoan Flats Reservation, Andy is putting in some hours behind the bow, hoping to score himself a pronghorn as his first kill… but the creature hoofs it before he can make the shot. Well, they won’t be eating tonight.

Andy is quick to make excuses — if he had his gun, or if he wasn’t wearing boots, this’d be so much easier, but Turok is adamant to teach his apprentice the old ways. He made a promise to Andar that his grandson would receive the same training he did, and they’ll remain on the plains for weeks if he has to.

It’s not all about awesome archery. Skinning and cooking a beast is its own endeavour, not to mention making tools from its hide, be it rope, leather, or in Andy’s case, moccasins. The American outlawing of Indigenous cultures has done a number of Andy’s own native identity, and he’s curious to know what life was like in Turok’s prime.

Who’s up for a history lesson? What follows is as much the origins of Turok’s character as it is a dramatisation of the life of the Indigenous people of the 1800s. Turok’s grandfather was among the Cataka, before splitting off and travelling south with the Kiowa, where they banded with the Apache. While his tribe moved on, their family stayed, having made a new home with the people, now the Kiowa-Apache; they bore a son, Stone, who himself became a father…

… and that child was Turok, the son of Stone.
Turok would grow up to make a name for himself as an incredible hunter, but also a reputation for his increasing world-weariness: alcohol-pushing Mexican traders had soured him and the tribe on ever interacting with outsiders again. They relocated their settlement to somewhere far more isolated, but Turok took this isolationism to heart, becoming distant even from his peers and loved ones.

To give him new responsibilities, and to remind him of the joys of life, they entrusted him with mentoring the young Andar. Although a hopeless student, he reignited the spark of life within him, and the two remained close companions even after Turok’s status rose after protecting the tribe from enemies.

Things were soon to change. Satanta, the renowned Kiowa war chief, came seeking allies in his efforts to fight back against the white colonialists. The tribe refused to participate, and fearing invasion of their land, sent Turok and Andar on a mission to find new settling grounds.

We saw back in issue #17 how Turok’s pre-Lost Land history has been tweaked in the Valiant continuity — the Son of Stone comics repeatedly state they “lived some hundreds of years before the coming of the white man to America”, and their only interactions on the surface were among fellow tribes. The Valiant storyline bumps them up to the mid-1800s, based on Satanta’s appearance, and the Turok: The Hunted miniseries would narrow it down to within the decades leading up to the American civil war. Turok hardly knew peace before he got into the dinosaur-hunting business, from the looks of it.

Speaking of, Turok and Andar’s journey found them in the Carlsbad region of New Mexico, where they followed an ominous cluster of bats — “all the bats in the world!”…

… and found themselves in the Lost Land. They searched for years, but not once did they make a safe return to their own world. We’re very familiar with this part! And we’re not even halfway through covering them all!

Now a man, Andar settled with Sharma, the daughter of Keth the picture maker, and at long last our two heroes parted ways, their lives now leaded on separate journeys. They briefly reunited when Dr. Laszlo Noel invaded the Lost Land, Andar eager to protect his new family… but this would be the last time Turok ever saw his trusted companion.
It puts Andar’s lusting over Willow in a different light when we know he’s hooked up and probably already had a kid by this point. Nobody said he was an upstanding family man. He’s had no one to teach him what’s off the table!

Following this: Mothergod and her plans for Unity, as we’ve addressed countless times so far. We’ve long awaited answers on just why Turok fell under the wing of such a callous, murderous despot, and his desperate desire to belong and feel whole again seems to be the excuse given this time.
Turok’s phrasing suggests he took Mothergod at her word that she created the Lost Land, but to me it implies she saw herself as its sculptor, creating her new empire from its bedrock outside of linear time. Apparently Solar made the Lost Land back in The Chaos Effect when he dunked the bad energy through a time arc? I’ve said it before how this stuff makes my head spin. The less we address it, the better.

Even this new servitude wore thin once Turok realised what he had become, and sometime after his encounter with Archer and Armstrong, he turned his back on the enchantress. He threw his hand in with X-O Manowar and the other heroes from across time, fighting against Mothergod’s wicked dominion. After that, the land collapsed and he was sent hurtling into the future, our modern day…

… and here we are now. The Lost Land has since become accessible again via mysterious portals, and Turok hopes one day he may find one that leads back to his own time, his old plains… but even then, he doesn’t know what time he considers his own anymore. He has been exposed to so much in the past, present, and wherever the Lost Lands represents on a calendar.

It’s time to cast aside old things. Turok banishes his social security card to the fire, and destroys Mothergod’s bow; objects representing his subservience. He’s determined to forge his own path; he will keep his spirit strong, and not forget the ways he and his people have been used.

A perhaps long-overdue recap of Turok’s history — the book was first mentioned way back in April 1994 in Comics Scene #41 and slated for a “summer ’94” release, before finally hitting shelves in November 1995. Written and drawn by the ‘true’ team of Tim Truman and Rag Morales, it helps set a somewhat definitive tone to our hero’s topsy-turvy journey so far. One man’s quest to find his place in the world, one that’s forever changing and stacking the deck against him. It does play up his moody loner side, but it makes it clear how good it was to have Andar in his life, complete with allusions to panels and covers from the Gold Key comics.

It’s also the first story in a long time to properly address Turok’s heritage, his culture, his birthplace. Tim Truman puts in the work to stay true to historical events and Indigenous customs; it might not mean much to folks who aren’t history nerds, but it’s great seeing the effort put in to show the authentic relations and travels between tribes at the time, and the encroaching threat of colonialism.

Although there’s still a good chunk of Valiant’s Turok to go, the book carries a certain air of melancholy to it. That feeling is aided by the “Turok and Me” text piece at the end, written by Tim Truman, who explains his relationship with comics and his childhood favourites. He talks about his approach to writing Turok, his work on various other franchise revivals, and takes the opportunity to thank his artists and collaborators, who all offer their own dedications to friends, family, and researchers. It’s a very sweet way to cap off the issue.

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