Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #108: Tree Of Life, Land Of Shadows

Friday, February 5, 2021 at 8:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #108: Tree Of Life, Land Of Shadows

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #36

A trip down memory lane of Turok’s nemeses!

After visiting the Lost Land on a scientific expedition, Turok, Andy and Regan never actually got to enjoy any of that, instead finding themselves wrapped up in some boob and blood-filled B-movie malarkey. Turok finds his sleep disturbed, and is violently aroused by…

Mon-Ark! The brutal bionosaur, the slayer of Turok’s first flame and his adopted tribe… lives!? Is this a dream?! Given how real it feels getting choked out like this, possibly not! The Lost Land’s full of unexpected surprises, after all.

Mon-Ark betrays no reasons for his rebirth, or even any additions to his bucket list now that he has a second lease on life — all he’s interested in is slaying the dinosaur hunter for good! Though Turok gets the upper hand, the beast taunts him: what is life without living? What is life without a home, without a place in the world, a place in time…?

The visage of Mon-Ark is replaced with a much more familiar face — Aric of Dacia, the X-O Manowar! Turok dares to question this, but Aric settles his nerves: the Lost Land’s nuts, remember? After their last social call ended in a heated break-up, Turok is glad to have not just his friend by his side once more, but his strength — in treacherous lands such as this, they could use a little brawn. Speaking of brawn…

Hey, remember Fang? That one-and-done bozo Turok stabbed in the gut in San Fran’s Chinatown? Guess what, he’s here to take another shot at it.
What follows is visions of old friends and foes, all with something to say to the warrior who bested them. It’s nice to see such visual allusions to the journey Turok’s had so far, especially with Tim Truman as the man to address them, though it’s an unfortunate reminder that Turok’s rogues’ gallery leaves something to be desired, don’t it? Mon-Ark remains one of the most imposing and visually outstanding threats yet… while everyone else is just some schmuck.

Case in point. That’s my reaction to seeing Longhunter too.

The trip down memory lane continues with Ripsaw, Chichak’s old drug-runnin’ prison buddy, and even Kru, a fellow refugee of the Lost Land who left without a full set of marbles. I want to think this simple exchange is Truman riffing on the somewhat nebulous motivations for Kru in that Furman-written story, but one could argue it’s a valid point: would returning him to the Lost Land have been the right thing to do, rather than handing him over to Regan for psychiatric evaluation?
Kru was a primitive and had probably only known life in prehistory and the chaos of the Lost Land. Though he seemed to fare amicably in his role as a bouncer, leaving a bunch of bodies in his wake can’t just be dismissed as an oopsie. Is forcing him to adapt to the modern life the ethical thing to do? Well, who knows, because he’s old news by now.

The figure before him turns into the most recent threat he’s faced: “Gaze upon the face of your fear… the mirror of your fate!” Verbose and bombastic as ever, Campaigner speaks of the lives Turok’s actions have impacted upon while choking the shit out of him, and how he has become known to them: a saviour, a destroyer, a man lost to time. The faces of all his foes swirl before him, clawing and dragging him down into a well of despair. But he awakes, still in one piece. None of it was real, only illusions cast upon him…

Oh, shove off, Seer.

Seer, cryptic motherfucker as he is, happens by to speak of Turok’s unwitting role in the world around him. After all, the Lost Land was once the forming grounds of Unity, Mothergod’s desire to conquer and unite a dimension and timeline of her own making. She plucked subjects from across time, leaving not just her portals across time and space, but casting an influence across countless cultures, all building their own monuments to their brief glimpses of this greater, unknowable power, seemingly playing an unwitting part in her plans. In defeating Campaigner and restoring peace to the Lost Land, Turok has come closer to achieving Mothergod’s goals of unity than she herself obtained.

How this all is relevant to Turok remains a mystery, but what he wants to know is if Seer’s so clued up on this mess, why hasn’t he just gone back to his own time? He apparently doesn’t know all the answers; he certainly tried to return to his own time as Merlin once more, but found himself transfigured into his current scaly visage, and could not bear to inflict such a sight upon his loved ones. “Know ye that a face or body is not all this vile place can transmute! It can also alter thy soul!” Seer departs, warning Turok of the Lost Land’s visions, and that it will define his life as much as it will his final fate.

Tim Truman returns to the writer’s chair, and we’ll manage to get five uninterrupted issues from him this time! Wowee! It’s the first story in a while to acknowledge what all Turok has gone through, although it manifests largely as violent visions, seemingly almost as a catch-up for newer readers who haven’t been hunting through the back issue bins.
That, and it ultimately devolves into more obtuse bullshit from Seer, who was easily the most tiresome part of the Campaigner arc. His combination of cryptic prophecies and cursive font is a bother to read, which is a bummer when what he implies might actually be interesting, whatever it is… but until it happens, we’re left listening to him eating up page space with lovingly drawn miasmic wisps.

This is artist Aaron Lopresti’s one-issue stint on Turok, and he does a fabulous job, especially paired with inks and colours by Bruce Patterson, Gary Martin and Andrew Covalt. It’s a surprising amount of characters to draw for what’s effectively a bottle story, but they all look iconic and on-point.
The few panels of Campaigner are up there with Rags Morales’ most dynamic depictions, and even the brief visage of Andar is very sweet, portraying the youth with the same kindness and enthusiasm as in the classic Gold Key comics. Lopresti was among the many freelancers who bounced between Valiant and other companies, so while it’s a pity he didn’t stick around, it’s cool knowing there’s a veritable smorgasbord of content under his penmanship.

Next week: the reason I started this feature in the first place. For the love of god, don’t miss it.

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