Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #116: Shawnee Silver

Friday, March 5, 2021 at 8:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #116: Shawnee Silver

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #40

All that glitters is not gold. Sometimes it’s deadly flying heads.

When we last saw Turok, he’d been caught up in a tussle with Longhunter in the Lost Land, before Captain Landsdale and his Confederate crew interrupted the party. Between his half-dozen cavalrymen, his enormous attack dogs, and his exotic associates, Landsdale’s got them plenty outgunned. So long as he’s king of the arms race, he figures he’ll be calling the shots from now on.
An aside: Longhunter identifies Landsdale’s big-ass dogs as cave wolves; you know, the kind that prowled around America anywhere from ten to a hundred-thousand years ago. I figure any big game hunter’s gotta have some animal knowledge, but I didn’t think Crockett the type to be visiting museums. One could argue how Landsdale even got to taming these things, but who am I to argue with cool imagery?

If they’re forced to be chummy, then they all make their introductions. Landsdale and his boys were discharged from the civil war by way of spatial anomaly; they just woke up one day and found themselves here in the Lost Land. The same can be said of Ryu Sho, their samurai companion who’s a long way from Nihon… though they’re unclear what’s the story behind their Shawnee tracker, Lake. They’re glad to have him around, because although he’s not a man of many words, his word’s plenty valuable: he knows the whereabouts of the fabled Shawnee silver!

For horsing these guys around at gunpoint, he’s not inconsiderate — Landsdale offers them all a share of the riches should they find it. Longhunter’s certainly in the mood for money. Turok, however, is incredulous Lake would sell out his tribe’s secrets to these colonisers… but offers to tag along for the time being. Andy, Regan and Pilot haven’t much say in the matter… but Andy’s sure he’s seen Lake’s face somewhere before.

Lake leads them to the fabled cave his tribe’s riches are said to be stored, and as you might expect for a place with hidden treasure, it ain’t much hospitable. The skeletal remains of the last potential raiders are all suspiciously headless, proving they either weren’t headstrong enough in their journey…

… or they ran afoul of the giant floating heads! With grabby tentacles and big toothy maws! Said to be the summoned guardians of the Shawnee treasure… and wouldn’t you know it, floating heads have an appetite for heads, both human and canine.
Don’t go expecting this issue to explain them in any more depth than that — they’re just a big funky threat for our heroes to fight and the less favourable of the bunch to get munched. I can’t find any evidence painting them as a specifically Shawnee myth, though they definitely have roots in Indigenous mythology, often painted as the decapitated heads of scorned elders emerging after their unjust deaths to wreak havoc on their foolhardy afterbearers. Commonly portrayed as big ol’ heads with long manes and mean little eyes, Turok‘s take is something a bit more colourful, more ‘alien’, their hair interpreted as nasty reed-like tentacles, capable of entangling and manhandling their prey.

Not that there’s a lot of convincing sources on their established look or backstory; all things Indigenous vary from tale to tale, tribe to tribe, and there’s not many references from natives themselves, instead retold by white authors. And by virtue of being such a freaky visage, the flying head has since been co-opted in some circles as an all-purpose cryptid, bereft of its cultural identity to be used as monster fodder in roleplaying guidebooks and the like.

While Landsdale and his soldiers aren’t without a few casualties (who’ll miss ’em?), everyone else is holding their own pretty well, seeing to the last of the floating heads — save for Andy, who’s in a sticky wicket. Lake’s perfectly content leaving him to die… right up until he sees the kid’s scar. Andy’s grateful for the save, and has a tale to tell regarding its history…

… which, unbeknownst to him, isn’t the only significant scar in the room. Lake keeps that little factoid to himself, because everyone’s got their panties in a twist — they’ve found their treasure!

Unfortunately for them, a floating head was lying in wait beneath the goods, and Ryu Sho gets his fingers chomped for his trouble… and they’re unable to save him from going down the hatch either. Turok tries to take it down himself with just his knife, but gets hurled into the crowd, Regan getting the worst of the damage. Lake gets tangled in its reeds, prompting Landsdale and his boys to fill it up with lead, killing the beast… but not before it topples on top of Lake, crushing him from the waist down.

In a rare moment of giving a shit, Lake he reveals to Andy that he is his father, and while he can’t make up for all the abuse in their past, he’s glad to have reconnected with him however briefly. He urges them all to leave; killing the sacred guardians of a lost tribe’s treasure ain’t gonna do much good for them in a spiritual or karmic grade…

… and as if on cue, the cave begins to crumble. Landsdale isn’t leaving without taking the treasure with him, but he and his Confederates are buried beneath rock, while Longhunter points a gun at Turok, expecting him to carry the rest on his behalf… only for a ravine to open beneath him and send him plummeting into the great, grisly unknown.
Only Turok, Andy, Regan and Pilot make it out before the cave seals behind them. Regan’s in bad shape, and they chart an immediate course to Pilot’s plane to seek medical attention. Andy, meanwhile, sheds a tear for his lost family.

And with the threat of man-eating floating heads successfully quelled, so ends the arc of shlocky b-movie antics. Although still in the vein of monster movie fare, the story takes itself a touch more seriously than the ridiculous lady-snatching aliens and neo-Nazis of before, and it’s a refreshing glimpse into Turok’s moral standing and especially Andar’s family history, which has gone unacknowledged since we last saw his grandfather Andar back in issue #5!

The more unscrupulous participants make for a fun spotlight. Landsdale is an entertaining villain; his theme backs up his slang-ridden swagger better than Longhunter can, and although a bastard, being able to force a strained dynamic between the heroes and villains results in a fun time. Having a pair of huge fuck-off wolves helps, too. It’s a pity we don’t hear much of Ryu Sho’s story, given the language barrier and all, but it’s a nifty reminder of the sheer variety of folk stranded in Lost Land and still surviving, despite it all.

Longhunter is lost in the shuffle, considerably out-gunned and out-whitey’d by the Confederates, left to play unwilling sheepdog to their endeavours. His fate is noticeably more open-ended compared to the others, who are either eaten alive or unarguably crushed to death during the cave-in… some might consider falling into an abyss getting off lightly.
It seems an opening for him to crawl his way back one way or another… but this is the last we’ll ever see of Longhunter in the comics. He’s got one more appearance left in him under Acclaim’s run, but otherwise, that’s it! Finito! So long, Longhunter! Don’t send a postcard!

Lake is a shady figure — quiet and aloof, seemingly not giving a damn about anything, and yet going to such risk to ensure the secrets of his tribe remain hidden. It’s clear he’s got a story to tell, but so much of it is up in the air. If he’s Andy’s father, then he must be the son of Andar, right? Did they know each other, or were they estranged? If so, when did Lake and Andar separate, and how did Lake find himself in the Lost Land? Well, we probably won’t be finding the answers to those questions anytime soon.
It’s nice to see Andy get some attention after so long — he’s served merely as the plucky sidekick this whole arc, but his turbulent history has rarely been acknowledged. There’s sadly not much time left to explore this side of him, but you can expect me to mine every nugget there is for all it’s worth.

The next few issues will be intermissions from other writers; we won’t be seeing from Tim Truman again until issue 45.

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