Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #125: The Burial Ground

Monday, April 5, 2021 at 8:00 am Comments (1)

Turok: Son of Stone #65

Turok invades the privacy of a dying dinosaur.

First of all, I love this cover. It’s a bold and familiar composition, our heroes bearing witness to some bomb-ass dino combat, but something about the choice of details give it a wonky comedic quality. The strangely wrinkly t-rex, the slack-jawed expression on everyone’s faces…

“Do you mind?”
Incredible. Incredible.

The story wastes no time in getting to what we wanna see, too — right off the bat, an allosaurus narrowly misses stomping on Turok and Andar (crushing only their bows instead) as it guns it for the nearest brontosaur to bite its neck off. The two beasts tussle dramatically, putting on a hell of a breakfast show, before the allosaur gets clobbered and the brontosaur slinks away, gravely wounded.
I’m in love with this sequence. For whatever reason, the honkers in this issue are blessed with some truly characterful artwork, boasting a range of emotion you wouldn’t expect from the big lugs. That yelping brontosaur is incredible, and the very animated way the allosaur wrestles with it gives it a lot of charm; it’s a lot more expressive than were used to, using its arms to push aside rocks and cradle its head after an injury.

The art in this era of Son of Stone is typically credited to series regular Alberto Giolitti on comics databases, and it’s clearly his style of rendering — his same stable of poses, detailed environments and so on… except for oddities like the strangely expressive honkers, or this rare instance of cross-hatching. Alberto was a stark black shading kinda guy!
The man ran a studio, of course, and it’s very likely what people bill as a single man’s work was handled by countless assistants, even more anonymous than the main man himself… which is my personal reasoning for why things look that little more unique this ish. Could be wrong, of course! It’s very likely I just wasn’t paying attention if these traits showed up earlier!

In any case, the brontosaur’s badly wounded from its foray, and pondering why they so rarely see dead and dying honkers, T & A come to the conclusion that they must travel to a secret burial ground… perhaps outside the confines of Lost Valley! Ignoring the fact they already found a secret burial ground many moons ago (continuity wasn’t invented until the late 19th century), they pursue the big lug on a quickly-made raft and get tipped over for their troubles, the beast refusing to move until it’s assured they’ve drowned. It’s a good thing they didn’t, because it soon finds itself pecked by a swarm of pteranodon who aren’t waiting until it’s carrion! Without their bows, the pair are forced to stab them with just their poison arrows, hoping to protect the beast long enough until it reaches its final destination.

Without so much as a thank you, the beast soldiers on, but a tribe stop T & A from advancing — they won’t dare let them onto sacred ground! The locals chase them away for all of five seconds before they’re shown off the premises by an allosaurus, making this a waste of everyone’s time. Or maybe not? Having whipped up some new bows, all our heroes need to do is shoot this honker half to death and it can lead them to the sacred burial grounds!

By the light of the moon, the beast leads them into a misty den, where below the fog are the countless skeletons of ex-honkers — they’ve found their burial ground! The beast finally falls, but there’s no way of actually knowing if they’re in or out of Lost Valley until the mist clears, so they set camp ’til morning. Come dawn, however, the beast reveals it’s not quite dead, and gets the munchies for a bed of plants, giving it the strength for a second assault!

Turok is KO’d and Andar finds himself manhandled, but a poison arrow down its gob is enough to put it down for good. Turok isn’t waking up, however, so after sussing out what gave the honker its second wind, Andar feeds him the same herbs and he’s ready for action in just a day’s time. It turns out honkers travel here hoping the herbs will give them what they need to recover, but many are too worn down to recuperate from their injuries and succumb regardless. The surrounding walls are sheer cliffs and offer no way out; Andar fears this too will be their grave, but bummer thinking like that ain’t gonna solve anything. There’s hope yet!

The text features have been surprisingly relevant to their accompanying stories lately, and this issue is no different, with a showcase on a Neanderthal funeral. It focuses on the remains found within the Shanidar Cave, specifically “Shanidar 4” (dubbed Neanderthal IV in the text), parroting the long-held belief that, because his body was surrounded by the pollen of many varieties of flower, his loved ones must have travelled far and wide to procure the perfect bouquet for his final resting place. Research in the past couple of decades suggests the pollen was just the result of rats shitting all over him, though.

Not that it isn’t evidence of Neanderthals caring for and cherishing their loved ones, in sickness and in health. The remains found in the Shanidar Cave are all of relatively older folk, all of them with physical impairments, be it injury, degenerative or apparent birth defect, yet the way their burial sites have been catered for — and the fact they reached such an age to begin with — suggests they were no less respected among their people than the hunters and gatherers.
It’s very well possible some Neanderthal octogenarian were tied up and left for dead like poor Wodi from last ish, but if nothing else it’s good to know there was one community that treated their elders and disabled with respect… though it’s also feasible they just chucked all these bodies in a big hole on top of each other. Look, designing a graveyard is tough, alright? There’s only so many holes and bears keep eating out of the nicest ones.

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