Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #129: Two Kinds of Terror

Monday, April 19, 2021 at 8:00 am Comments Off on Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #129: Two Kinds of Terror

Turok: Son of Stone #67

The Incredible Shrinking Turok.

Venturing into (and taking a kip in) a yet-unexplored region of Lost Valley, Turok and Andar find themselves assaulted in their sleep by… a teeny, tiny tyrannosaur! It’s not the first time they’ve encountered miniature megafauna (see issue 17!), but it’s the first time they’ve encountered miniature men! Not just the little people from the aforementioned issue, but proper-sized blokes who look like they shrunk in the wash! They follow the fleeing scout party, who naturally hide at the sight of the towering invaders, and the pair slurp up the tribe’s entire stock of berry juice on a whim. As you do, especially when you want to make a good first impression.

They right their wrongs when they witness a little lad pursued by the titchy t-rex they met earlier, with Turok able to stop the beast literally single-handed. The tribe are most gracious, and are happy to feed them as long as they’re willing to stay. Their ancestors had fled to his valley generations ago, the same size as their new visitors, but ever since settling down, they — and everything within the valley — had since become pocket-sized. I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for this breach of the square-cube law.

It doesn’t matter if they’re big or small, every tribe has got an unscrupulous ne’er-do-well looking to exploit our heroes’ goodwill, and he’s got his sights on making them his personal slaves. After sending Turok on a wild goose chase to supposedly guard their borders, the mad lad waits for Andar to take a kip before tying him up. If he tries to escape — zow! Death of a thousand needles! Turok’ll fight their enemies if he knows what’s good for them! Neither of them are all too keen about this arrangement, quite honestly, but if it means the safety of his friend, Turok’s got no choice but to stay. I mean, it’s not like Andar’s going anywhere.

… or maybe he is? Turok’s roused in the night by a conspicuously non-captive Andar. There was no daring escape, no display of wit or cunning — he just woke up during the night and found he’d shrunk out of his bonds! Indeed, Turok’s fallen the same fate, evidently the fault of the fruit juice they slurped up… and seeing them at this size, the tiny tribe declare they no longer have any need for them. Their weapons long since outgrown, the pair are forced to knock their titanic flintstones together and spark up a fire, giving them the cover they need to flee.

Not that it’s any safer out in the wilderness — unarmed and undersized, something as humble as a dragonfly is a force to be reckoned with! What a dragonfly would want with such scrawny eating is beyond me, but don’t knock the cool visual. They manage to take it down with pebble slings and wood splinter spears, riding on its back until it finally expires… where they find themselves before a giant — or more precisely, a regular-sized bloke!

Thinking them gods (as you do), the stranger dutifully takes them to his camp and even goes so far as to retrieve their tools from the little folks’ valley… which aren’t exactly a great deal of use to them in this state. The tribe are sent running when a t-rex — a full-size one this time! — begins encroaching on their cave; Turok begs them to use their arrows against it, but the folks are so god-fearing they’d fear merely touching their enchanted weapons would strike them dead. Turok insists, and in the space of a single panel (evidently brief enough that the t-rex still hasn’t stomped them flat yet), they jerry-rig a launch platform for the bow, allowing Turok to tug on the bowstring and let ‘er rip.

The t-rex snuffs it, and there was much rejoicing. The tribe have a couple of bonafide problem solvers on their hands! And so portable, too! Gross minds think alike, it seems, and their unlikely helper realises what he could accomplish with a miniature medicine man at his beck and call — all he needs is to hold them hostage! Andar is once again kept as collateral while Turok’s sent to spy on their enemies, but quickly gets snapped up by a sentry. He manages to wriggle free and books it back to camp…

… where Andar, having asked a tribesman to lay a knife on a rock for cockamamie spiritual reasons, launches it into the sucker’s chest. Holy shit! I take back what I said about classic Andar never killing dudes! I’m sure incapacitating anyone at that scale is tough enough, but holy moly. Don’t miss with Andar, especially when he’s ankle-height.
The tribe are pretty chuffed — these diminutive little dudes are serious killers! But upon hearing he didn’t actually manage to do any sleuthing, Turok and Andar are chucked in a cage ’til their next spying mission.

… but come dawn, just like last time, their predicament has changed — now they’ve grown too big for the confinements! Not quite to their full size yet, but big enough to scoop up their weapons and beat feet. The tribe aren’t much chuffed to lose their secret weapons, but are in no position to keep up, not when they’re too big to wriggle through the tiny nooks and crannies. Within a few hours our heroes are back to their normal size again, and all the more ready to take on whatever ridiculous dangers the Lost Valley can throw at them next.

So… this is a bit of a departure, innit? We’re well aware Lost Valley is host to a wide variety of weird and wonderful threats, but this is a bit much to stomach. It’s this close to a jump-the-shark moment; the UFO I could forgive because it was literally an outside force, but the magic turns-people-small-for-a-bit fruit juice is perhaps just a little too out there for some. Once again, there’s the gulf in what level of escapism people can accept in their media — Native Americans contending with dinosaurs is A-OK, but transformative scenarios and aliens are just a bridge too far.

Still, it results in some great setpieces, short-lived as they may be — they contend with the oversized jungle for only a scant few panels, but making use of oversized tools or the battle with the giant insect are a treat. It’s actually a surprise giant insects haven’t been called upon more often — it’s such a staple of oldschool adventure series, isn’t it?
If you want to be a big dumb fussy pants, you could pick apart the logic in how much berry juice has a t-rex gotta consume to shrink to ankle height (why would a meat-eater even go nibbling at berry trees to begin with?), or even the fluctuating size of the little people, shifting from standing waist-high to fitting in the palm of their hand… but that’s just comics, babe. If you want to dismiss it, just claim it was a collective dream. If a series runs for a hundred issues it’s allowed one “it was all a dream” cop-out, and this seems a prime candidate if you’re so inclined.

This issue’s text feature focuses on Prehistoric Americans: Stone-Age Master Builders, a dramatic title for just talking up Aztec architecture. It marvels at the advanced building techniques that wowed the Spanish colonialists who first stumbled upon them, but being a product of the ’60s, it’s got a somewhat patronising tone to its observations. “How could these pagan savages, the Aztecs, have built monuments of such beauty?”

The answer is mostly “not everyone was living in the Dark Ages, you bellend.” Cultures native to their land tend to know its idiosyncrasies pretty well. Whodathunk? When the humid climate makes soil too soft for foundations, but you’re pretty clued up on how to process stone, then making stone foundations seems like a reasonable solution. Even the proliferation of tribes in the Mexico area would suggest there was a lot of inspiration to draw from on how to build a neato palace.
A variety of dodgy sources claim Aztec cities would “[compete] between cities to build the biggest and the best“, a bit of trivia that lends a fun spirit of creativity to their exploits, that everyone was just hella into building bigass temples… though, like I said, dodgy sources, so it could be crock.

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