Dinosaur Hunter Diaries #136: Runaway

Friday, May 14, 2021 at 8:00 am Comments (2)

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #47

Andy chooses who his family is.

Following the attack on their village, the lake people of Lost Land set about rebuilding, with Captain Red leading the charge. Brusque as he may be, he’s the right man to get a village back on its feet.
Unbeknownst to them, Andy watches the affair from the battlements with detached silence. He looks upon his medallion — the last vestige of his grandfather, Andar — before leaving it behind and departing the village, quickly disappearing from view as he sinks into the jungle.

Andy’s amulet has never been brought up before, or even seen being worn for that matter — there’s no sign of it in the previous two issues! But it is, indeed, a relic of Andar’s — these medallions were a trademark of his and Turok’s attire in the Gold Key comics, where they also went completely unacknowledged, but it’s nice to see them finally have some relevance. The amulet is even how Turok and Andar recognise each other when they finally reunited way back in issue #4, a little visual gesture I’d missed the first time around.

While Red barks orders, he expresses his gratitude towards Turok and Andy for single-handedly saving the day, though the man refutes the notion. Nobody’s seen the boy since then, though, and upon finding the discarded medallion, fears the worst. Keth is eager to follow, but fear of the lizard people’s vengeance halts his attempt at aid. All they can do is pray for their safety. “This be between Turok, the lad, and whatever red ghosts that are diggin’ up gravestones in the lad’s young brain.”

Turok explains he acquired the medallion from an enemy he’d slain and gifted to Andar. It’s unclear if this is anyone significant (it sure as heck ain’t issue #16’s Snakehandler, as much as folks want that issue to have any kind of relevance), but Andar doesn’t have his medallion during Turok: The Hunted, and isn’t chronologically seen with one until the two begin their fateful journey halfway through issue #0. His passing of it to his grandson is said to be a token of their blood bond… but that ain’t worth much to the kid now, it seems.

Turok follows the boy’s trail… and he’s not the only one, with tyrannosaur tracks suggesting he’s been marked as a snack worth pursuing. While he pursues, he doesn’t notice another figure watching him go — Lake, Andy’s estranged and enigmatic father.

The crescent scar was what established Lake and Andy as family back in issue #40; there it was a thin scar on their right and left pectorals, respectively, but now is presented more like a birthmark in the centre of their chests. This does add some symbolic imagery into the mix, as Andy’s medallion rested above it to create a full moon. Without it, the picture is incomplete, simply a waning crescent.
If you want to get extra wanky, this seems to correlate with the symbolism commonly associated with the phases of the moon; Andy’s full moon denotes pursuing new endeavours, while Lake is stuck in his ways, both for good or for ill. Like I said, big-time wanky. I gave this two seconds of research because search engines kept pointing me to sites like “whatisyourspiritanimal.com” and other sites that look like they co-opt cultural identities out the wazoo. Moons be moons, man.

Andy’s tracks lead in two directions, a sign he’d hoped to lead anyone who followed astray… but Turok himself has been followed by a gang of raptors. One goes down to a headshot, another gets a knife in its throat, but the last takes a chunk out of his leg. Wounded, he’s in no position to strike back — only for someone to kill it on his behalf, its corpse falling on top of him.

It’s Andy, having paid his last good deed to his former mentor; Turok’s pinned beneath the raptor, but Andy’s all out of kindness. The boy’s hurting, thinking himself a pox on anyone who comes near him; better he solve his problems himself than be a burden upon anyone else. To try and help him is a waste of time. Turok leaves him to it.

Of course, he can’t let him go without warning him about the t-rex — especially now that it’s right on top of them. Andy is eager to assert himself and take it down single-handedly, but is tail whipped for his trouble. Lake finally reveals himself, beckoning the boy to take his side and ditch his teach; the honker won’t bother them when there’s easier meat to be had.

Turok’s down to his last arrows, and the honker still won’t fall. He calls to Andy, but the boy refuses to have anything to do with him; they sort out their own problems now. If that’s the case, Turok bids him a fond farewell, despite it all.

Andy came back, needless to say.

The monster is mown down and his mentor is saved, Andy helping patch out his wound… by which point Lake has vanished. Somehow, the boy can’t bring himself to shed tears over it. The two regroup and make their way back to the village — the closest place they can call home.

And thus, Valiant’s Turok: Dinosaur Hunter comes to a close.
It’s a lowkey ending to the series, and a slightly bittersweet one at that: everyone left mending their walls in the never ending conflict, be it the lake people’s safety against raiders, or Turok and Andy’s quest for meaning and identity. The boy’s willing to throw his life away for a dad who was never there for him, in the thin hope it might fill the void in his soul.

It’s hard not to ache for the kid. He’s never known a steady life, or even had a proper family. He’s been jumping from cause to cause to try and find a better world for himself, be it fighting for rights or joining a seemingly forward-thinking cult, but it always ends up backfiring, only making more enemies or enduring more heartbreak. Even Turok found himself in deeper shit before he could ever properly address the kid’s questions. Dinosaurs fall on people at such inopportune moments.
But to see Turok and Andy come together in those final pages, brief and wordless as it my be, is sweet. Turok refuses to let his apprentice go, no matter the trials. For this relative stranger to be so dedicated to his cause must be awkward for the young Andy… but he’s the only man in his life who hasn’t once turned his back on him. Maybe now he’ll be willing to connect to those who have treated him the most like a son, and not the drifter father whose heart is closed off to the world.

To end like this, you could argue a lot is left unanswered. There’s no final closure on Turok or Andy’s places in the world, if they ever truly find peace within themselves, but perhaps it’s better that way. Their lives are always changing, and to close on a “happily ever after” would be incongruous. We won’t see where their paths take them in this topsy-turvy world, but where it ends suggests they at least have each other to guide their way.
There’s no grand send-off to Turok and Regan’s future either, her contributions having been trivial at best for the past dozen issues. Assuming #44 was a fill-in, the last we saw of her was being ferried home after an injury during the cave-in with Lake. Having your few moments of intimacy spoiled by Nazis, great white hunters and head-eating manhunters is bound to spoil the romance, but you’d like to think they can bounce back. They’ve clearly a thing for each other, but whether they can healthily address it under the bizarre relationship of anthropologist and man out of time is another matter.

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #36
The biggest loose end of all, of course, is one raised just two issues ago: we never do learn of Seer’s prophecies for the Lost Land. He’s been coy about the ‘meaning’ behind the realm since his debut, Mothergod’s ambitions and the rainbow tower evidently part of some grand puzzle, and Turok’s presence seemingly key to it.
I, frankly, didn’t pay much attention to it. Prophecies piss me off at the best of times, and the most meaning I can glean from it is Turok’s actions somehow incurring its own ideal of “Unity”, running the risk of the realm requiring a master figure to curate it like Mothergod herself. If Tim Truman ever did write follow-up issues I’d be much keen to hear about it, but I’ve no confidence in filling in the blanks myself.

With threads left hanging, one might feel like the series was concluded before it could tell all it had left to say.
But I think it’s better for that reason. So much of Turok’s story across the Valiant series is about making peace with his predicament, finding consolidation in the past, the present, and wherever the future may take him. It won’t always work out, but he seemingly does his best to do right wherever he sees fit. It’s not quite the ending I anticipated, but it feels like a healthy place to leave off. There’s still room for these characters to grow, but we’ve learned enough about them to hopefully fill in those gaps ourselves.

X-O Manowar #68 (September 1996)
image from thecomicbookdepot

As for the rest of the Valiant universe, I can’t vouch for how well they fared in their send-off issues… on account of not reading them nearly as extensively, and giving their final arcs only a cursory leaf-through. Solar: Man of the Atom said farewell in a suitably morose and navel-pondering manner, forfeiting what’s left of his humanity to ascend to a higher plane of being, though described as “empty” by one comment I found.
X-O Manowar ends with him trapped in his memories of yore, suggesting his entire future past the age of Dacia might have been fictional, yet he holds the power to change it all. Magnus: Robot Fighter‘s final issue is essential a public memorial to the titular character and an entire city being vaporised, evidently a rushed conclusion to plot developments that never spun out to fruition, according to this entertaining era-by-era breakdown.

Obviously glancing at final issues without context ain’t gonna be much illuminating, and by that metric Turok’s final issue seems as out-of-sorts as the rest of them. This is where the series leaves it final mark? And yet, honestly, it seems as good a place as any. It’s a far cry from the overly bombastic and explosive climaxes of its fellow Valiant titles, but perhaps more of a standout because of it.
It’s not an answer to all of their problems, a satisfying resolution to Andy’s plight, nor even drawing the curtain on the spatial anomaly that is the Lost Land… the world keeps on spinning. Turok may never find that quick and dirty solution to his problems, but that’s life, innit. For as grandiose as the Valiant universe might have been at times, having dictated millennia-spanning events ahead of time in early guidebooks… for it to simply say “you don’t always find your answers” is almost a blessing.

advertisement from Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #38
Valiant Turok is good. Tim Truman paints the character as pained but noble, and to see him face challenges new and old, including the prospect of romance or the mentoring of a wayward pupil, are compelling. For all its dinosaur violence, it has a good heart at its core, thanks to him. It’s not without its bumps, and there’s no shortage of duff issues, but it carves its distinct little niche in the shared Valiant universe. It’s also the last time we’ll ever get a Turok run that ran regularly for more than twelve issues, so there’s that. That’s the comics industry, sadly!
(Acclaim’s got over a dozen issues, but you can fudge what counts to make it 11, if you wanna be cheatsy. it sure as heck weren’t regular. I got a point to unfairly prove here!)

And with that, we close the book on Valiant Comics! In the months after this issue’s release they fully rebranded into their Acclaim Comics identity, ditching all ties to the Valiant age. Their big-name properties were rebooted as all-new entities with extreme makeovers, often bearing little to no resemblance to their past setups. Turok lay dormant for a few months, leaving comic store shelves without a dinosaur hunter.
Although arriving late to the fray, Turok would be at the unofficial forefront of Acclaim’s big shake-up, boasting a quarterly comic book run, two branches of children’s media, and of course, a brand-new venture in the realm of cutting-edge 3D video gaming, among other surprises. All that on top of being a serious shake-up to the status quo, ditching the ties to the classic Gold Key comics and establishing a whole new canon… though we haven’t seen the last of Valiant’s Turok just yet. But we’ll get to that in time.

For now, I’m takin’ a break! Dinosaur Hunter Diaries will be on indefinite hiatus while I catch some sorely needed R&R. Keeping pace for sixteen months was a challenge, even with a whole heap of backlog, but it’s been fun and invigorating, and I’m looking forward to what comes next.
When the column returns, we’ll be tackling the veritable smorgasbord of Acclaim material, entering the second half of the Gold Key comics, and visiting more weird and wonderful excerpts from Mexico’s El Guerrero De Piedra
… but until then, I’m taking it easy. Look after yourselves!

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