What's New Wednesday 2/05/2014? TUROK, DINOSAUR HUNTER

TUROK: DINOSAUR HUNTER #1 (Dynamite Entertainment, February 2014) Greg Pak, writer. Mirko Colak, artist. Lauren Affe, colorist. Marshall Dillon, letterer. Bart Sears, main cover.

A character as old as several other comics icons gets another chance at emerging into the 21st century when Dynamite Entertainment debuts the first of their Gold Key re-imaginings with TUROK, SON OF STONE. While its’ not entirely clear what direction this new series will take with this classic character, Issue #1 has potential and serves as a good introduction to a world that will feature Native Americans fighting for their lives against ferocious dinosaurs.

In the original version, Turok and his younger brother Andar entered some caverns and wandered off. They lost their way, and emerged into an isolated valley populated by dinosaurs. Their adventures began with Dell Comics in 1954 in the pages of FOUR COLOR COMICS and later earned their own title (TUROK, SON OF STONE) under the Gold Key imprint. They never did find their way back home; and their stories continued from 1956 through 1982 when Gold Key closed down.

Turok remained in comics limbo until resurrection occurred in 1993 with Valiant Entertainment, who acquired the properties along with other Gold Key features DOCTOR SOLAR, MAN OF THE ATOM and MAGNUS, ROBOT FIGHTER. This version of Turok found him somewhat older and more mature, and still wandering in the “Lost Lands”. Along with the dinosaurs were added some demons and aliens. This series later flashed forward (following the original “Unity” event) to a post apocalyptic future where the main villain/evil genius outfitted dinosaurs with helmets that made them intelligent and dubbed them “bionosaurs”. What started out as a promising re-introduction of Turok to 1990’s comics readers strayed a little too far from the original concept to satisfy veteran readers, and sales dipped.

When Acclaim then acquired everything at Valiant ( original properties as well as the Gold Key characters) they re-booted everything including Turok, who lost his name and origin (but at least still remained a native American). Now Turok was not a character, but a title meaning “son of stone”. The main character was a young adult named Joshua Fireseed and the Lost Lands became a gateway to other alternate universes. Immature Fireseed was charged with traveling between universes while protecting the Lost Lands from various threats. Featuring some of the most mundane and rambling work from writer Fabian Niceiza, this version is most noted for providing the background for an Acclaim video game series.

Back to limbo for the once mighty Turok, who sat in the dark again until Dark Horse Comics gave it a try (along with MAGNUS, ROBOT FIGHTER and MIGHTY SAMPSON) in 2010. They recruited veteran writer Jim Shooter (formerly a Marvel editor as well as a mainspring for Valiant) but did very little in the way of promotion. Without the older core audience even aware of this new version, all three series lasted four issues and vanished.

So, was it really necessary to provide modern readers with all this history of Turok? I believe so, for this is a character that deserves a decent chance at revival as much as other characters that have made comebacks. Dynamite has earned a reputation for quality adaptations and re-imaginings of classic pulp characters. And that, along with the casting choices for the writer/artist team, gives me hope.

In several interviews with writer Greg Pak, he expressed excitement at setting the stage for his version of Turok, retaining the “native Americans versus dinosaurs” storyline while building a new world and promising to entertain fans of alternate history and historical fiction with some new elements he plans to add.

This is a younger version of Turok and the setting seems more familiar. Instead of discovering a secret valley inhabited by dinosaurs, the dinosaurs mysteriously and unexpectedly show up in Turok’s world.

We don’t learn what period in time TUROK: DINOSAUR HUNTER takes place in until the end of the issue, nor do we know where it happens. The story begins during Turok’s infancy when a traumatic event occurs that will influence him for the rest of his life, similar to the way that a traumatic event forged a dramatic purpose from that point forward for a young Bruce Wayne.

A friendly meeting with another tribe turns ugly, resulting in the deaths of many members. Even though his uncle and others offer protection and a sense of family for young Turok, he bears the mark of what he witnessed and carries the need for retribution inside him. Sixteen years later finds Turok living apart from but near the remaining members of his settlement, the life of a squatter. His only companions appear to be the lizards he befriends, as well as two carved wooden heads which may represent his deceased parents. He’s apparently developed some survival skills, as well some hunting luck so he apparently eats well. His philosophy and values are often expressed by him in three simple words = “alone is better.”

As a result of his isolation and strangeness, he’s considered weird, an outcast, and reported to possess witchy powers. He’s often persecuted, taunted, and abused by his peers. The Andar of previous Turok tales is not his brother or a friend, but an adversary.

The art by Mirko Colak helps to point out these differences. Turok’s hair is cropped and styled differently from the rest of his young tribesmen and Colak highlights his aloofness and attitude through his facial expressions and reactions. His art style is worth studying. There is a lot of detail in the panels, especially the forest scenes which are realistically depicted.

Into this depressing environment the dinosaurs arrive, and with it a quickly forged partnership between Andar and Turok based on survival instinct. Just as soon as Pak establishes the setting for what comes next he inserts another surprising development: the arrival of a pack of Crusaders apparently journeying in a wholly different direction on their mission for God (spell that G-o-l-d, please). Imagine all that occurring on the island of Manhattan. Are you in for more? I definitely want to see where this goes.

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  1. I forgot to add that Dark Horse published a fourth title in their 2010 Gold Key re-boot = SOLAR, MAN OF THE ATOM. I have that series and it's worth seeking out. It was a nice start but something happened and Dark Horse didn't continue it. I'm going to look for those TUROK issues they published in search for a good story.


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