The American Southwest, 1428. Turok, a wandering warrior, rescues young Andar from death at the hands of the ruthless Maxtla and his Aztec horde. Turok and Andar seek refuge in a vast cavern, where an otherworldly force sweeps them and their pursuers to a savage, timeless land of rampaging dinosaurs and unimagined wonders. Hunted in a world of danger and death, Turok and Andar fight to survive - and to find a way home.
Turok, as I’ve said before, is a hard man to kill. Since the first Turok comic debuted in 1954, the character has been resurrected several times in various media. Sometimes those reincarnations differ greatly from the original concept of Turok as a pre-Columbian Native American trapped in a lost world of dinosaurs. The most recent take on the character by Dynamite Comics turned Turok into troubled youth in an alternate timeline where dinosaurs survived in Europe and had been tamed by medieval knights. That series ended with Turok becoming Robin Hood. (Yeah, that comic was pretty awful.) A few years before Dynamite gave us its version of the “dinosaur hunter,” Dark Horse Comics attempted to revive Turok with a four-issue limited series that was closer in tone to the original comic. While not a great effort, it wasn’t a train wreck either.
The story starts with a group of displaced Aztecs about to sacrifice a Native American boy. Within a couple pages Turok has rescued the child – who it turns out is the dinosaur hunter’s longtime sidekick Andar – and the two are pursued across the landscape by the angry Aztecs. The dino-manic duo are sheltering in a cave when a strange storm sweeps them and their pursuers to another dimension where dinosaurs and other beings from various time periods are dumped by the same weather phenomena. Turok and Andar are quickly captured by the Panther People and their Scandinavian, 21st century queen. Meanwhile, the Aztecs discover a lost city of their people, who quickly (and not very believably) accept the group’s leader as their long-lost god-king. The new king doesn’t waste any time ordering his subjects to capture the child sacrifice who got away.
Turok: Son of Stone suffers the same problem I see in many comics: It attempts to cram too much story into the limited space available in the average issue. The result is the characters are never fully developed. The troubles begin only a few pages in when Andar’s father is quickly killed in front of his son. Readers never get to know the character or see his relationship with Andar, so there is little emotional investment. Andar also appears to get over his father’s murder very quickly, so I’m not sure what purpose his death served in the boy’s character arc. The same lack of logic extends to other characters, who will often undergo major personality shifts simply because the plot needed to advance forward – the most egregious being when the Scandinavian queen develops romantic feelings for Turok seemingly out of nowhere.
Readers looking for dinosaurs will be disappointed as they get the short shrift. The prehistoric reptiles appear in a few panels, but for the most part they are only scenery. They also are not well drawn, although I have seen worse takes. The rest of the art was actually quite nice, with the action scenes drawn with a sort of frenetic energy sometimes lacking in other comics trying for the same thing. As for action, there is quite a lot of it throughout the series, and it is done well enough to keep your attention.
Turok: Son of Stone isn’t a complete loss but there isn’t enough there to make the series memorable. A streamlined plot that allowed more character development would have helped. It also wouldn’t have hurt to provide more dinosaurs for the “dinosaur hunter” to hunt. Dark Horse’s take on the character is better than that of the more recent Dynamite comic, but it still fails to capture the full potential of the premise.
- Dark Horse was going to publish all four issues in a single volume, but that never happened. Still, individual issues are available for purchase as digital downloads from the company’s website.
- The first issue of the series includes Turok’s origin story from his very first comic, published roughly 60 years ago.
- I’m guessing the subplot about the leader of the renegade Aztecs being instantly accepted by the lost city as a god-king was inspired by the real-life story of Hernán Cortés, the Spanish conquistador who the Aztecs mistook for a god. (Although some historians question whether that story was a later invention.)
- Dark Horse has collected and republished the original Turok comics in 10 hardcover volumes selling for $50-$60 each. So if you have more than $500 to spare, you can own the entire series.
- Turok currently is starring in a Dynamite series bringing several older, largely forgotten superheroes together as a team – the equivalent of Marvel’s Avengers.