By: Greg Pak (writer), Takeshi Miyazawa (artist), Luigi Anderson (colorist)
The Story: Turok has finally found not one but two potential families. Now he just has to stop them from destroying each other.
The Review: At the beginning of this year I didn’t know anything about Turok. That may seem strange, given that I’m something of a dinosaur geek, but, to me, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was a ridiculous first person shooter for the N64 that just made me feel bad for the poor dinosaurs. I imagine those who played the wildly popular series of games are at least tangentially familiar with the premise of the character: namely that Turok is a native american warrior tasked with protecting a land apart from time. If bow-wielding natives fighting dinosaurs sounds bizarrely like the premise of the worst or most awesome pulp story you’ve ever heard, you’re kind of right. Turok, it turns out, is actually a sixty year-old comic franchise originally published by the Dell and Gold Key Comic companies. The franchise has been rebooted several times, twice in gritty 90s fashion, with the second of those inspiring the video game.
After a nearly ten-year hiatus and another unsuccessful reboot, Turok has found his way to Dynamite Comics under the direction of Greg Pak. Pak’s Turok: Dinosaur Hunter examines an alternate history where the existence of dinosaurs on Eurasia has allowed foreigners to reach the Americas early. After warding off an invasion by English crusaders, Turok has found himself caught between the Mound Builders of Cahokia and an invading Mongol horde. If that sounds awesome to you, once again you’re kind of right.
Having set up his pieces over the last two issues, Pak spends this issue exploring the conflicting emotions and responsibilities that Turok feels to both sides and himself. As is typical of Pak’s work, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter is a fascinating look at identity and this issue is no exception. There aren’t really any brilliant new additions to the balance Pak’s struck, but this is really an issue for the heart. Turok’s relationship to the family he’s staying with and the common people of Cahokia is nothing terribly complex, but at times it’s painfully sincere, a trait that quickly transforms the Elder Chief into a thoroughly slimy adversary, one who can make your blood boil. Simple as it is, you can feel the torment it all puts Turok through, particularly as he tries to explain his situation near the end of the issue.
Pak plays a dangerous game pretty expertly, communicating through inflection what most comics would relate through exposition. Occasionally he feels the need to double up, which will either relieve or frustrate readers, but it never becomes clawing. Characters like Genghis Khan and, especially, Batan come through loud and clear, instantly endearing themselves to the reader, despite their actions or lack of screen time.
More so even than the previous two issues, Takeshi Miyazawa really nails this comic. The joy of community and the tense pressure of distrust suit Miyazawa’s style far better than the solitary discovery of Turok’s journey up to this point. Miyazawa brings a healthy dose of manga expressiveness to the series, combining it beautifully with the full color and ink of an American comic without losing what’s great about either.
The excesses of Miyazawa’s style pay off most generously in his images of children, who are positively bursting with personality and quickly bring out the best in Turok, both narratively and visually. That said, while they don’t feature too prominently in this issue, his dinosaurs don’t quite meet the same high standard. There’s a feeling that Miyazawa did some excellent drawings based on the somewhat generic mental image of dinosaurs he had in his head. Still, even if the designs look a bit outdated, Miyazawa brings a welcome vibrancy to the interaction between humans and saurians. From the way they buck and surge under the hands of an inexperienced rider to the way their tails flick during training, the theropods are at their best when reacting to Turok or Batan.
Luigi Anderson also deserves a moment of praise. His skills are especially apparent around the warm glow of a fire or the pale light of dawn, but the whole book benefits from many subtler choices on his part. Admittedly it might have been nice to see a little more color in certain sections but, whether out of artistic preference or historical accuracy, the Mound Builders seem to enjoy a somewhat muted aesthetic.
The Conclusion: Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #7 is a comic that could easily have gone wrong. The writing is simple and its importance to the plot is perfectly middle of the road, neither essential nor forgettable. Nevertheless, the emotional impact that Pak, Miyazawa, and Anderson draw out of the tale make it a worthy addition to this consistently enjoyable series. It’s probably not the best place to jump onto this series, but issue #7 sets Turok’s second arc up for a tempting, potently tragic, conclusion and thoroughly invests you in the struggle.
– Noah Sharma