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TUROK #1

by Thegreatmagnet on August 02, 2017

Turok Written by Chuck Wendig
Turok Art by Álvaro Sarraseca
Doc Spektor Written by Aubrey Sitterson
Doc Spektor Art by Dylan Burnett
All Colors by Triona Farrell
Published by Dynamite
 
Evaluating new adaptations of classic franchises can be difficult. For some die-hard fans, any change to beloved characters is an abomination. However, just complaining about things that are new or different is not a meaningful analysis, nor is it valuable to anyone who is not intimately familiar with the source material. I endeavor to give any new adaptation a chance on its own merits, although obviously my expectations are elevated for any character that I have an emotional investment with. So far I have been admittedly harsh with the new iteration of Turok, partly because it bore no resemblance to any previous version of the character, but also because the brief glimpses of the story seemed pretty mindless and shallow.  Finally having a full-length issue under its belt, I’m encouraged that they may be fleshing out a more substantial story, although they still have a long way to go.
 
First off, let’s just get this out of this out of the way: this is, for all intents and purposes, not really Turok. The character has had many iterations over the years, but the one constant would seem to be his Native American heritage, which does not seem to be at play in this incarnation. I struggle to find any real connection to any previous portrayals of the character, besides that he occasionally kills “dinosaurs” with a bow and arrow. It’s arguable whether dinosaur killing is the essential character trait of Turok, but that’s clearly what they chose to focus on here. If you’re a long-time fan of the character, you may be baffled and disappointed by this drastic reinterpretation. Given my general investment in the character and the myriad changes in this version, I’ve decided to read this series with the understanding that this is not really Turok. If it does interesting, well-executed things (and I hope it does), perhaps it will change my preconceived notions about the essence of the character.
 
My primary concern about this series began with the basic premise: why are we seeing a post-apocalyptic dystopia ruled by intelligent, English-speaking dinosaurs, especially given the story was originally placed in “2017”. Thankfully, Issue 1 allays some concerns on this front by re-emphasizing the setting of the Lost Valley, which has often been portrayed as a pocket-universe removed from time. Much like the Lost Land in 90s Valiant, or the Faraway in current Valiant, the Lost Valley seems to be the repository of lost items, people, animals throughout time: if something has mysteriously gone missing, it probably ended up in the Lost Valley. The first page of the issue features a pirate ship and a dead paratrooper, and the human inhabitants seem to be dressed in clothing that ranges from many different historical periods across the globe. The idea of the Lost Valley attracting things from throughout time can address the presence of both traditional dinosaurs as well as the intelligent, clothes-wearing dinosaurs (saurians) that rule. However, it’s anyone’s guess how the saurians became intelligent and rose to power, and I’m really hoping that they address this in future issues. My hope is that they were scientifically engineered somehow, rather than some half-baked evolutionary jibberish (a la classic Planet of the Apes).
 
In my opinion, one of the major elements of this series seems to be a commentary on racism, as represented by the hierarchy of intelligent species in the story: humans, saurians, and pigbloods (the result of inter-species breeding between the two). The evil saurians are dressed in Nazi-esque uniforms and they operate a concentration camp for the other two species. The human prisoners of that camp are clearly treated as animals, serving as food or target practice. The pigbloods are relegated to slavery to prop up the economy of the saurian empire, and they’re referred to as aberrations by the saurians. I admit that I was somewhat disturbed by the idea of breeding between humans and the monstrous saurians, especially if the offspring are generally the product of rape. However, based on the dialog from Marak, it seems like there may be actual romantic entanglements between the various species, I hope that his backstory is explored more in future issues. In a story driven by the conflict between species, a hybrid species has the potential to be extremely interesting and compelling if done correctly. It remains to be seen whether the writer will aspire to developing these potentially weighty themes, or whether they’re mostly a premise for some dinosaur-shootin’ action.
 
Turok himself is still a fairly undeveloped character, aside from featuring his skills as a guerilla combatant and tactician. It’s clear that his motivations are personal, extending only to a rescue mission for one young girl, who’s mostly likely his daughter. He paints himself as an anti-hero who is nobody’s savior, although it’s clear that there are many who would like to enlist him as muscle for their cause. I would assume that Turok will be drawn into the larger struggle, lest the story remain too small and self-interested. I would also guess that Turok’s quarry will remain out of reach for the foreseeable future, or else there would be no reason for the story to continue. Perhaps minus any hint of an escape from the Lost Valley, Turok will eventually be convinced that there is no meaningful future for the girl unless the saurians are defeated. More than anything, I hope that they work to build a rich character for Turok, even given his portrayal as a no-nonsense warrior of few words.
 
The art of this series has been strong from the outset. Sarraseca’s lines are delicate and finely detailed, and I particularly like his work on the lizard scales of various characters. He does a fantastic job with the kinetic action scenes that span the majority of the issue as Turok leads a one-man assault on a prison, but he also does an admirable job with the character moments. Farrell does a great job with the colors, creating a fairly surreal effect that suits the Lost Valley. I enjoyed the emphasis on panels with empty backgrounds that are complemented by flat orange fills, which seem to correspond to key moments in the operation. The art is doing a lot of the heavy lifting so far, and it’s probably good enough to justify buying the book on its own.
This issue also includes a preview of the upcoming Doctor Spektor series, but I won’t go too in-depth at this point. Clearly I made a lot of judgments about Turok from the previous stories, and those weren’t necessarily indicative. I will say that I get a sense where the story is headed and I am interested in reading more. I just hope that Spektor’s screw-up tendancies are not over-emphasized in favor of the kickass magician traits. It’s hard to stay invested in a hero that can’t keep out of his own way. It’s also worth mentioning that I really enjoyed Farrell’s colors on this story as well.
 
Have I lost my way? Have I really come around on this book that, as recently as this weekend, I was planning to flame ruthlessly? Was I being too harsh and myopic about the nature of this adaptation and its possibilities? Am I so caught up in the spirit of fairness and impartiality that I’m giving the benefit of the doubt to a party (Dynamite) who by all rights should have lost that right years ago? For now, let’s just say that it’s too early to tell, but I’m not quite ready to root against the character. This issue is a decent start, but they had better continue to develop a meaningful story to go along with all the *bang bang* “Die, dinosaur!” action, or else this series will get old real quick. I just hope I haven’t been duped…
 
 

Our Score:

7/10

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