Turok, Son Of Stone, was originally published in 1954 via Western Publishing. The character was a Native American who, with his brother Andar, became trapped in the dinosaur age. This week Dark Horse is revamping the character with a 48-page book from legendary writer Jim Shooter and artist Eduardo Francisco.
Turok, Son Of Stone #1 is an interesting attempt by Dark Horse to do something that feels like a Golden Age comic but with a more sinister and violent edge. That way I see it, this new Turok puts in all the things kids in 1954 wish they could’ve seen. Some of the original events have been altered slightly but nothing that hurts the legacy of the character.
In the original comic, the relationship between Turok and Andar is established up front and a maniacal tribe out isn’t chasing the two in order to sacrifice Andar. In an odd twist in this first issue, Turok names Andar because the boy can’t say his own name out loud for fear of violating his tribes’ laws.
There’s also the lack of a magical cave delivering the two warriors to the dinosaur age, instead they get there through a dark and evil storm. All the changes here really just add some new dimensions to the original idea, dimensions that allow for the story to be violent and dark. It also modernizes the straightforward story arcs of the Golden Age.
The brilliance here lies with Jim Shooter, an old school comic author who writes an old school story. Shooter keeps the dialog very much in a Golden Age rhythm, but allows just enough room for the newer story to grow. It’s not easy re-introducing a seemingly benign character to a new audience, especially one not wowed by the world of Indian warriors and dinosaurs.
Shooter knows he has to bring in the old school fans and so he weaves the dialog around the plot, letting it carry the weight of the original legend, while the story brings Turok and his tale into a more modern age. It would’ve been easy to have Turok speak in a modern tongue, or even to make the whole thing “Tribal Futuristic”, but Shooter never takes the easy way out. His need to hold fast to old school comic rules, even while writing masterful, modern stories, is part of why his run on Legion Of Superheroes didn’t last. It’s just a little too smart for most people.
Another solid play from Dark Horse was to have artist Eduardo Francisco draw this up like an old seventies comic. It’s an interesting idea to bring in the seventies era of comic book art, combine it with a modern story and then add a batch of Golden Age dialog. If even one of these aspects were out of place, the whole house of cards would come down. Instead it blends perfectly and never takes you out of the story. The art has those same sharp edges and bold lines that the seventies comics had, plus the colors are muted in much the same way. Every so often Francisco will hit the panels with a modern vibe but for the most part it feels and looks like seventies, newspaper printed, comics.
As an added bonus, a reprint of the original Turok, Son Of Stone is the backup story for issue #1. I don’t know If all of this smart planning from Dark Horse or bold artistic steps from Shooter and Francisco will lead to Turok becoming a major book, but for now, it’s a tremendous title that announces itself with great style.