torsdag 16 februari 2012

Shooter, Francisco & Harren: Turok, Son of Stone Vol 1: Aztlán

OK, so it's 1428, and a bunch of Aztecs are about to sacrifice a young boy on a makeshift altar. The warrior Turok who has chanced upon the scene rains arrows on them, allowing the boy to escape his fate. Turok and the boy flee, and the boy's father gives his life to buy them time to put some distance between themselves and the pursuing Aztecs. A terrific storm descends on Turok, Andar (the name he gives the boy), and the Aztecs, somehow transporting them all to a time and place where dinosaurs roam the Earth... and that's just in the first eight pages.

Yeah, well, we've all heard about in media res, but this is almost ridiculous. The pace in this Dark Horse reboot of a classic comic is a bit frantic at the start.

Anyway, Turok and Andar gain an ally among the slaves the Aztecs brought with them, only to lose him shortly thereafter, a predator dinosaur comes between the Aztecs and their prey, Turok & Andar are captured by the fierce Panther warriors tribe, who are led by a "goddess" – a young blonde woman who's been brought to the land by a similar storm from present-day Norway – and want to sacrifice Turok and Andar. Meanwhile, the Aztecs have encountered fellow Aztecs from a lost Aztec city which has apparently been transported to this time and place previously. They're sworn enemies of the Panther tribe, and they have an ally from the 22nd century, armed with deadly high-tech weapons...

And then, all these story threads collide in a couple of massive battles.

It takes skill to keep it all together, and Jim Shooter's certainly in possession of such writing skill. He can describe his characters with a sort of clinical detachment, and isn't sentimental about letting his heroes befriend somebody only  to have that person killed off a couple of pages later. It lends an air of realism to the story, because we can't really control things in real life, can we?

And yet, it also sort of sinks the story. In real life, we still have a constant that keeps it all together; namely, ourselves. Our brain keeps even relatively disjointed events together, forming a comprehensive narrative – when we lose that ability, we're in trouble (or our mental health is). Shooter already has a story that takes a bit of effort to keep together; adding and losing people to the small group of Turok's allies cannot help but make the narrative more disjointed. It doesn't wreck the story, but it is a weakness – especially with it already being populated by people from rather varying times and places. This being the first chapter in the reboot of Turok's adventures, I think a more careful establishing of the dinosaur-infested setting for the series, somewhat more slowly paced, would have been preferable. We'll see what Shooter does with the series in the future; his Turok is a well-crafted character in the stoic and intelligent hero tradition, and I'm kind of partial to those rather than the hot-tempered variety.

The art – the first half of the book is drawn by Eduardo Francisco, and it's OK; it looks a bit like a sketchier Tom Palmer effort. The second half is by James Harren, and is too sketchy and uneven for my tastes. I wish the interior art could have been of the same quality as Raymond Swanland's covers, which are excellent.

So all in all, I can't really recommend this book. It's not a waste of time, but it could and should have been better than it is.

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