When Dynamite Entertainment launched its “Sovereign” line of titles recently, featuring characters licensed from the old Gold Key comics, they opted for a bold and risky strategy. “The Sovereigns” title would debut first, and it and subsequent titles would feature back-up stories that would introduce readers to the assorted characters soon to be heading up their own titles. It was bold move, and Turok #1 shows both the benefit and the drawbacks of that strategy. The result is a first issue that feels like a fifth issue, but that’s less a problem than you’d think. But while the issue does a good job in establishing Turok as a compelling central character, its focus on its prison break/infiltration plot winds up feeling familiar.
The story opens with Turok captured by the saurian Varanid Empire, the racist race of advanced dinosaur people that rule the Lost Valley. Turok himself is in fact there by choice, on a mission to find a missing girl. As he and his fellow prisoners are taken inside a Varanid prison, Turok puts his plan into motion, and action follows. But can one man defeat an enemy encampment?
This story takes place after the events of the Turok back-up stories that unfurled in different titles. I wasn’t able to read all of those instalments, so throughout the entirety of this issue I couldn’t help but feel I was missing something. The identity of the girl Turok is searching for, the nature of his reputation as the Hero of Railtown, etc. I’m not saying that Turok #1 requires the reader to have read those back-up stories, but it also doesn’t feel as if it expects people to come to this issue without any idea of the setting. Maybe if I didn’t know there was a story that unfurled before this, I wouldn’t be bothered by this aspect, but I couldn’t help thinking moments and plot points might have landed better for me if I had read it. For a #1 issue, I always think it’s better to assume you;ve got people coming to the book absolutely fresh, even for a legacy character, and some setting of the stage never goes amiss.
Writer Chuck Wendig does succeed, however, in establishing Turok as a compelling and effective lead for the story. Even if we know little about him, this issue tells us that he’s smart, he’s tough, and he’s a relentless badass. All good things to quickly establish in an adventure comic. The art by Alvaro Sarraseca works in tandem with Wendig’s script, as Sarraseca always frames Turok in the boldest and coolest way, using every opportunity to show the reader how relentless and capable and cool the character is. The action has a ton of impact and feels brutal and yet never so gory as to lose the fun quotient. When you’ve got Nazi-Dino-People as your baddies, you run the risk of looking silly at every turn. But even so, part of the fun of Turok #1 is the absurdity of the conflict being against talking lizards, so you don’t want to strip that away entirely either. Luckily Wendig and Sarraseca straddle that very thin line expertly throughout, and the Varanid Empire proves itself a surprisingly effective and kooky threat. Turok #1 also delivers two solid supporting characters in thieves Nettle and Marak, both of whom are charming and immediately serve to offer some lightness and humor in contrast to the terse and intense Turok.
Where the issue did falls short for me was the plot itself. Turok’s mission to break into the prison is a plot that we’ve seen a million times, where our outnumbered hero must execute a plan against overwhelming odds, which leads to bone-crushing action. Turok #1 is no different, and while it’s all executed enjoyably enough, with lots of great fight scenes, I saw every turn of the narrative coming. When the cliffhanger arrived, it arrived in the exact way and manner I expected it would. I enjoyed it in the same way we enjoy a well-executed set piece, but it would have been nice to see something fresh to accompany the interesting characters and unique setting.
There’s also a Doc Spektor back-up story written by Aubrey Sitterson with art by Dylan Burnett. The story is pleasant enough, a nice read that showcases the scruffy reprobate that is this version of Spektor. It did too feel a bit familiar in its approach, as Spektor is yet another in a long line of con-men screw-up magicians. There are some nice visuals, and the whole thing is charming, but I still don’t quite see a hook that would make me follow this character into his own title.
In the end, Turok #1 has enough going for it to remain an enjoyable read, and if these characters and this setting are paired with plots that feel more unique then this title could have lots to offer. As it is, there’s enough to bring you back for a second issue but the title needs to quickly go beyond a standard action-movie prison-break plot line. 6.5/10
Turok #1 will be released August 8, 2017