Review: Dark Country

A comic review article by: Jason Sacks

Imagine this: you're newly married to a beautiful ex-stripper, the girl of your insatiable sexual dreams, and you're on your honeymoon. The wedding was in Vegas, so you take a ride through the desert to celebrate, have a good time, allow yourselves to be free and escape all the shit and bother of everyday life. The problem is, there's trouble everywhere. And when you come across a man running across an incredibly dark highway, there's no way to avoid him. The man is in your way. You can't help yourself! The road is dark, it's quiet, and the impact is great! In an explosion of dark against incredibly bright headlights, a terrible thing happens. And events spiral out from that event, in dreadful and unexpected ways that will change lives forever.

 

 

Sounds like a perfect noir story for Halloween, doesn't it? And thanks to the good people at Raw Studios, Thomas Ott's amazing graphic novel Dark Country is appearing right around the scariest day of the year, along with additional information  as bonus features that you may or may not want to have along with the graphic novel. But I'll get to those bonus features in a minute.

 

 

Because Ott's 60-page graphic novella is a beautiful, silent, dark-infused noir explosion, a tremendously exciting, meticulously created horror tale that's perfectly suited for his talents. He creates a small cast of characters and then throws them all together in a gorgeously black landscape, a place where shadows seem to fall across every possible section of a scene and blackness follows everyone in a gorgeous scratchboard style.

 

 

It's a masterful creation, made even spookier and more mysterious because no explanation is given for the events in this story. Readers are shown events but we're given no dialogue, no sound effects, no explanations at all for the events that occur. Everything is a dark mystery, a series of puzzles that is swallowed by the all-encompassing blackness of the story settings. The darkness in this story is so strong, so overwhelming and omnipresent that it seems to draw everything positive into it -- joy, optimism, peace and even explanations are subsumed by the omnipresent noir energy of this tale. 

 

 

Anybody who has ever driven a dark desert highway will understand the all-consuming darkness that Ott creates in this book. When I was in high school in Nevada, my friends and I would occasionally drive out of the city and into the desert and I was always struck by the vast darkness of the sky, the incredibly intense black canopy that seemed to present a massive barrier against human encroachment. The night in Nevada seemed to scream its warning to people: this is wild country. You would not understand this world. It is not a world for men who have not already given themselves over to their inner darkness. You are not welcome here. Ott's world echoes my experiences; in the way that he creates a world of all-consuming desolation, he shows that there are darker things in this world that you could never hope to understand.

 

 

If all that this book offered was Ott's story, I'd recommend it without any reservations as a brilliantly dark and extremely special creation. However, Thomas Jane and Tab Murphy deliver bonus content in this book that you might or might not want.

 

 

See, Jane created a movie a few years ago that adapted The Dark Country, and the second half of this book is devoted to bonus material that fans of the movie will find indispensable. There is content in this collection about the film's posters, storyboards, character designs and quite a bit of other material, and while that bonus material is exceptionally done and fascinating pieces of work, they're also kind of inessential for those like me who have never seen the movie. I just didn't have any interest in the stuff related to the movie, and while Tim Bradstreet and Bernie Wrightson's production work for the film is also brilliantly dark and interesting, it just felt a bit superfluous for my interests.

 

 

If you love the movie Dark Country, this book will be really indispensable for you. And if you'd like to read a really effective noir horror story for Halloween, you'll find a lot here to like. But if you don't care about the movie and just want to read the comic, you might find this book a bit bloated for your needs. But we can all ignore a few pages that we don't care about in a book to find something brilliantly bleak, right?

 


 

Jason Sacks is Publisher of Comics Bulletin. Follow him at @jasonsacks, email him at jason.sacks@comicsbulletin.com or friend him on Facebook.

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