“Dark Country” Graphic Novel Review

Bottom Line: Dark Country is creative. It's dark. It's sexy. It's nightmarish. It is well worth the read, and belongs on the bookshelves of movie and comic book fans alike.

Thomas Jane, the star of 2004’s film adaptation of The Punisher  and the HBO series Hung (he also played Mickey Mantle opposite Barry Pepper’s Roger Maris in *61 (have we mentioned our love for all baseball movies?) made his directorial debut in 2009 with Dark Country, based on the short story of the same title by Tab Murphy.  Jane’s film adaption of Murphy’s story was the first movie ever to be filmed in digital 3D.   A Dark Country graphic novel has now been released, artwork drawn by Thomas Ott.  The look of Jane’s film adaptation was modeled closely after Ott’s work and it therefore seemed a natural fit to have Ott draw the graphic adaptation of the original Murphy story.  Interestingly, Ott did not watch the film prior to drawing the graphic novel, to avoid being “influenced” by his own “influence,” so to speak.

The Dark Country graphic novel is being published by Raw Studios, the comics publishing house founded by Jane and Tim Bradstreet.  Bradsheet, for those of you who don’t know him, is a very successful artist and illustrator (Dark Horse’s Hard Looks and Another Chance to Get it Right, Star Wars, Clive Barker’s Age of Desire, Marvel’s The Punisher and Blade and Vertigo’s Gangland, Unknown Soldier, Human Target and Hellblazer) who also collaborated with Jane on the Dark Country film.  Those who purchase the graphic novel not only get over 70 pages of Thomas Ott’s original work, but will be treated to almost 50 pages of behind-the-scenes stuff about Jane’s Dark Country film and a full reprint of Tab Murphy’s original short story.

We got a look at the entire graphic novel here at Den of Geek and Bobby Bernstein gives his review here:

Thomas Jane’s darkly artistic film, Dark Country, made its way to a graphic novel adaptation on May 30, 2012.  The volume is impressively drawn and written.  Readers are forced to interpret the stylized comic themselves, due to the fact that it is a silent-style comic, with no dialogue; just art.  The short story follows the graphics, re-imagining the entire story with words and without art.  The graphic novel takes you on a nightmarish trip through the dark roads of the outskirts of Las Vegas as a man is driving his wife through the dead of night.  You arrive at what appears to be a major car accident that left a man dying in the middle of the road.  What happens next is unimaginable.

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The graphic side of the novel is drawn very stylistically.  It is dark, to say the least, and uses a scratchboard style which you rarely see in modern comics.  The dark scratchboard style fits the story perfectly, creating a tense and sinister tale for the reader.  Each strip is drawn in a way that adds to the overall story, but could be a story, individually, as well–I can see each of them blown up to a larger size onto canvas and hanging on someone’s living room wall (you know, if your living room had a delightfully dark theme going on). 

The minimalistic writing of Tab Murphy’s short story appeals to the masses, and is thought provoking–you won’t be able to help but wonder what you would do in this situation.  The seed of this thought is planted by the fact that the novel is written in first person form and starts out by instantly grabbing a hold of the reader with, “You awaken in your Las Vegas hotel room just as the sun is going down.”  Most thought-provoking was when the writer wrote, “And now you’ve got a problem.  You’re a murderer.  But are you?”  I actually drifted off into a long deep reverie after reading this line.   And, I wondered…would this situation make you a murderer?   Murphy really knows how to create a tense situation and wonderfully captures/induces panic through his words.

 I suggest picking up a copy of Dark Country.  I won’t spoil the ending for you (or those that have already seen the movie), but it’s a delightfully horrifying twist.   

Dark Country is creative.  It’s dark.  It’s sexy.  It’s nightmarish.  It is well worth the read, and belongs on the bookshelves of movie and comic book fans alike.