Review: DARK COUNTRY graphic novel by Thomas Ott, Tab Murphy and Thomas Jane

There is “Dark Country,” the 2009 movie. And now there is “Dark Country,” the graphic novel. The fascinating thing here is that the graphic novel, while linked to the movie, has a life very much its own. It’s really cool when that happens because that’s really what should always happen. This leaves me in an slightly awkward position of having seen the movie and read the new graphic novel. Should I compare them? I will only say a little bit about the movie. First off, you definitely get entertainment value from it. This is a perfect teen flick, a  great drive-thru movie (if there are still any such things) and a just plain fun horror movie. But, I have to say, for my taste, it suffers from a lack of focus. I don’t totally buy into it being noir. There are moments when either humorous dialogue or poor choices in background music are too jarring. There are times when it seems to veer off into experimental theater. So, the movie unfortunately is not as tightly paced as it should be. However, it’s fun and the graphic novel does totally add up. It really is a whole other animal.

What first attracted me to the graphic novel is the cover art and this quickly led to the art within. Thomas Ott has a very gritty style, as you may know, very well-suited for noir and horror. In fact, Thomas Jane, the director and star of the original “Dark Country,” was very inspired by Ott’s work when he directed the movie and was already contemplating a graphic novel version illustrated by Ott. So, yeah, the movie and the graphic novel are quite inextricably linked. It makes me want to say only kind words about the movie. But, look at it this way, “Dark Country” was Mr. Jane’s first movie and he has a whole career ahead of him. It is within reason to expect some things falling a little short. In the case of Mr. Ott, this guy is so prolific and has been around for so many years that he’s at a master’s level in his craft. Where the movie has its share of peaks and valleys, Ott’s work keeps moving and building never missing a beat.

The story itself, I should tell you, is a prime example of solid pulp fiction. You have it stripped down to the essentials: a man; a woman; sex; suspicious circumstances. The two of them hop into a car and drive away from Vegas in the middle of the night. There’s the man. There’s the woman. There’s what they most share in common: sex. We observe them together and another thing that they seem to share a lot: an overwhelming feeling of exhilaration mixed with despair. And then something very sinister and tragic happens. The original short story by Tab Murphy, the movie and the graphic novel veer off, here and there, with some minor variations on what happens next.

What’s great about this book is that, not only do you get the work of the masterful Mr. Ott, you basically get what amounts to a little film school in a book. Included is the original short story by Tab Murphy, a legendary screenwriter for Disney and DC Comics, plus you get some insightful essays and behind-the-scenes observations, and storyboards, from the movie. All in all, a wonderful package and it leaves you cheering on all the talent involved. This is a great buy when the Halloween mood strikes you or, let’s face it, any time you’d like a good scare.

“Dark Country” is published by Raw Studios.

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Filed under Comics Reviews, graphic novels, Horror

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