‘You awaken in your Vegas hotel room just as the sun is going down. You’re twentyeight, newly married (at the Elvis chapel), and your plan is to avoid the daytime desert heat by driving all night to Albuquerque where your wildly hot new wife will meet your mother for the first time.’ – Dark Country, 2012
Let’s start with some straight talking. Dark Country’s storyline won’t win any awards for originality. Throughout the course of the graphic novel, there’s a pervading sense of déjà vu, that you could have seen this story a couple of times before in a range of different media. That’s not to dissuade you from reading it, but it’s a simple observation. This is not a storyline that is going to blow your mind, but it is simple, well executed and certainly worth reading for the quality of the artwork alone.
For anybody who has watched the film, the fact that it has been transformed into a graphic novel will come as no surprise. The cult hit of 2009 was successful for a number of reasons, not least of which is director Thomas Jane’s affinity for the graphic novel style.
Building on that, the graphic novel has a dark, gritty atmosphere, which is conveyed through the artistic styling of world-renowned artist Thomas Ott. His one-of-a-kind scratch-board illustrations lend a depth to the story that might otherwise have gone unrealized had a different artist had a hand in it. Ott is adept at creating the mood through simplistic but nonetheless powerful artistry. There are elements of film-noir, coupled with characteristics of 1940s B movies which give the novel a feeling that it could be set in any time from the past century.
One thing to be said for Dark Country is that it could just as easily be read as a stand-alone novel in it’s own right but equally it could be read as a companion to the original movie. The beauty of the book is that it’s essentially a slight variation of the same tale so even for fans of the original movie; it brings something different to the table. Despite this, I feel that fans of the movie will derive much more pleasure from the book than people who haven’t seen it.
Quite aside from the storyline, the quality and standard of the sketches in the book are reason enough to make the purchase. Some of the sketches are absolutely amazing and well worth getting the book for. There are over 50 pages of behind the scenes material about the Dark Country feature film that also includes the original Tab Murphy short story.
Dark Country the graphic novel looks set to be as big a cult classic as the movie that inspired it.
Dark Country is out in hardback at a retailer near you. Just in time for Halloween!