In the modern world of entertainment many of us never experience silent films. It feels almost unnatural to our modern sensibilities to indulge in a dialog-free medium. Yet for anyone who has taken the time to watch one of these films it is abundantly apparent that expressions, visual cues, and actions can tell us everything we need to know. The leaps our imaginations make about what a character is thinking or saying can be exponentially more visceral because we impose a bit of ourselves into what we see. This is what makes “Dark Country” such a unique and chilling read (so to speak).
In the new graphic novel “Dark Country”, based on the original Tab Murphy short story and 2009 cult film of the same name (starring and directed by Thomas Jane), presents a dialog-free story, hauntingly depicted in Thomas Ott’s scratch-board illustrations, that sweeps you up in a psychological whirlwind and make you wonder if that trip to Las Vegas you have planned is such a good idea. (You can see a few sample panels at the end of this review).
For people who feel lost without traditional comic book storytelling, the hardcover graphic novel (also available online) includes Murphy’s original short story. Reading the short story can help clear up any confusion and provide a new set of details. For people who understood the message of each beautifully etched illustration, the short story offers a new way to see the story with added subtext.
Nearly 50 pages of additional content accompany the graphic novel. Fans of the film are treated to pages of BTS photos, storyboards, and other materials featuring Thomas Jane, Tim Bradstreet (Eisner Award nominated illustrator), and others.
The combination of these features provide a unique perspective into the many ways a single story can be told and retold within different mediums with slightly different details, each producing the same emotional response. Even better, the format of the story makes it so each piece, the short story, film, and graphic novel, all fit together in the seemingly infinite loop that the plot presents.
“Dark Country” is a dark and mind-bending tale that takes you down a twisted road and crashes you head first into insanity. Each sketch-board illustration is a piece of art worthy of being framed and hung on the wall (though some would certainly incite nightmares). The pages of extra materials will give you a whole new way to experience the story (and make you want to see the movie version). This is a graphic novel worth checking out.
For a continued review of “Dark Country” listen to our radio show this week (Thurs and Fri at 12 Noon PST on Indie 100 with repeats throughout the week on The Point). You can check out some of the pages from the graphic novel below.
Click a page to see it larger (in a new window):