"Deadman's Land" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by DreamChaser Productions Publishing
Written by Barry Duffield
Adaptation by Steve Stern
Illustrated by Tyler Sowles
2014, 110 Pages
Graphic novel released on May 8th, 2014
War is already horrible enough, but when you add werewolves into the mix, it gets pretty rough. That's what a group of Allied Forces find out when their plane is shot down behind enemy lines. They come across an abandoned village before a group of Nazi werewolves descend upon them, ready to rip them limb from limb. This is not your average war story though. The cavalry is not about to ride in to save the day. These soldiers are facing near certain death, but that doesn't mean they're going to go down without a fight.
Deadman's Land gets off to a slow start, spending a big chunk of time getting the soldiers to this town. There's a familiar sense of hope as you root for these underdogs to survive. You get a quick rundown on the remaining soldiers, but honestly, it doesn't matter. They're basically cannon fodder once the werewolves show up. Unfortunately, it's tough to relate to these characters. You learn little to nothing about them aside from their names and some of their basic roles within the military. The Native American code breaker is given the most backstory, so he's a little interesting. The others are interchangeable and I couldn't tell them apart, especially once the action started.
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That's the biggest issue with Deadman's Land. It's one thing to have an amazing monster attack, but if you don't care about the characters, you're not vested in the story. Their deaths have no meaning. The werewolves are similarly underdeveloped. They're basically just Nazis who want to kill people, regardless of race, creed, or religion. These new soldiers are the latest in a long line of bodies that includes fellow Nazis.
The artwork is rather unpolished, especially with the soldiers. The characters often look stiff, as if they're posing for pictures instead of going about their actions. The basic form is there, but they lack substance. The pencils are light on detail.
This is in direct opposite to how the werewolves are depicted. They are gorgeous monsters in every panel. These lycanthropes run on four legs, appearing almost like giant wolves, although they still have some central human qualities. Their eyes are a vicious yellow, perched above a huge set of jaws capable of ripping a man's throat out in a split second.
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The werewolves aren't always in this form though. There's this one chilling scene just after the massacre begins. A soldier turns a corner and sees four nude men standing down the street. One holds a severed head high in one hand before tossing it to the ground. The men begin to chase the soldier, transforming as they go.
Deadman's Land has a great premise with a group of military men fighting for their lives against Nazi werewolves. That alone can pull you in. It's more of an action book than a horror title. Aside from the aforementioned scene with the severed head, there aren't many outright scary moments. The tension could have been built up a bit more and, as mentioned, if the characters were developed even a little, it would have packed a much bigger punch.