Review – The Secret Land #1 (Dark Horse Comics)

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Christofer Emgard
Artwork: Tomas Aira
Letters: Mauro Mantella
Release Date: 9th June 2021

The Secret Land is your classic WWII love story. Boy meets girl. Boy goes off to the Pacific whilst girl goes off to Europe to be a spy. Boy gets blown up, and girl ends up in Neuschwabenland with a sizeable Nazi contingent including Vril fighters and Die Glocke. Now if you followed that last bit, you’ll undoubtedly be all over this new short arc from Dark Horse.

Before getting into the gist of the story, I need to talk about Tomas Aira’s artwork here. Starting with cracking panels of ships in the East China Sea through to night-time raids on Pacific Islands, this reminds me no end of the Commando-style war comics I’d see as a kid. The derring-do action is all here, and whilst some of the choices for the close ups and faces aren’t to my personal taste, the overall effect is very good. Perhaps it’s the contrast of the detail in the machinery with the relatively simple lines of the characters that can seem a little out of sorts in some panels. But oh boy, the detail in Die Glocke itself is fantastic. The design and build up to that panel – top marks!

Emgard’s story, delivered by Mantella’s letters, starts off fairly simple as I say. We have our lead couple; attractive, talented, and everything you would expect from a Hollywood re-imagining of the ‘40s. What I like here is the subversion of expectation. From the cover, we fully expect that these lovers, separated by war, will no doubt regroup to face off against whatever threat the world bestows upon them. Instead, we seem to lose our leading gent early doors and the focus shifts exclusively to Katherine our spy.

Escaping the Allied advance in Europe, the remnants of the Reich have moved their Wunderwaffe to the Antarctic submarine base with our heroine in tow, still safely undercover. To say things are not as they seem would seem almost pointless given the technology on display, but aside from all this conspiratorial chicanery, the SS here might not be the evillest presence in Neuschwabenland.

I’m not going to lie, the opening didn’t really grip me. The twist reveal of the fancy Nazi wonder weapons was nice and all, but it was by the power of Die Glocke that I became converted. The combination of the art and the subtle drip drip building of tension to a wonderful revelatory moment was superbly delivered. I’d have been interested to read on based on the concept alone, but by the end panel I found myself desperately keen for more.

Rating: 4/5.


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