Werewolves and Nazis (or Nazi werewolves) are only one or two rungs up from “lycanthropy as a metaphor for puberty” on the well-worn ladder of werewolf tropes. If, like me, you usually cringe at the notion, I want you to stand up straight. Smile and be happy, because Barry Duffield has succeeded where many others have tried and failed (or gave up): he wrote Deadman’s Land, a truly frightening horror story about Nazi werewolves that’s so good that everyone else can stop trying.
Originally conceived as a screenplay and adapted into a graphic novel by Steve Stern, Deadman’s Land works for me regardless of its format because it sidesteps the occult gimmicks and pulpy worship of Nazi iconography I’ve come to expect from this particular sub-genre of werewolf fiction. It’s a lean, mean war story about a group of soldiers who get into some bad “wrong place, wrong time” shit and have to dig their way out with cunning, bravery, and a flamethrower named Bertha.
The characters are a satisfying mixture of genre archetypes, from the hard-bitten sarge to the Hollywood actor who got drafted, but none of them are caricatures, and while the body count is high, the deaths are neither cheap nor gratuitous. The artwork by Tyler Sowles and colours by Alice Baltes-Quist combine for a simple, clean look that reminds me of (period appropriate) 1940’s comic books or a high-budget Saturday morning cartoon, which makes it even more startling when the art depicts someone getting literally torn apart by werewolves, or shot in the head with a .5o cal round.
Right now Deadman’s Land is available exclusively for Amazon Kindle, but it’s worth installing the app for, and based on the reviews it’s getting, I expect it’ll appear in other mediums pretty soon. Nice work, Barry – you’ve achieved the Nazi Werewolf Singularity, and now we can all rest!