I can basically describe The Secret Land from Dark Horse Comics as the plot of a Wolfenstein game that takes place in Antarctica. Heck, it’s even throwing in a Lovecraftian eldritch abomination as a final boss just like something B.J. Blazkowicz would fight.
The Secret Land is a WWII horror graphic novel compiling all 4 issues of the comic book series of the same name. Christopher Emgard is the writer of this graphic novel, with Tomas Aira as the artist. Aira is also the colorist and the cover artist for all covers. And lastly, Dark Horse Comics remains the publisher of the graphic novel, as they were for the comic book series.
The Secret Land graphic novel was released on March 16, 2022 for a retail price of $19.99. You can purchase it in print or digital form directly from Dark Horse Comics.
Warning: spoilers for The Secret Land below. If you have any interest in reading about what’s basically a Wolfenstein: Below Zero game in comic book form, stop here, and come back once Die Glocke has stopped rattling your brain.
The Secret Land: Plot Summary
The Secret Land starts us off by introducing us to Ben, who seems like your typical all-American WWII GI action hero. However, he’s really a decoy protagonist. The actual main character is his girlfriend Katherine, who is an OSS agent who has infiltrated Nazi Germany, and is now operating as a lab assistant named Katrin Schultz to one Professor Gerhard Hesse. She and Hesse take a trip via U-boat to a secret Nazi Antarctic research facility called Neuschwabenland, where the final remnants of Nazi Germany develop secret Wunderwaffe in an insane attempt to take revenge on the Allies.
As it turns out, one of those Wunderwaffe is Die Glocke. It’s a vaguely bell-shaped…thing that’s generating power for the entire Antarctic facility to keep it from freezing over. It also only turns on when people die around it. No one can figure out why. Maybe that should’ve been the clue to turn it off. Coupled with the sudden rash of suicides after it turns on, and the weird white worm thing Katherine sees in the greenhouse. However, it’s still the base’s power source, so they keep it on.
Eventually, though, things reach a peak in The Secret Land when the CO of the Nazi base discovers that one of the people there is a traitor who sold out the base’s location to the Allies, explaining why there’s now both a US and a Soviet fleet parked off the base. In response, the CO decides to torture some of their Russian slave laborers to death in front of all the assembled base personnel until the traitor reveals themself. Or rather herself, since Katherine’s only female friend Julia turns out to be a Soviet spy. But before the Nazis can kill Julia, Die Glocke rings.
As it turns out, Die Glocke is actually a portal to an eldritch dimension and is drawing energy from it. That portal goes both ways though, and allows that dimension to enter ours. Cue random people exploding, random people turning into monsters, and more of said monsters crawling in from bloody cracks in the walls of the base. Katherine and Julia reveal themselves to each other, and team up to fight the monsters (and the crazed Nazis) and shut down Die Glocke before it’s too late. That’s when Die Glocke says “Nope” and teleports Katherine to the eldritch dimension.
Meanwhile, Ben finally plays an active role in the story by leading an unauthorized landing party to the Nazi base. Sneaking past the air patrols massacring the Soviet fleet, they go ashore and infiltrate the base. They kill the monsters, kill the last crazed Nazis, and finally make their way to Die Glocke with Prof. Hesse’s help. They have to kill Hesse when he turns into a monster after experiencing a bout of jealousy over Ben, but that’s a minor issue.
As Ben and his team plant explosive charges on Die Glocke, Katherine fights the monsters of the eldritch dimension, including the boss monster. She uses a symbol of her love for Ben to kill the boss, and then runs back into the portal just as Ben and co. blow the charges. The charges destroy Die Glocke and end its incursion into our dimension, and Katherine even comes back. Ben and co. return to their boat with Katherine as the base starts freezing over with no power. Ben and Katherine retire to a scenic cabin, sans Katherin’s capacity to love. That she apparently sacrificed to kill the boss monster. So ends The Secret Land in a…happy(?) ending?
The Secret Land: The Good
All in all, The Secret Land feels like a nice simple action-packed Wolfenstein game. Complete with evil insane Nazis and creepy monsters are thrown in. In fact, this whole plotline reminds me of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, where the Nazis try to summon something beyond mortal comprehension to use as a weapon, and it goes horribly right. As a fan of the new Wolfenstein games starting with The New Order, this is a plus for me.
The art of Wolfenstein-I mean, The Secret Land is also pretty good. Tomas Aira did a very good job with character design, background, and of course, monster design. Die Glocke‘s monsters are all appropriately gruesome as they are horrifying. They would fit perfectly well in an H. P. Lovecraft comic.
It’s also rather refreshing to have a female main character in a horror comic too. Usually, it’d be Ben that’s the main character of this comic, so seeing Katherine be the main character and drive the plot is a breath of fresh air. She even mostly resolves the plot, and enables Ben and co. to plant the charges without interruption. Maybe there might be more female main characters in horror comics because of this. Hopefully.
The Secret Land: The Bad
My biggest complaint about The Secret Land is a pretty glaring plot hole: Julia. She just vanishes while Katherine is trying to shut down Die Glocke. The last we see of her is her fighting off a wave of charging monsters with a liberated MP 40, and that’s it. While we presume that she died in that attack, there’s no confirmation. We don’t see her body. It’s like she just vanished. Maybe that’s supposed to be a sequel hook or something, but some kind of closure about Julia would be nice. Otherwise, it’s a pretty big and glaring plot hole. Especially in the face of everyone else getting complete story arcs, or at least closure in the form of death.
Source: Dark Horse Comics