Here’s the thing about Hellbillies, if I had reviewed this book just after reading it then I would have scored it lower. The fact is, it’s not perfect, but it creates a world that is very enjoyable and entertaining. The longer I thought about the world and the outcome the more I liked it. It’s a slow burn, but sometimes the best comics are. We’re really just thrown into this world. Usually that’s not a problem for me, but here it doesn’t quite work. We meet Mary Whitfield as she comes across a cabin in the woods. She bangs on the door and very presumptuously announces that she knows the owner is home and isn’t leaving until they open the door. Of course the owner is home since we can see the smoke coming out of the chimney and after a moment the door opens and a hand drags Mary inside. Mary is a reporter and she’s there for a story about hillbillies running drugs in the woods. She begins accusing Eustace, the man who brought her in, of having drugs or at the very least up to some criminal activity.
Eventually we see what Eustace and his family are doing in the woods and it isn’t drugs. They fight monsters and demons and shit and Mary may have just screwed them over with her presence. A Manticore is unleashed on the family and it’s a difficult battle because they’re more of the shoot first solve riddles second type of family.
The strange thing about this issue is that while the opening is a shock to the system and a rough introduction overall, it all makes sense by the end. Like all of it. I don’t know why that is exactly, but it just does.
Writer Jon Westoff does a solid job with the dialogue. He struggles with Mary’s dialogue throughout the issue as she comes across irrational at times. Technically she’s not, but because she’s so intense and nothing she’s asking about makes sense… well it’s hard to back her character until we understand her character at the very end. Though I will say I’m looking forward to what happens with her character in the next chapter of the story.
The art is the perfect fit for the story though you wouldn’t think that at first. I suppose you would describe this series as a supernatural dark comedy and so the art jumps between humor, action and dark scenes. Bryan Boles’ style is kind of cartoonish, but also has a flair for being dynamic. In a way you can see him grow and develop on the issue as it continues on. In particular I like how Mary was drawn. She didn’t come across as a damsel, but rather just an outdoorsy hiker. Later she hides underwater and jumps out like a total fucking badass. I won’t spoil the entire scene, but it was definitely a highlight of the issue.
I’m recommending Hellbillies knowing full well that my initial impressions of the story weren’t as high as they are now. Sometimes when you’re on the fence with a book it’s good to wait to score it because then you have a chance to think and in the case of this story elements of it continued to creep into my mind when I wasn’t thinking about it. I think that says a lot about a comic when you’re subconsciously thinking about it.