By Daniel Vlasaty
I don’t like vampires. Not really sure what it is about them but I’ve just never liked them. Maybe it’s because they’re usually portrayed as this smart and savvy and sophisticated things. Rich and high class and full of old world charm. I don’t know. I think vampires should be more like junkies. Ravenous and rabid. Strong and determined but driven by more of an animal instinct, by their hunger, than anything else. I think if vampires existed, they would have a hard time controlling their hunger and their lifestyle. Again: like a junkie. Where their bloodlust and their need to feed overpowers every other aspect of their lives. And the next thing they know they’re on the corner selling their bodies for even the smallest hit of some fresh, fresh blood. (An exaggeration, maybe, but you get the point). So, how does Redneck compare to this?
Kind of somewhere safe in the middle, actually.
When I first saw Redneck advertised I was a little soft on the idea. I just thought it was another vampire book to add to all the other vampire books and movies and TV shows out there. But then I saw Donny Cates name attached to it, and that piqued my interest a little. I had just started reading his God County and was enjoying it at the time. I figured I’d give this book a try. Even if it was just the same old vampire bullshit, one issue couldn’t hurt, right
Redneck opens with an old dude sitting on the porch of a house in the middle of nowhere, Texas. It’s Christmas Eve, and he’s drinking a beer and thinking about how old he is. Seriously. He’s thinking about how he was born the same year (same month in fact) Texas declared its independence from Mexico, about how he “did a little bit in the Civil War, too,” although he refuses to say which side he fought for. He’s thinking about how he’s over a hundred years old, and he hasn’t really done anything with his life. Not since he died. He’s a vampire. And with the rest of his family, Bartlett Bowman is kind of hiding out on this farm. He spends his days staying out of the sun and his nights drinking a mixture of cow’s blood and paint thinner called Bloodweiser.
We learn that something happened in the past that led the Bowmans to their self-imposed exile. Something that led to them “being hunted down.” But there are some young Bowmans in the house. Some “teenager” vampires (that are actually in their 60s but compared to the old-timers, they’re babies). And like many “young” boys, after they get a few beers into them they want to go into town to have a good time. They plan on hitting up a titty bar to keep their party going. But they’re dad (Bartlett’s brother) doesn’t them want to go, because he’s a dad and he wants to keep his kids safe, but also because he knows that they’re going to get into some shit. And he gives them a fatherly warning: if they kill anyone in town they ain’t welcome home no more.
Bartlett decides to head into town after them to check up on them (although, this is only after he hears that they are going to a titty bar). And as you can imagine some shit goes down. The boys get into some trouble. We’re introduced to the opposing force of the book, a fat, tiny-faced man named Father Landry. It turns out the Bowmans and the Landrys have some history, although we’re not given all of that yet. I’m trying my best not to spoil anything, but the end of the Redneck #1 sets the stage for what is sure to be a violent and bloody book.
I’m going to get this out of the way and just come out and say that I really dug this book. I didn’t think I was going to because, vampires. But yeah.
Donny Cates is a newer name for me. Like I said I’ve been reading his God Country, but other than that I don’t think I’ve read him anywhere else. But, whatever, he writes like an old pro. Redneck is fully envisioned. It’s set in a world full of deep history and southern charm and the kind of justice that doesn’t involve the law. As much as I don’t care for vampires, I thought it was an excellent idea to combine vampires and good ol’ boy Texans. Both have their own histories and lore. And I’m excited to see Cates play with both. There’s a lot of conflict in the book. There’s the Bowmans vs. the Landrys. There’s the conflict and tensions within the Bowman household. There’s the Bowmans and the rest of the town. There’s the vampires. There’s the hillbillies.
I am not even kind of a Southerner. Everything I know about the south comes from TV and movies and books. But this book seems to capture the south well. It feels like Southern Bastards meets vampires. I’m sure it will cross into horror territory, but I’m really getting a revenge story feel from this issue at least. I don’t know. But I’m excited to see where it goes.
Lisandro Estherren does the art. This is another name I am not really familiar with. And I liked it for the most part. My only complaint were the faces. They were done up with heavy shadows and scratchy lines that, to me, didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the art. I just couldn’t figure out what some of the lines were even supposed to be. But other than that I thought the art style fit the tone and feel of the book. But Dee Cunniffe’s colors are what really got me. Seeing as this is a vampire book, it’s set mostly at night, and during these nighttime scenes, everything is awash in a cool blue. Kind of like after you’re outside in the dark for a long enough time and your eyes finally adjust to the dark. And the few scenes set in the daytime are equally bright and harsh and uninviting (to the vampires, you see). It’s all orange and fiery like I imagine Texas actually to be. Just damn hot and steamy and humid.
Even though I don’t tend to like vampire stories, I enjoyed the modern twist on this one. I liked seeing the monsters hiding out from the humans, instead of the other way around. I liked that the vampires were Texans with deep southern roots and history. I like Donny Cates as a storyteller. There’s a lot to like in Redneck, and I am just glad I gave the book a chance to win me over. So, go ahead, crack open a frosty Bloodweiser and learn a thing or two about them good ol’ Bowman boys and that time they got on the wrong side of mean old Father Landry.