By Daniel Vlasaty
I know I said this in my review of Redneck #1, but I wanted to put it out there again: I generally don’t like vampires. I think it’s probably because there’s already an oversaturation of vampires in movies and books and comics and TV shows and, shit, probably even weird sex subcultures that I don’t even know about. Basically, vampires are freaking everywhere. They’ve been done before. We get it with the vampires already. They live forever and they’re attractive and moody and blah blah blah. So how does this hillbilly vampire story set deep in the heart of Texas hold up in a world already overrun by fucking vampires? Here’s my review of Redneck #1, written by Donny Cates, drawn by Lisandro Estherren, and colored by Dee Cunniffe.
The first thing that stood out to me while I was reading this issue was that the vampires seem to be at odds with themselves, for what they have to do to survive. They don’t seem to like it. They don’t want to do what they do. But the Bowmans have figured out a sweet little system for themselves, so they don’t have to unnecessarily hurt people. They own a BBQ joint and raise their own cattle on their farm. They live off the blood from the cattle, use the meat in the restaurant, and then use the money from the restaurant to buy more cattle to start the whole thing all over again. They have some familiars that work for them, doing things they can’t do during the daylight hours. Like I said, it’s a sweet little system. That is until it gets all fucked up after whatever the hell Bartlett did on his night out on the town.
And now one of their own is dead and the townspeople are out to get them and JV’s locked the younger Bowmans in the basement to keep them from doing anything rash and stupid. They used to have a creed that they lived by. When one of their own was killed, regardless of the facts surrounding it, they would ride on the town where the death happened. And for fear of not getting the right person, the person responsible for the killing, they’d just kill everyone in the town. And the younger vampires want to follow that now that their brother is dead. But JV’s trying to be more diplomatic, trying to get the facts straight before everything gets even more out of hand.
Donny Cates is one of those writers that I both love and hate. I love him because everything he writes is good. It’s great. And he’s blowing up right now. And on the other hand, I also hate him because he’s so damn good. He’s so good that he makes all the rest of us trying to be writers look like we’re just flinging turds at our computer screens. The bastard. Cates is slowly building toward something huge here. He’s giving us little tastes of it, little teases of the violence that’s coming in this book. And he’s doing it all while making us actually care about these characters. There’s a history to them, traditions, and all that is put at risk because of Bartlett’s drunken ass.
This issue is more set-up and world building, if that’s what you call it. I kind of hate that as a description, but for lack of a better word it works here. There’s a great deal of tension and an almost claustrophobic feel to these pages. The characters are trapped in a basement, and beyond that they’re also trapped in a house, with half the town boxing them in, fixing to start some trouble. They’re trapped on a farm. Trapped by the location of the sun in the sky. Trapped in their bodies, and in a war they may or may not actually want to take part in.
There’s a lot at play in the pages of Redneck. And I can’t wait to follow the Bowmans through all the shit I just know Cates is going to put them through.
Lisandro Estherren’s art in issue #2 was, again, good and bad to me. I liked it for the most part, but felt that there were a few bits here and there that were sloppy and, almost, unfinished looking. Like I noticed multiple times that some of the characters didn’t have feet. Their pants just kind of blended in with the ground. And again, like one of my complaints about the art in my review of the first issue, it’s the faces. There are too many lines on them, and they’re way shadow-heavy. It’s kind of disconcerting. This is a dark book. I’m talking color-wise, not plot (although that’s dark too, yes), so I get the heavy shadows. The faces just threw me off a bit.
Dee Cunniffe’s color work is great. I’ve never been to Texas but I imagine that the colors in Redneck are pretty spot-on. Extra bright, almost burning, in the sun, and dark blues and greys when the sun’s down. The last few pages of this issue were a perfect example of Cunniffe’s exemplary color work. It’s mostly washed out from all the headlights from the cars, but there’s still a coolness to it, in the blue from the moon. Even though the moon is never shown, that’s the only thing that kind of blue can be from.
It’s pretty obvious that I’m really digging this book. It’s refreshing. Especially in the tired vampire subgenre. I like violence as much as the next guy. But it can’t just be violence for the sake of violence. It has to mean something. There has to be something at stake, something gained or lost in the violence. And Redneck has all of that, the perfect blend of it. Donny Cates is a killing it right now, and he’s got a solid creative team backing him on Redneck. This book is the perfect cross between Southern Bastards and horror. It’s kind of weird to me that I’m always finding myself drawn to these southern crime/fantasy/horror stories when I’ve never been to the south, don’t know anyone that hails from those parts, and really have no desire to ever go to Texas. I don’t really know what that has to do with anything. But it’s true.
I don’t know. Anyway.