In his letter at the end of That Texas Blood #1, writer Chris Condon admits that this story was originally intended as a movie, but no one was willing to throw any money at a movie about Texas. Well, by the time the trade of this new series from Image Comics hits shops, Condon and illustrator Jacob Phillips may have a Netflix series on their hands, if this premiere issue isany indication for the creativity, intrigue, and suspense to come.
Through meticulously crafted sequences, That Texas Blood #1 introduces us to the slackening life of a small county sheriff named Joe who’s about to celebrate his seventieth birthday. What begins as an ordinary pit stop at a friend’s house to pick up his wife’s casserole dish amid another day of uneventful duties unexpectedly swerves into a bloody mess right before Joe’s eyes––a mess that threatens to unravel the seemingly humdrum nature of Ambrose County.
A major aspect of That Texas Blood #1 worth highlighting is its pacing. The action (and artwork) flow clean and smooth from panel to panel, almost as if we’re watching a Stanley Kubrick film or something out of Jules Dassin’s catalog. The issue presents to us a day in the life of a small western Texas town and concludes with a shocking inciting incident. That’s it! But the way we are introduced to these characters, their individual lives and daily goings-on that range from dealing with a snake on one’s property to a subtle hint at domestic violence is nothing short of
brilliance in graphic storytelling.
The story takes its time, and this relatively new comics duo allow it to take its time. The speed at which events progress and lengthy dialog that fill the panels complement the story and its themes. It deliberately gives us a chance to work ourselves into the story as bystanders or roadside voyeurs. We get to know the main residents, and especially Joe, who will surely prove a complicated protagonist with a sordid history, based on a chilling dream sequence midway through the issue.
And while dream sequences in both comics and movies have a tendency to be somewhat arbitrary and trite vessels for conveying pseudo-surreal information to an audience, Joe’s is genuine and subtle, and differs in that it offers us a chance to use our own imagination. It’s a sequence that, come its conclusion, piques our interest about Joe’s past, which will no doubt reveal itself in upcoming issues of this fresh and foreboding new monthly series.
Chris Condon (W), Jacob Phillips (A) • Image Comics, $3.99
Review by John Trigonis