No, not the series of young adult novels written by R.L. Stein, but the sensation of excitement that causes your flesh to transform into bumps. That’s what I’m going to be talking about in this review; because that was the result of reading this new series from Image.
Redneck is a hybrid. It walks that fine line between the familiar and the unique. Reading about the Bowman Family, a group of vampires tucked away in the heart of East Texas, brings about flashes of Vertigos “American Vampire” and hints of “30 days of Night”. Yet there is a brand new voice to this recognizable tale; Donny Cates is building something different Something wonderful.
Reading this series for the first time gave me goosebumps. As a longtime fan of comics you know when you are experiencing something truly inspired. It’s the same feeling I got when I read 100 Bullets for the first time, or The Walking Dead. You know that you’re in good hands with the creative team and you are about to go on a journey within the story; one that you can’t wait to go on.
There are so many subtle layers to Cates’ plot that it almost blends into the background. The name of the book alone is brilliant—Redneck; the perfect name for a series about vampires. It’s so obvious that it makes you wonder how anyone had not come up with this before!
Then there is the meat of the book. The Bowman clan could pass for any family that is hidden away on the plains of the Mid-West. It’s as much a story about a single father trying to raise his growing children as it is about a group of bloodsuckers. JV Bowman is the father of four, three rowdy and free-spirited teenage boys, and one strange little girl; as well as the caretaker of his senile father (who we have yet to see yet) and his lazy, yet lovable brother.
JV deals with life as most Mid-Western parents. He works hard butchering cattle for his family to feed on, he doesn’t like his children to take the Lord’s name in vain, he demands respect and obedience from his is offspring as long as they live under his roof. He wants a peaceful life for his kids. I think every parent out there can identify with that.
It’s these moments of emotion and heart that really make the series shine. It is also what grounds us to reality when the paranormal aspects of the series kick into gear; for as normal as the Bowmans appear to be on the outside they are anything but typical.
JV and his brother Bartlett have been around since before Texas was a state. The trio of teenage boys is all in their sixties, and the youngest child, the little girl Perry, is a mind reader like her grandpa. The family lives off the blood of the cattle they raise. Plus there are the mythic staples of being a vampire; no sunlight, can survive gunshots…etc.
This issue picks up on Christmas day, right after the events in issue one. One of the boys has been killed and hung in a tree in the front yard. The dead boy’s brothers want revenge, JV wants answers, and Bartlett wants to remember what the hell happened the night before that caused all of this.
The family mourns the loss of their loved one as their vampire familiars go about the business of burying the body. It’s here that JV and Bartlett allude to the passing of the children’s mother some years ago. They also decide that the murder is on the head of a local family that runs a nearby church. These two families have long been at odds.
The confrontation that takes place at the end of the book is a perfect cliffhanger. We exit the issue right as all hell is preparing to bust loose; leaving the cast and reader sweating bullets for the next installment.
Cates is in the midst of writing the series of his career. This will become the hallmark that he is known for within the ranks of the comic industry. Not a bad title to have your name associated with either. His balance of the personal and the paranormal is brilliant. There is enough going on to make the story engaging on multiple levels and yet focused enough that the main plot never strays too far from the reader’s mind.
His characters are heartfelt, honest, and feel real. The Dialogue is spot on for the Mid-West, sounding genuine and not hokey. The pacing is perfect. The action is attention grabbing. It is the perfect blend for a comic.
Now as much love as I can throw at Cates I have to double my affection for Lisandro Estherren. I was not aware of Estherren’s work before this series and that is a problem that I hope to remedy as soon as possible. There is a grit and style here that fits the story of Southern vampires like a glove. As good as the story is, it’s the artwork that takes these characters and environments and makes them feel real. Making the whole series jump off of the page and into the imagination of the reader.
As much as this tale is a hybrid of common American concepts the art looks like a hybrid of various popular artists working today; all swirled into a unique blend and vision that is solely that of Redneck. From the vultures that lurk around the farm, to the design of the backgrounds. There is little wasted space in this book.
The creative team should be extremely proud of this title as it is a front-runner for best new series of the year. I am going to gladly pass along this series to all of my none-comic friends and let them try this series on. I think it’ll win over a lot of hearts and minds in the weeks and months to come.
Final Score: 5 out of 5 stars.
Story: Donny Cates
Art: Lisandro Estherren
Colors: Dee Cunniffe
Letters: Joe Sabino