Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Donny Cates
Artwork: Lisandro Estherren, Dee Cunniffe (colours)
Release Date: 24th May 2017
Southern vampires. It sounds like the elevator pitch for a schlocky, straight-to-DVD B-movie, but in the hands of writer Donny Cates and artist Lisandro Estherren, Redneck – a brand new series from Image Comics, the second issue of which goes on sale this week – is turning out to be a far more thoughtful, character-driven affair than its initial premise would suggest.
Following the shocking cliffhanger at the end of the last issue, the Bowman family are forced into some tough decisions here. Restraint or revenge. Murder or mercy. And as all three generations of the family find themselves holed up waiting for sundown, the gradually escalating tension that Cates and Estherren inject their story with make this a truly gripping read.
Once again Cates has Bartlett narrate the story, providing his world-weary insight into the powderkeg – the fuse of which he may very well have lit himself last time out. Honestly, the vampiric undertones almost feel like an innocuous detail here as the elder members of the family do their best to try and prevent the youngsters from doing something rash, even though we can be fairly certain of just how things are going to play out from the very first page.
Lisandro Estherren’s bleak, ragged artwork continues to work wonders in delivering the punch of this Southern Gothic tale, with a heavily-inked approach that, while occasionally lacking detail, really helps to nail the key beats of Cates’ story. There’s something of Ben Templesmith in Estherren’s pencils, with an slightly exaggerated gift for the grotesque that serves him in good stead here, particularly during the sequence when we discover the fate of Father Landry.
Oh, and it should probably go without saying that Dee Cunniffe once again brings his A-game with the colours, providing a washed-out look that really helps to sell the tone of the story – particularly the green-hued scenes in the Bowman family basement.
The final pages contain a powerful “aw shit” moment, and set the stage for what promises to be a dramatic escalation of the situation. We know there’s going to be blood, but we also know that there will be repercussions, and that the ‘eye for an eye’ mentality is going to drag this story to some pretty dark places in the issues to come.
Redneck is a truly gripping series, and feels a lot more like a Southern ‘family feud’-based drama than a quote-unquote “Vampire story” at this point. This latest chapter does a stellar job of gradually bringing the already tense situation to the boil, revelling in the strained interactions between the different generations of the Bowman family before erupting into life in the final pages. Highly recommended, and in case you missed the memo: Donny Cates. 2017. His year.