Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Chris Condon
Artist: Jacob Phillips
Release Date: 24th June 2020
Fort Lehane. Ambrose County. Population 1,250. Sheriff Joe Coates wakes up to his 70th Birthday, expecting to feel the weight of age pulling him towards the grave and the icy tread of death that much closer behind him. Instead, he feels… no different than the day before. Life as a small town sheriff can be pretty uneventful, sitting by the roadside watching the scenery roll away to infinity, clearing a snake out of a neighbour’s yard, the odd domestic, the odd speeding ticket. However, every small town has its skeletons and Sheriff Coates’ own demons are preying on his mind a lot these days.
A neo-western series, That Texas Blood immediately feels like it’s going to be something very special. Image refer to Paris, Texas and No Country For Old Men in their promo material, and I can definitely see that association. Honestly, if I hadn’t seen who the creative team is on this series, I’d have bet the house that this was an Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips creation, it’s that good.
As soon as I opened this book, I was drawn into it. There’s a slow, lazy, easy-going feel to the world that Chris Condon and Jacob Phillips are building which makes you feel really comfortable. At the same time though, it’s tough to ignore the darker undertow that runs through this community, picking at the ends of your nerves. I immediately started to feel the tension in this story; I knew that something big was building, and the payoff at the end of this issue is executed brilliantly. This really is a testament to the skill of both Condon and Phillips in the way they deliver the narrative and artwork in this opening chapter. The pacing is perfect, and the character and world building are both tight and tense.
I referred to Ed Brubaker earlier, and this really does feel like it could have been penned by him. Don’t get me wrong, Chris Condon deserves all credit for producing this really well-crafted and taut thriller, but That Texas Blood very definitely has that trademark gritty, noir feel of a Brubaker/Phillips epic, and honestly I can’t think of much higher praise in this genre.
The artwork that we’re given in this issue also reflects that quality and tension that I’d expect to see from a much more seasoned and prolific team. Portraying genuine emotion and subtle gestures isn’t easy, but Jacob Phillips manages to really make you believe the emotions of his characters. And boy does that pay off in terms of building the tension of this issue, ensuring that what could have been a relatively tame (by today’s standards) ending to chapter one hits like a gut shot.
As debut issues go, That Texas Blood is a prime example of how to do it right. This issue could almost be a self-contained story, and is very much delivered, for me, in the way you’d expect a TV series to deliver an opening episode. Issue #1 delivers enough exposition without just writing a page of intro, just enough character development to get you invested in them, and just enough tension to let you know that we’ve still got a long way to go, and a really satisfying pay off at the end.
If this is what Condon and Phillips are offering as their first issue I cannot wait to see what the rest of the series brings us!
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek