The beauty of Cates’s skilful storytelling comes, as I mentioned, from the focus of character over theme.
I am of the belief that for a vampire theme to truly find its mark today, the tale must weave itself around character driven story lines where the supernatural is at times forgotten, and at others used beautifully to elevate the unfolding situation.
In Redneck #1, that is exactly the magic that writer, Donny Cates, has conjured.
I have to admit, I’m late to the party when it comes to the work of Cates. But if the pictures painted elsewhere are as vivid, real, and grubby, as those of the Bowman family, a multiple generation bloodline all living in a ramshackle cabin deep in the heart of Texas, then I’ve some serious catching up to do.
Right from the off, the writing really takes hold and shines. The simply delicious way we enter the tale in the head and thoughts of, Uncle Bartlett, as he ponders being drunk at the Alamo as the battle ensued, and other various wars where the sides didn’t matter, but survival did, before those thoughts are interrupted by Bartlett’s mind-reading niece, who plays happily a few feet away on the cabin porch, is wonderfully downplayed. It’s so matter of fact, that it only draws the reader further into this strange tale. The fact that the same Uncle Bartlett is sucking on a bottle of Bloodweiser hints at a brilliantly humorous undercurrent that continues to tug away throughout.
The opening issue manages to lay some solid foundations and flesh out characters without ever dragging its feet. We are introduced first to Bartlett, and then quickly meet, Greg, Seamus, Slap, and their father and head of the household, JV. There are also hints at the Grandpa, a bat like creature who now dwells in the attic. We learn how the family are trying to cast of the shackles of evil that go hand in hand with vampirism, and now survive on a combination of cow’s blood and paint thinner and spend their time on the outskirts of the local population.
However, when a trip to the local strip bar goes awry for the three younger members of the Bowman clan, we witness Bartlett step in, we are introduced to Father Landry, pieces are moved into place for the reopening of old wounds and blood spilt between the Bowmans and the Landrys, and the set-up is complete.
The beauty of Cates’s skilful storytelling comes, as I mentioned, from the focus of character over theme. The vampire element of Redneck lurks, much like the Bowman family, deep within the shadows, and although the writer makes the reader aware right from the second panel that we are embarking on a tale of bloodsuckers, it’s a theme that never overpowers the plot. Instead we meet rich characters whose backstories are already intriguing and deep, and who carry the reader along in their own right. It would be possible to remove the supernatural from the story altogether, however, I’m glad it’s there, as it greatly opens up the scope for what’s to come.
In terms of the artwork, I’m a big fan. The issue takes place largely in the dark of night, and artist, Lisandro Estherren and colourist, Dee Cunniffe, have captured the lack of light brilliantly in the long shadows and half lit faces that inhabit many of the panels within Redneck. There is an undoubted bleakness to the artwork that only further enhances the story. We have a comic that doesn’t so much spill from the page, as it does draw the reader in.
Overall, as an opening issue, Redneck is a captivating read. It manages to lay foundations, move pieces into place and introduce interesting and quirky characters without ever missing a beat. Do yourself a huge favour, and get your teeth into this one right now.