Review – That Texas Blood #10
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Chris Condon
Artwork: Jacob Phillips
Colours: Jacob Philips
Release Date: 22 September 2021
Cover Artist: Jacob Philips
Publication Design: Sean Phillips
Continuing my review of That Texas Blood with #10 isn’t easy in some ways. After giving Vol 1, #8 and #9 glowing five-star reviews, it’s hard not to seem like a suck-up. Tipping my hand, that’s exactly what I’m giving this issue to. In other ways reviewing these books is easy. Chris Condon’s writing and Jacob Philip’s art while consistently keeping a level of quality that makes you want to return, without fail offer something new and unexpected each time.
“EVERSAUL,1981” Part Four has then Deputy Joe Bob Coates and the extravagant Harlan Eversaul following up on the clue of the Mayan glyph bat tattoo that the P.I. discovered the last issue. Not before readjusting the heart of the story and flaring tempers coming to the boil.
Chris Condon doesn’t rush into the big showdown that has been teased so far. The blood bath is near, but it’s not here just yet. The restraint of pace builds tension. As I mentioned above the heart of the matter, the reason we’re taking a trip into the dark past of Joe Bob is brought back into focus. The bittersweetness of memory that Condon spoke of in previous letter pages, and in this issues. What Condon saw as a link between this story and Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, is seen in clear view in the opening pages. Well, the sweet comes before the bitter to be exact.
Joe Bob had called Wyetta Freeman, the mother of the murdered Darrin and the missing Laila, a friend but we hadn’t seen much of that friendship. It’s a back story and in another writer’s hands, it might not be anything more than referential. Condon however puts weight to the words, showing us Joe Bob as a family friend to the Freemans. We don’t just jump to a shoot out or even to the detective work. We’re reframed into the humanity and horror of the story, the immediacy and the pain of a mother who’s already lost half her world. Cool phrases that only detective type stories can use are chewed up and spat back in the face of the one who utters them.
Eversaul too is rebuffed with the horror of the world when he again goes upriver in the direction of Sheriff Sam. We learn there’s more than small-town territorialism that has the gruff Sheriff distrusting of the flashy P.I. and his LA ways. All of the above makes our heroes act in desperation, they take the maverick route but it’s earned. With two issues left in this arc, Condon has taken the time to slowly build to finally I’m dying to see.
Just like in previous issues of That Texas Blood, the merits, style and choices of focus in Condon’s writing are intertwined in the art of Jacob Philips. The sweetness of memory is beautifully rendered as Joe Bob plays with the young Freemans and imparts a friendly lesson. The memory is entered in a dream-like expressionistic fashion that we hadn’t seen before. The colours pop off the page, everything is … sweet. It makes the change murkier colours we’d seen in 1981 Ambrose County are its harsh realities all the more effective. I really can’t wait to see the very end of That Texas Blood. I can’t imagine what a visual kaleidoscope of colours and choices Philips will have gathered by then.
The gut-wrenching pangs of emotion in That Texas Blood are delivered as much through the words as they are through the actions of the characters. So too are the lighter moments when they come, it’s about “levels Jerry, levels”. Eversaul in particular, some of his facial expressions alone had me giggling this issue when he was knocking heads with Sheriff Sam.
There’s some exceptionally great lettering in this issue by Philips too but it’s in the latter half of the story so I won’t put in the review and let you catch yourself.
In reviewing That Texas Blood #10 I am once again delighted that I get to do so, It’s just a joy. Definitely, the type of book I will return to over the years when all is said and done. In reality, the end of this series is a long way off. I was very happy to learn through the Twittersphere that there will be a Christmas one-shot of That Texas Blood to round out our time in 1981 Ambrose County. Just as the back matter of these books offers extra clues as to what’s to come, both Chris Condon and Jacob Philips are very active on Twitter. They’re well worth following if you want to know more about their upcoming work specifically that which relates to this series. Till next pilgrims.
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