Review – That Texas Blood #8
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Chris Condon
Artwork: Jacob Phillips
Colours: Jacob Philips
Release Date: 28th July 2021
Cover Artists: Cover A: Jacob Philips. Cover B: by Tony Stella
Publication Design: Sean Phillips
Additional Design: Michael Tivey
Having reviewed That Texas Blood Vol 1 by Chris Condon and Jacob Phillips I was more than happy to return to review issue #8. Not that I needed motivation to check it out, I was very taken with the first six issues collected in the series first trade. Condon and Phillips complimented each other, coming together to deliver two separate but connected stories with a unified voice.
“EVERSAUL, 1981,” Part Two, continues the story started in issue #7. Set between 2021 and 1981. The third story of the That Texas Blood anthology series, so far connected by Sheriff Joe Bob Coates. Last issue, Joe Bob was struggling with the rot that he feels his home the fictional Ambrose County, is infected with. Seeking guidance from his Pastor, he is reminded of the last time he was having these struggles. A time which just so happens to be forty years ago to the day, when he and private investigator Harlan “Eversaul” had a showdown with a cult organisation. This brings Joe Bob to dig out the old case files and think back to the events that led up to that fateful night, such as Eversaul joining the case of a missing girl.
In the end of issue fan address, ‘Blood lines’ in issue #7, Chris Condon spoke of how if the last arc was described as “Paris, Texas gut punched by No Country for Old Men” this new one “should be described as The Grand Budapest Hotel strangled by the Night Stalker”.
The Night Stalker a pulpy 1972 tv movie about an abrasive journalist, Kolchak, investing a murder spree which to his disbelief seems to be the work of a vampire. The unorthodox bravado of Harlan Eversaul and his working in parallel but not exactly with the police, shows Condon’s influence in action. As does a suggestion of occult forces at work behind the missing girl by Eversaul to the young Joe Bob in 1981 and his then Sheriff, Sam Cooper. Eversaul sees a history of darkness about Ambrose County, the same darkness Joe Bob is wrestling with today. Elements of the occult or even the supernatural seem to be bubbling below the surface in That Texas Blood but to this point, we’ve only seen the horror of humans.
Review – That Texas Blood #8 continues below
As mentioned Condon describes this arc as half the Grand Budapest Hotel, saying that the film resonated with the character and tone in his writing, “It all boils down to the bittersweetness of memory”. Condon flashes back from the relative calm of the present to the past freely. We’d seen glimpses of the past through Joe Coates nightmares, but we didn’t get full context. Now we go back and are given a world just as naturalistically built as modern day Ambrose County is, with all it’s good and it’s bad. We’re dropped into the middle of a gruesome case with a missing girl but there’s fun to it.
The unassuming characters talk in fairly common terms but there’s a slick rhythm to the conversations that bounce between characters, reminding me of Wes Anderson’s dialogue. I’m also reminded of the Coen brother’s writing in Fargo and Noah Hawley’s in the series of the same name. Condon captures the wit of normal people at their most entertaining as well as capturing Eversaul’s more boisterous flair. There was a a lot of exposition in this issue but it didn’t slow it down, the interplay of characters and switches to the more sensational don’t give you time to get bored. In fact additional texts in this arc from the files of Eversaul are provided if you want to build the world further in your own mind.
Jacob Phillps continues his fantastically emotive work in That Texas Blood #8, applying multiple layers of charm, mood or shock with his various skills. His penciling gives his characters and scenes just the right amount of detail. Younger characters, even younger adults have less definition through line work than their older counter parts. What’s there is plenty but nuanced variations in colours and shading breathe warmth to the page. When we see more senior , their faces are wrought with the lives they’ve lived and specificities of personality.
Larger colour choices concerning modern day Ambrose County that if we were given the time would struggle to tire of with their variation, are highlighted even more in their contrast to how Phillips chooses to depict past events. The cold hard light of day shown in 2021 Texas, as well as other stylistic signatures like the versatile marker effect used by Phillps are not seen in 1981 Texas. The colours in the past are heavier, murkier and ever present. He doesn’t use the whiteness of the blank page like he does with current day events. Both colour palettes are tremendously juxtaposed in a two page spread that I honestly think I’d be spoiling if I showed it here. So much better to experience it as you read it.
Another nightmare sequence starts off That Texas Blood #8. Like previous nightmares it starts with a chat by the fire with word balloons loftily riding the zig zag flow of the rising smoke. It’s great to see Phillips stretch out into more fantastical imagery as the horror of the subconscious takes hold. Not that we needed a break from his cinematic work, even the more gruesome stuff is a thrill. While a less bloody issue than others the blood red that runs through the book pops up in effective usage on a number of pages. Finally, I do have to give a special mention to the best damn 2D cup of coffee I’ve ever seen. It’s on the top panels of the sample page below, it really is a thing of beauty.
In reviewing That Texas Blood #8 I’ve found it to be really layered stuff once again. There’s an exactness topped with a wistfulness with something dark brewing deep down beneath all that, and I’m here for it. I feel we have a lot to look forward to in Ambrose County from Condon and Phillips. The “EVERSAUL, 1981” arc will continue through to issue #12, I look forward to seeing where the story goes.
If you enjoyed our Review of That Texas Blood #8then please leave a comment or your own rating below.
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