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"Redfork" Comic Review

Written by James Ferguson

Published by TKO Studios

article-cover

Written by Alex Paknadel
Illustrated by Nil Vendrell
Colored by Giulia Brusco
Lettered by Ryan Ferrier
2020, 150 Pages
Graphic novel released on November 17th, 2020

Review:

Something evil is buried deep within the mountains of Redfork, West Virginia. Everything should be fine so long as the scab miners from Amcore don't drill too deep. You know that's what's going to happen, right? This small town is already reeling from opioid abuse and poverty, but could a ray of hope be coming from the deep?

Redfork works through two levels of story. Writer Alex Paknadel frames the overall plight of the town clearly. The heyday of the mining boom is way in its past. Now the residents are barely scrapping by as Amcore sucks every last bit of life out of them and this place.

Meanwhile, there's a personal story following ex-con Noah McGlade as he returns to Redfork after some time in prison. He's changed and so has the town, so he's trying to figure out where he belongs. Noah's story is riveting as we dig deeper and deeper into him as a character, learning what makes him tick and why he's done things.

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These two threads intersect with Gallowglass, the smooth-talking miner that seems to come out of the earth itself. He makes big promises and seems to help everyone he comes into contact with. Wounds are healed. Diseases are cured. Addictions are destroyed. The price? Just spend a bit of time down in the mine digging up a special kind of mineral.

You can tell up front that Gallowglass is bad news and not just because he literally crawls out of the dirt like an undead monster. Artist Nil Vendrell gives him an uneasy kind of smile, like it's just a little too big. No one is that nice and forthcoming without wanting something. The thing is, we don't really know what his deal is right away. We just know not to trust him. The same cannot be said for the townspeople he comes into contact with.

Gallowglass' effects are so very disturbing. They start small, with those he's “healed” showing mysterious changes, like skin defects or extra teeth. My favorite reveal comes at the end of chapter two, where a doctor looks into the mouth of a patient. Vindrell shows this from the inside of the mouth with the doctor's reaction at its center. It's framed with rows and rows of small, jagged teeth.

Things only get crazier and more unsettling as Redfork continues. The body horror is turned up to eleven as Gallowglass' scheme comes into focus. What is most disturbing is how the people, mutated into horrific beasts, still try to act and speak like normal. There's a chilling sequence where a pastor tries to go about his day, getting dressed and combing his hair, although these tasks are far more difficult now that his hands are rough claws.

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As we go deeper into the mine, we get a glimpse of the true horrors that await beneath the surface. Colorist Giulia Brusco paints a drab palette with these scenes. Shadows create some haunting imagery as the townspeople change into these monsters. Their skin becoming rough and pink like a mole rat. The rocks they're looking for glow with a strange energy, adding to the mysterious nature of the whole affair.

When Gallowglass is revealed in all his monstrous glory, his voice changes as well. His smooth words are gone, replaced with a dark, gravelly tone. Letterer Ryan Ferrier depicts his speech in scratchy, black word balloons.

Redfork features some incredibly powerful metaphors for major issues in the world today as well, such as opioid addiction, fracking, and overall economic decline. These messages occur naturally instead of preaching them outright ,so they sink in more.

Redfork works on several levels. It's a story of hope in a desolate small town. It's a story of redemption. It's a gripping body-horror tale. It's all of these things and more. This is a solid small town horror comic that will grab you from the very beginning and doesn't let up to the end.

Grades:

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Art: fivestars
Overall: 5 Star Rating

About The Author
James Ferguson
Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
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