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That Texas Blood 16 Main

"That Texas Blood #16" Comic Review

Written by Ricardo Serrano Denis

Published by Image Comics


Written by Chris Condon
Illustrated, lettered, and colored by Jacob Phillips
Color assists by Pip Martin
2022, 32 pages


That Texas Blood is the kind of book that doesn't settle on genre conventions. At a surface level, it's a gritty crime book set in the harsh lands of Texas that considers a single case in each story arc, ranging from family disputes to cult killings. Dig deeper (and not that much deeper at that) and you'll find layer upon layer of horror that paints a wider, more complex canvas of the kinds of violence people are capable of and the reasons they fall back on to justify them. In the middle of it all is the comic's hero, Joe Bob Coates, a sheriff that's had no other choice but to almost repay that violence in kind so long as the path to justice doesn't entirely break the system he represents. And yet, when a cult that worships a bloodthirsty bat god or a masked killer with an affinity for decapitations and chess pieces crosses his path, there's little choice but to bend those rules just near breaking point to make sure these brutal and sadistic elements don't rue the day.

This is what writer Chris Condon and illustrator Jacob Phillips have been exploring with That Texas Blood sixteen issues in, three story arcs in total. The ongoing arc, titled "The Snow Falls Endlessly in Wonderland," follows sheriff Coates as he tracks down a serial killer known as the Red Queen Killer (RQK for short, sounding similar to BTK and perhaps alluding to that killer, though their killing methods differ), a masked killer that decapitates women and leaves a bloody Queen chess piece behind as signature for his work.

In addition, a loudmouthed salesman has decided to run for sheriff and is digging up as much dirt as possible on Coates to get a leg up in the race, all while a snowstorm descends upon Ambrose County (the place where the series mostly takes place in). In issue sixteen, the halfway point of the arc, Coates tries to continue his investigation into RQK while attempting to convince the people of Ambrose to stay home to minimize the chances things take a turn for the worse. The previous issues felt a tad more urgent with the arrival of RQK and the fresh new crime scene he leaves in his wake. Issue #16 feels like buildup for another grizzly appearance by RQK. A kind of calm before the storm, a very violent storm.

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As stated earlier, That Texas Blood doesn't just settle on its crime genre identity. In fact, the official press from Image Comics calls it a neo-Western, which I feel captures the comic's vision better but still leaves things ambiguous. I'd argue it falls more along the lines of neo-Western Horror given how much of the former it wears on its sleeves in terms of references and inspiration. The RQK killer, for instance, owes much to Scream's Ghostface with his twisted face mask and knife weapon. In fact, his first kill echoes that of Wes Craven's first Scream movie (1996), where a woman (played by Drew Barrymore) that's all alone in a house meets the knife of the iconic villain.

Condon and Phillips, though, know not to allow their influences to take over the story. Condon's script, on the one hand, finds its own identity in the Texas flavors he conjures for the development of his characters and the town they reside in. There's a very lived-in sensation captured throughout the story that frames it as unique to that part of the United States, as if the kind of violence on display is born and bred in Texas and for Texas. There's a bit of the Coen Brothers in this, more reminiscent of Fargo (1996) and No Country for Old Men (2007) than their other movies, but the way the script frames the killer owes more to Slasher movies than crime movies. This makes the comic read like nothing before it. It's like witnessing the rise of a new genre that looks to double down on the darkness that characterizes certain genres and come up with something that hits different.

Phillips' art, colors, and lettering all combine to make Ambrose County and its people also come off as genuine and as legitimately part of their environment. Snow and Texas aren't concepts often paired together and can even be argued as incompatible where pop culture is concerned, but Phillips finds a way to give it a sense of force and weight that turns it into a serious storytelling element with its own part to play. The character and overall body language work also adds to that feeling of authenticity that envelops the narrative. RQK's design also deserves mention as it finds success in its simplicity. A creepy mask and a whole lot of violence go a long way and Phillips knew precisely which elements to bring forward and which ones to hold back on.

The RQK saga is approaching what seems to be its most terrifying part. The anticipation for what's to come has a way of sneaking up on the reader in this fairly quiet but still unnerving issue. So far, That Texas Blood has given its own spin on the slasher genre in this third arc, explored cult violence with a fair amount of Kolchak: The Night Stalker in its second story arc, and channeled the Coen Brothers at their most brutal in their opening arc. The only reason I have for wanting this latest chapter to end is to see what other horrors Condon and Phillips will dig up next for the people of Ambrose County and its tough-as-nails sheriff.


Story: fivestars Cover
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Overall: 4.5 Star Rating

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About The Author
Ricardo Serrano Denis
Staff Writer
Ricardo believes that everything can be explained with horror. It’s why he uses it in his History classes and why he writes about horror comics. He holds a Master’s degree in Comics from the University of Dundee in Scotland in which he studied the relationship between Frankenstein and Marvel’s Ultron. He was born and raised in Puerto Rico and is now based in Brooklyn.
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