In an allusion to Homer's Odyssey, JV Bowman leads his family to the threshold of the underworld to commune with the ghosts of their past. Similar to Odysseus, the patriarch makes a blood sacrifice to the figurative gatekeepers, a vampire drug cartel, and the family walks blindfolded into the Mexican desert. They enter an arcane settlement on the outskirts of the living world, and search for the only vampire with the power to save Bartlett.
This expositional issue breaks from the conventions of previous Redneck storylines with two noticeable changes. The first is July taking over the narration while Bartlett deteriorates from his injuries. The absence of his distinctive voice is impactful, and outside of July's somber contemplation, there's scarcely a word from the other members of the Bowman family. JV acts, as you might expect after the events of issue eighteen, even more solemn and grim than usual. The change underscores the importance of Bartlett's role in the family and the story overall.
The second difference is an actual change of scenery. Since the beginning, the Bowmans have been defined by their East Texas environs, but in issue nineteen they finally leave the Lone Star State. When the family crosses into the realm of the damned, they encounter the first non-vampire demonic beings in the series. None of that, of course, bodes well for the Bowmans.
Despite these new developments, the first act of this new Redneck storyline bears the familiar hallmarks of writer Donny Cates. The joy I personally derive from Cates' work comes from the way he adeptly makes me fall in love with his flawed characters, then forces me to watch in terror as he gleefully throws endless suffering and adversity in their path.This has always been true of Redneck, and I doubt the forthcoming story about the latest terrible thing to befall the Bowmans will be any different.
The art of Lisandro Estherren and colors of Dee Cunniffe have also evolved with the story. Estherren's illustrations are more refined than earlier issues, with fewer jumbles of discordant lines, but are just as effective and poignant. The opening pages are saturated with mournful blues and heavy black shadows, reflecting all of the characters' dispirited dispositions. And later, when the family reaches their destination, the blues are replaced by a red glow, giving a hellish ambiance to a place where the sun dares not shine.
In the Odyssey, Odysseus travels to the underworld to speak to the prophet Teiresias and find a way back to Ithaca. Odysseus speaks with many shades in the land of the dead and learns many things, but not the way home. I imagine something similar is going to happen in Redneck.
Creative Team: Donny Cates (writer), Lisandro Estherren (artist), Dee Cunniffe (colors), Peter Doherty (letters)
Publisher: Image Comics - Skybound
Click here to purchase.