REVIEW: 'Redneck' #1 by Donny Cates, Lisandro Estherren, and Dee Cunniffe



★★★★1/2 (4.5/5)

Donny Cates is beginning to become synonymous with his home state of Texas. Just like Maine-native Stephen King who sets his best-selling horror stories in cities of his home state, Cates' love for Texas is evident as it becomes a character all its own. In 'Redneck,' Cates' ear for rural Texan drawl flavors this story of vampires on the verge of war. 

Here's the synopsis:
The Bowmans are VAMPIRES who have quietly run the local barbecue joint in their small town for years, living off cow's blood. Their peaceful coexistence ends as generations of hate, fear, and bad blood bubble to the surface--making it impossible to separate man from monster! Critically acclaimed writer DONNY CATES (GOD COUNTRY) and artist LISANDRO ESTHERREN serve up the tale of a DIFFERENT kind of family just trying to get by, deep in the heart of Texas. 

Trying to keep a low profile and minding your business hasn't been too difficult for the Bowmans. They run their BBQ joint, tend to their farm, and just happen to be vampires. As Uncle Bartlett will tell you, "you just learn how to keep on living." All you need is to keep your head down and have a "Bloodweiser" (cow blood and paint thinner mixture) now and again to keep the urges in check. 

One fateful evening, siblings Seamus, Greg, and Slap, tired of being cooped up head to town, a "titty bar" to be precise, to blow off some steam. They leave despite the protests of their father, JV, and soon this outing becomes the catalyst of things to come. A confrontation with another local family opens up old wounds, exposes the Bowmans to new threats and changes their lives dramatically. Yet, despite all the rancor that boils over from this incident, 'Redneck' is anchored in the family more so than the usual emphasis on the vampire aspect. 

Cates draws the reader in with what you might expect in exposition from Uncle Bartlett. He retraces his time from the founding of the Lone Star State, to the Alamo, to the Civil War, informing the reader of his immortality. His exposition is comically interrupted by the youngest Bowman, Perry, who can read minds apparently. There is no pretension, this storytelling is as down-to-earth as the characters themselves.  It serves the book well as we see the Bowmans as people first and vampires second if at all.

Lisandro Estherren's gritty and scratchy pencils fit the tone of the story perfectly. This is a dirty dusty world that embeds itself in the faces of those who've worked hard to survive for hundreds of years. Estherren's character designs provide a sort of southern rural noir where shadows lurk among the rednecks in the title. The expressions are often exaggerated with body language to match but it plays big on the page and it should, giving the story more gravity. Dee Cunniffe's colors are subtle and muted but again serves the perfect tone for a world seemingly trapped under a dark cloud.

Cates is one of those overnight sensations that's been grinding for years, pitching, and writing for various publishers. After 'The Paybacks,' 'Buzzkill,' and 'Interceptor' Cates continues on a hot streak with 'God Country' (also from Image) and the upcoming 'Babyteeth' from AfterShock comics. 'Redneck' is just the latest and greatest from the industry's rising star. Cates is the Michael Moreci (Burning Fields, Hoax Hunters, Roche Limit) of 2017.

'Redneck' does the impossible and makes vampires fresh and exciting again by not making it about vampires. Instead, Cates relies on authentic familial Texan charm and an unexpected turn of events. Estherren and Cunniffe give the book the tone and feel it deserves with pitch-perfect art. Cates does it again with another must-read comic.