Last month I turned 41. Turning 40 a year ago was a weird experience because it is a milestone age, but at first, you don’t feel any difference. You expect to feel different when you wake up that morning and seem genuinely surprised when you don’t; however, each day after, whenever you feel an ache or a pain, it’s automatic to blame it on age. Your foot hurts? You’re getting older. Your stomach can’t handle the spicy food you used to love? Well, you’re 40 now. Eyes hurting at the end of the day? Time comes for us all.
I know it sounds a bit melodramatic, but being in your 40s is a weird time age-wise. People who are 50+ are constantly telling me that I am still very young, while people 30 and under speak of my age in hushed tones suitable for describing a dark and painful disease that ravaged an unsuspecting victim. I’m too young to know what I’m doing according to my seniors and too old to understand the world by my juniors.
Anyways, if I sound a little too introspective this week, it’s all because of the book I’m reviewing, That Texas Blood from Image Comics. Here’s the blurb:
CRIMINAL colorist and first-time solo artist JACOB PHILLIPS and writer CHRIS CONDON break onto the scene with a brand-new ongoing series! Like Paris, Texas gut-punched by No Country for Old Men, this mature neo-Western crime series kicks off when the search for a casserole dish leads to a dark and tense confrontation on Sheriff Joe Bob Coates’ 70th birthday.
If the name Chris Condon doesn’t ring any bells for you, that’s because he is a relative newcomer to the comic scene. Prior to this book, he and Jacob Phillips worked on an online Patreon comic called Brutal Dark, and that’s the only comics experience I have been able to see of his. (Feel free to share in the comments if you know of anything else he has done because after reading this book I genuinely am interested in seeing more from him.) His lack of experience was surprising to me, because of how well made this comic is. I have seen industry veteran’s struggle to maintain tone in big-ticket books as well as Condon does in this comic, so to see such a relatively new writer master it so quickly speaks well of the great things this series has going for it.
Jacob Phillips is a bit more well known, but as the blurb says he’s mainly known for his work as a colorist. It’s a shame, especially reflecting upon the recent passing of Joe Sinnott earlier this week, that people forget just how artistically talented all levels of the comic industry are. The only time a lot of people seem to notice inks and colours is when there is something wrong with them, and that’s unfortunate because Phillips really shines in this book with a style that lends itself incredibly well to the story being told. He’s a talented artist who deserves a lot of praise, and I look forward to seeing where his work goes from here.
Now, getting into the story, the first issue of That Texas Blood deals with Sheriff Joe Bob Coates, who, like me, woke up on a momentous birthday feeling like he always did, but was quickly forced to face down the reality of what that 70 years mean. He’s an old man who still feels like a young man in many ways but has lived a life long enough to be weighed down by some of the things he has done. Not that we have any indication that he has ever done anything intentionally evil, he’s a good man who genuinely cares about his wife and his community, but in the course of his decades in law enforcement, he has been forced to make choices that haunt him, both figuratively and in some ways literally. It’s a deep and introspective meditation on the nature of human life, with a visceral feel that at times can hit you like a gut punch, and I found myself really needing to take a moment to collect my thoughts after reading it.
That Texas Blood is ostensibly an anthology series, where multiple stories of dark drama and trauma will all be set in the same place, Ambrose County, and each arc will follow a different group of characters who will no doubt interact with previously established characters. I have little doubt that Sheriff Coates will be back in subsequent issues, and I am very much looking forward to where this series, and his personal arc, will go.
This first issue of That Texas Blood is also a one and done, which is nice because it shows what I have long believed to be one of the biggest weaknesses of most modern comics, mainly that there is such a fervour for trades and anthologies that most series from the big two seem incapable of writing a single issue story anymore. When was the last time you picked up a book off the shelf and got a complete, well written and developed story in a single issue? Sure, moving forward this series will have multi-issue arcs, but it is still refreshing to read a complete and well-developed single issue in this day and age, and I highly recommend you consider picking it up if for no other purpose then to encourage publishers to allow more single-issue stories like this.
So there you go. Check out That Texas Blood #1 and see if it makes you feel as old as it made me feel.
Until next time, stay safe!