THAT TEXAS BLOOD #4, available from Image Comics on September 30th, continues the slow, simmering build toward uncovering the cause of Travis’ death and what that means for Randy. Light on action and forward progress of the main plot, this issue swells with anticipation.
Chris Condon loads the back pages of this series with little insights into what inspired the comic, so we know Jacob Phillips’ cover inspiration was a The Simpsons episode titled “Mother Simpson.” Having some recollection of that episode, it nails the emotional imagery nicely. It’s a quiet moment during dusk where Randy’s girlfriend is driving to (surprise) meet him, and it feels hopeful and dreadful at the same time. Phillips pulled off some tremendous emotional punch.
Condon’s story doesn’t have a lot of forward progress in the series, but what it does do is build, build, build on the tension. Randy struggles to come to terms with his brother’s death, and you can feel the conflict within him as he can’t quite figure out what to do next. The Sherriff’s questioning of the local barkeep, and his subsequent talk with his wife, echoes Randy’s stress and confusion about the next steps in expectation in whatever is about to happen.
The new subplot is the imminent arrival of Randy’s girlfriend, and her journey feels ominous in the way you feel anxious watching a mouse about to walk into a lion’s den. She’s going after Randy out of love and concern, but there’s little doubt she’s not prepared for what’s about to happen.
And what is about to happen? I’m not sure, but Condon has done a masterful job lighting a very long fuse on a powder keg about to blow.
Phillips’ art is less detailed in this issue than previously. Where the previous issues had more defined linework, this issue missed some of that detail that made the characters feel like stylized extrusions of real people and closer to vague character placeholders. It’s all there – the town, the backdrops, the atmosphere, but some of the sharpness, especially in the faces, lowered the impact of the characters’ emotions. That lack of detail was a bit of a miss when the issue is so focused on exposition and inner turmoil.
Linework aside, Phillips’ coloring work in this issue is top-notch. The entire issue jumps from one scene to the next, filtered through harsh lenses. The bar scene where something(?) is about to happen to Randy is saturated with red. The dusk scene with Randy’s girlfriend driving down the highway is bathed in bluish-purple to hint at the sadness she doesn’t know is about to hit her. Phillips executed an excellent demonstration of mood through color.
Phillips’ lettering work adds to the tension of the story by using a small font in over-sized word balloons to make the dialog feel heavier. It’s an excellent technique for public speaking that works equally well in comic form. Talk softly, so the audience has to lean in and pay closer attention. By keeping the dialog lettering compressed inside larger bubbles, the reader has to lean in and focus more intently on what’s being said. The dialog feels weightier and more important. This technique is executed so well; it almost takes away from the art in a few panels. This is excellent lettering work by Phillips.
THAT TEXAS BLOOD #4, available from Image Comics on September 30th, turns the heat up a few ticks to a fast simmer before the entire town boils over. Short on action and plot movement but very long on tension and anticipation, I sincerely hope the climatic impact pays it off. I eagerly recommend this issue and can’t wait to see what happens next.