Image Comics is celebrating their 25th anniversary in 2017, and among their many forms of celebration are the Image and Skybound variant covers for LGBTQ Pride Month. Available only in stores, the variants celebrate the LGBTQ community and the progress made by the Gay Liberation movement. 100% of the proceeds from the Pride variant covers will be donated to Human Rights Campaign! And Geeks OUT is reviewing them all!
Before I dive into my thoughts on Redneck #3, I want to tell you why I wanted to review this issue of this series: because it was written by Donny Cates.
I first became aware of Donny Cates back in 2014 with his Dark Horse miniseries, Buzzkill, co-written with Mark Reznicek, drawn by Geoff Shaw, and colored by Lauren Affe. It's the story of a superhero who gets his superpowers by drinking heavily. As he tries to get clean, the city's villains decide it's the perfect time to unleash their full forces. I highly recommend Buzzkill to anyone looking for a superhero story with a twist. It's collected in trade and readily available.
Now that I got that out of the way I'm almost ready to talk about Redneck #3. Yeah, almost. I want to tell you all about Redneck in general though, before getting into the nitty gritty. Trust me, it'll all make sense.
Redneck is both a vampire story and a deeply personal story that Donny Cates is weaving with artist and co-creator Lisandro Estherren and colorist Dee Cunniffe. It's a personal story for Donny as it is at least somewhat inspired by some things that took place in Texas (where Redneck takes place) to his family members. The vampire part of the story is a bit like The Walking Dead in reverse: instead of a humans surrounded by monsters, it's monsters surrounded by humans. I'm not the one that came up with that analogy, but it's accurate. And without getting too spoilery, the first issue sets up the conflict that makes humans want to kill vampires more than humans normally kills them, I guess. The second issue shows the escalation of that conflict with human casualties. All caught up? Great! Here are my thoughts on issue 3 (with minimal spoilers), then I'll get into my thoughts on the Pride cover itself.
This issue starts with the aftermath of the vampires and the humans duking it out. It gets real bloody, so be careful if you're squeamish. Vampires are trying to figure out what to do next. Some take to violence while others take to wisdom. We get the introduction of the Grandfather vampire, and we get to see some harsh retribution play out.
Donny Cates here really writes from the gut. A lot of the conversations through the comic, especially the one involving the Grandfather, are very heavy. Since Donny is from Texas, we really get a strongly built world where everyone feels both uniquely Texan and unique (and fleshed out) in their own right. This comic is part of a boon in authentic Southern comics up there with The Dark And Bloody and Southern Bastards, a personal favorite of mine. This is a phenomenon occurring in comics, that gets very little coverage of outside this context. If you like either one of those and haven't read Redneck yet, do yourself a favor and hop on board.
Lisandro Estherren's art style really brings this book together. He creates a blend of cartoony and horrific that we see in artists like Rafael Albuquerque and Jason Latour. His most horrific work is in this issue. I don't want to spoil it, but you'll know what I’m referring to when you turn the page to that big reveal. Dee Cunniffe creates a very moody atmosphere often with heavy blacks and shadows, particularly in this issue. The mood would be entirely lost without Dee, who really sucks you into this book.
As far as the Pride variant cover goes, it looks great! I love the message of "I'm Here, I'm Queer, I'm Fucking Immortal" and how it feeds into the queer vampire tropes we've all seen over the years. The only downside is that there really isn't any queer content in this series at all, at least by issue 3. I'm all for allies, and I'm all for supporting a good cause. If you like vampires or southern dramas, pick this up. But if you only pick it up because you think there might be queer content here, you won't find any.
But hey, it's better than the representation we found in The Divided States of Hysteria, isn't it?