That Texas Blood #19
Horror, much like action and other genres, can root itself and operate in one of two modes. One is the physical terror, which is where tropes like slashers and jumpscares exist, which play on physical stimuli and visceral experiences to evoke fear in an audience. On the other end of the spectrum is existential horror, which is rooted in the unknown, and reveals in the questioning of existence. Instead of a knife-wielding maniac, that horror deals with the understanding of one’s circumstances and casting a thought to the wider understanding, or lack of understanding, to a larger universe. The abyss is a perfect representation of that existential terror, as it’s a concept of something seemingly all-encompassing and dark, that cannot be fully comprehended.
That Texas Blood #19 – written by Chris Condon, drawn, colored, and lettered by Jacob Phillips, with color assists from Pip Martin – brings its slasher story arc, The Snow Falls Endlessly in Wonderland, to a strong close. The Red Queen Killer has killed Red and is chasing Lu through the snow, ready to claim his next victim. As Lu makes her final stand, Joe Bob gets his head out of his ass and connects the dots, trying to navigate the endless snow to make it in time. The bulk of the issue focuses on those two plots running concurrently, before colliding into a tense confrontation that solves the plot, but the story and mystery continue. RQK is dealt with, but his mark is left on the town, and this issue makes clear that there is plenty of story lingering.
The choice to never unmask RQK is a powerful one and speaks to the thematic core of the series. Evil is this unknowable darkness that doesn’t monologue at the characters or audience, instead, it’s a simmering, slow-acting force of nature that infects and corrupts everything around it. Condon doesn’t use captions or narrations to dive into the p.o.v of RQK either, which reinforces that separation and gives an edge that leans into pure existential terror. That sense of horror works well with the shorter-term, physical terror that goes hand in hand with the slasher genre. By casting the story and setting into an abyss, it casts a large shadow over those elements and infects the thoughts of readers with questions of motives and theories. That Texas Blood, like moments at the end of the issue, lives in a lingering tension that slowly claws at the reader.
The use of snow reinforces the tension of the issue by carefully obscuring the scenery. It’s a deliberate decision that enhances the pacing of the issue, drawing out RQK’s chase of Lu. Phillips never loses the clarity of the subject, and even when the falling snow blankets panels of Lu, Joe Bob, and RQK still take priority in the frame. Phillips’s use of consistent panel shape and sizes with minimal splashes or wide expansive shots lends itself to maintaining the tension of the chase, like a film using frantic, quick cuts to ensure that the slasher aspect of the story is realized. It’s not explosive action like a superhero book, but that choice of composition centers the subjects and also makes sure they aren’t swallowed by the endless snow. Later in the issue, after RQK is dealt with, Phillips will employ those wider shots, letting the emotional fallout of the situation begin to sink into Joe Bob and the audience alike.
Phillips and Martin’s coloring is top-notch in this issue, and for a plot set mostly outside in the snow, color comes into play to create a sense of terror that chills to the bone. Moments, like when Joe Bob is lit using the red of his vehicle’s sirens, are a striking contrast to the vast expanses of white and blues created by the snow. It’s those reds, in the siren’s tail lights of other vehicles, and the splattering of blood that shows just how well the coloring works in this issue. Blood on snow is such an effective and evocative pairing, rich in thematic imagery and connotations, and Phillips plays it up with the coloring.
There’s a nine-panel grid in particular where the snow is falling heavily, as Lu and RQK battle one another, and the blood from one another is the only real splash of color beyond blue and black on the page. It’s a striking coloring choice that shows the physical fallout of RQK’s attack while giving the sequence a primal energy that propels into the conclusion of the story. The red of the blood makes clear the murder’s weapon, the wounds inflicted on both figures, and even the outline of RQK’s now infamous mask. These images would still be seen if the coloring was shifted or muted, but in this configuration, Phillips and Martin maximize the impact and storytelling with minimal text on the page. Only a single word balloon appears in the nine panels, with no SFX used, and neither subject is the origin of it.
The lettering for this issue works to help provide additional clarity to the action in the panels, working in a similar shade of white as the snow, but providing a contrast to the winter aesthetic. Those SFX cut through the smaller snowflakes and particles to draw the eye to the sound, helping to train the reader to follow the action through the snow and is an excellent element that has a place in weather conditions and atmosphere for the art going forward. It’s also an effective way to ratchet the tension in those moments, like the klangs of metal signaling an approaching RQK, which reads like a cowbell used for dinner time. Those SFX are haunting, a visual and visceral reminder of what’s at stake and what’s coming in the sequence, while also offering details that could be lost in the severe weather.
That Texas Blood #19 brings to a close the series's strongest arc yet, utilizing the environment and atmosphere of winter in Texas to elevate a slasher story into a tale of existential terror. Condon’s scripting brings a thematic relevance to the slasher framework, using it to echo the other horrors that have plagued Ambrose County in the previous stories. That framework is enhanced thanks to Phillips’s tense panel composition, striking contrasting colors, and concise lettering. There’s no doubt this story will be one for the ages, chilling audiences while opening their eyes to a select vein of terror that presents in the physical, but lurks in the abstract. Now that the arc has come to a close, it's the perfect time to collect this arc and share it far and wide, as it bridges the time between Halloween and Christmas for crime and horror fans alike. Fans of either genre will love this arc, and it's a perfect contained story to convince non-comic fans to give this series and medium a chance.
That Texas Blood #19: Cold Blooded
- Writing - 10/1010/10
- Storyline - 10/1010/10
- Art - 10/1010/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10