Writer: Chris Condon
Artist: Jacob Phillips
Cover Artist: Sean Phillips
Publisher: Image Comics
Like many good stories, That Texas Blood #1: The Casserole Dish begins at the end. It’s Joe Bob Coates’s 70th birthday. He begins his day as the sheriff of a sleepy little Texas town by reflecting on the fact that slowing down in old age is supposed to be a good thing. However, Coates is not sure that he enjoys it and seems to be missing the glory days of his younger years.
After failing to recover his wife’s casserole dish from the local unstable couple, Ray and Ruth, Coates assumes there won’t be anymore drama for the day … he’s wrong. Later that afternoon, Coates experiences a nightmare that foreshadows the grisly turn of events ahead. At the end of the issue, Coates pulls Ray over on the side of the road moments before Ray, already covered in blood, shoots himself.
That Texas Blood is a compelling, atmospheric narrative in the style of No Country for Old Men. The artwork makes heavy use of shading — with lots of muted pinks, reds, and blues — that work well both to denote the Texas countryside and signal the time of day. The plot of the first issue sets the mood for the story by juxtaposing a prop as homey and whimsical as a casserole dish — that reflects Coates’s peaceful retirement — with the violence that is about to disrupt his existence. There is a sense of anxious foreboding hanging over the story that builds gradually enough not to be boring and ends with enough suspense to entice the reader toward the next issue.
Interestingly, That Texas Blood is the result of a long-time dream for Condon and Phillips, who initially conceptualized the story for film. For both writer and artist, this issue marks the beginning of their very own comic. Despite that Condon is from coastal New Jersey and Phillips is from the UK, they took an interest in Texas as the setting of their story out of appreciation for the way the location has inspired other neo-Western crime series. The result is an excellent comic, well worth reading.