Written by Chris Condon, Art, Colours, Letters by Jacob Phillips.
We open issue five with a red pool engulfing Randy as he lifts his hand up; he then awakes to blood all over him, a gun in hand, and a body on the floor. Whose body is it? What happened? As Randy struggles to find the pieces in his mind to put together what has happened, he starts to reflect on his own growth—or devolution—as I’m sure he would label it. Unbeknownst to him, his girlfriend is at his doorstep about to confront him. Meanwhile, sheriff Joe Bob takes one of his new deputies to question a suspect, and they find out some more about Travis’s murderer. Tensions are escalating, Joe Bob is getting closer and closer to cracking the case, whereas Randy is just cracking. Has he gone too far, or can he save himself from what could be a deep dark hole?
I feel like I can say this with every issue of this series, but this is the best so far. The depths shown with Randy are fantastic, with symbolism to match in a creepy and revealing way. The hard open of him surrounded by red liquid. As it engulfs him by the end of the book. Not only showing the fact that he’s going to a deep dark place, but potentially “drowning” in blood. His character is pushed to extremes in this issue from all angles.
Chris Condon has managed to keep the character grounded and likeable despite clear indications of criminal behaviour. His mental state being challenged at each point, and here it’s no different. After waking up to the body, he then has to deal with his girlfriend, who flew across country 'cause she cares about him. The old adage of “cruel to be kind” comes to mind, with how Randy deals with her. Knowing full well that he needs to save her from his situation, he handles her in the only way he knows, by shouting. This clearly hurts him, as after she leaves, he breaks down, in what to me was three of the best panels in the book. Clearly displaying he cares for her, and yet knows how far he has gone already.
The writing for this issue was truly exceptional, when a character is in such shock about potentially killing someone, and they talk about it as though it’s a chore “like cutting the lawn or doing the dishes”...doing this yet still keeping them likeable. Despite his shortcomings, we still like and care for Randy.
The artwork by Jacob Phillips clearly matches the writing on display here. It’s one thing to have a great character with depth when it comes to creating with words, but if the illustrations don’t match, then that character will be lost. Here, Philips easily matches the writing style and builds on the character of Randy. Really pushing his tortured soul with those three panels. I could feel his anguish in that middle panel. You feel the pain for him as he pushes his girlfriend away.
This series I think is one of the more intelligent ones out there. Not one for the action fan, it’s one for someone who has patience for long form storytelling. I’ve compared it in the past to No Country For Old Men; this issue I think is the best example of it. Light on action scenes, yet so much happens. Which is where Chris Condon exceeds, lots of narrative development happens within the space of a short time. In other books this could be an information dump, but this feels so natural and earned. I cannot recommend this series enough.
That Texas Blood Number 5 is released on 4th November from Image Comics, your local comic shop, as well as comixology