The Fall line up of new books from TKO Studios all seem to have a darkly and foreboding air to them and we’ll be bringing you reviews of them in the coming weeks. However, the first to creep out of the shadows is Redfork from GIGA’s Alex Pakndael, but just what is hiding beneath the mountains of this small mining town?
Redfork is your classic tale of a small US town with a dark secret and is the kind of basic concept that has kept Stephen King in business for decades. Noah is an ex-con returning home to the small town where he grew up in order to confront his past actions. However with this being an Alex Paknadel book, nothing is quite as it seems as the mining town of Redfork has a dark secret at its heart. This is revealed when an explosion in the mine injures Noah’s bother and brings forth a mysterious stranger into everyone’s life. But this is a stranger who promises much, but at what cost?!
Paknadel does an excellent job of building and layering the concepts in Redfork to help deliver a really impactful and unsettling mix of horror and suspense. Just as we saw in Friendo it starts slowly, and after one issue you might begin to ask what this book is all about and where it is heading? But this is definitely a book which benefits from being read in as few sittings as possible. The early issues are all about setting up the characters and concepts – the nefarious mining company, Noah’s criminal past, his family, (especially his daughter) and perhaps most importantly the health and drug problems which plague the town as a result of the mine. All of this is then tied together expertly, along with a few surprise twists and turns to create a really well crafted and compelling story.
While on the surface it is a small town story, like all the best examples of this sub genre it’s about what is lurking beneath that makes the story. Paknadel and artist Nil Vendrell have a really great secret hidden up their sleeve – or rather under the mountain. It allows them to mix heartfelt family melodrama and David Cronenburg-esque body horror perfectly. There’s even a satirical edge about fossil fuels and the detrimental affect it has on communities (which draws parallels both in the US and the UK).
This is our first time seeing Vendrell’s work (he previously did the brilliantly titled Shirtless Bear-Fighter apparently!) but he manages to balance the two sides of this world brilliantly. The scenes based around Noah’s family have a clean slickness to it that reminded us of Rafa Albuquerque’s work on Huck. Yet he is also able to really go to town on the more horrific elements as well, making them really stomach charmingly grim. It reminded us of Alex Cormack’s work in Road of Bones or Sink and also Lee Ryan’s work on Mountainhead, for it’s graphic nature and if you loved those books then you will definitely love this one.
We were lucky enough to be able to read it in the large format print edition and this really makes the most of every moment, being able to see the darker moments in all their unsettling glory. And that’s what really makes this book work. But it is much than just a book full of blood and guts. Like all the best horror this is about secrets in the shadows, both real and imagined, or not. While some of the character feel a bit interchangeable at times early on, it comes together brilliantly and ties everything up in a really interesting way. All of which makes Redfork into a fantastic addition to the increasingly awesome TKO roster and definitely a dark secret worth uncovering.