Noah went to jail for six years after an opioid raid went wrong. A free man once again in 2012, he returns to his hometown of Redfork, West Virginia to find his family fractured and neighborhood on economic life support. The coal mine keeps some people working, but a curiously magnanimous figure has emerged from its depths by the name of Mr. Gallowglass. He seems to have a magical cure for all physical conditions, from lupus to asthma, but at what price? As Redfork falls under the sway of mining executives and a magical panacea, will Noah’s family be able to resist their allure at all?

Redfork is about a dying town full of dying people, with no hope in sight. Noah’s back from jail and seemingly ready to make amends with his family, but he’s still a violent drunk. Unity, with whom Noah has a daughter, Harper, has visible needle marks and is wasting away. His father is on life support while his mother is spiteful toward Unity and Harper. His brother, Cody, holds down a job and puts on a happy face to support everyone, but that only draws more pettiness between the family. The town itself is depressed, stuck between striking against the coal mine’s continuing accidents and taking a paycheck anyway for lack of other opportunities. The story weaves these different interests pretty well, perhaps wrapping up a little too quickly at the end, but otherwise builds a compelling cast from an all-white town with one black doctor.

Nil Vendrell’s layouts make creative use of panels. In one instance, a page of wide panels showing a truck driving through town is flanked in the side gutters by people standing on the sidewalks. In another instance, Noah and his ex flick cigarettes into a sinkhole in the center of the page from panels taking place all around it. Giulia Brusco’s colors are most effective when there’s a light flickering in the darkness, as when a character monologues from inside a cave-in and when a seemingly magical cure-all object called “snow coal” glows pale lavender.

There’s also plenty of violence and gore, in case the infested roadkill on the cover wasn’t indication enough. Noah is off pain pills, but he still enjoys getting wasted and fighting out his problems. That’s on the lower end of the book’s horrific violence scale, which includes vomiting up massive tumors, melted faces, exposed bones and organs, gunshot wounds, and mutated cannibalism that would fit a Resident Evil comic. Between the carnage, swearing, alcohol, and implied drug use, this title belongs in the adult section and should appeal to fans of small-town horror.

Redfork is another notch in the catalog of TKO Studios, a recent publisher specializing in one-volume genre fiction comics published in multiple simultaneous editions. Their trade paperbacks are most likely to be compatible with libraries’ collections, at an inch or so taller than DC and Marvel trades. A cover gallery for the individual chapters is included at the end.

By Alex Paknadel
Art by Nil Vendrell
TKO Studios, 2020
ISBN: 9781952203091
Publisher Age Rating:  (17+)

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)

  • Thomas

    | He/Him Teen Services Librarian, Richland Library

    Features Writer

    Thomas is a teen services librarian at Richland Library in Columbia, South Carolina. While studying for his MLIS at the University of South Carolina, he won an award from Thomas Cooper Library for his curation of the works of “God of Manga” Osamu Tezuka. He has spoken about manga, graphic novels, teen programming, and podcasting at NashiCon, DragonCon, ColaCon, New York Comic Con, and American Library Association conferences. He has been on on YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels For Teens selection committee, written articles for Public Libraries, The Hub, Book Riot, and Library Trends, and reviews for School Library Journal and Kirkus.

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