By Jordie Bellaire, Vanesa Del Rey, and Clayton Cowles
Redlands is the first issue in a bold and exciting new dark horror comic from colorist extraordinaire, Jordie Bellaire, who helms both the scripting duties and colouring duties in this book. Working in conjunction with Vanesa R. Del Ray on pencils, together they tell an intriguing new beginning that takes place in the small town of Redlands, Florida, 1977, a town with a very dangerous supernatural element that’s set to cause chaos amongst its inhabitants.
The horror element that Bellaire brings to the table is great. The book is unpredictable and you don’t know where it’s going to go next, as the world-building effectively establishes the terror that readers are going to experience here. The police aren’t exactly too keen on heading out into Redlands, barricading themselves in a police station, and it’s easy to see why they’re sheltering with the prisoners rather than go outside. The supernatural threats are real, and they come in the form of a coven of witches.
Talk about a hell of an intense opening. Redlands will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish and it didn’t let up at all, keeping world-building to a minimum in favour of a tension-filled, well-paced story that plunges you right in at the deep end. The tension is executed superbly well from start to finish and the suspense is ever present. The loaded gun of the prisoners being locked in the cells at the bottom of the police station is something that also plays a key role in building up the tension as you know something big is going to go down the moment that they’re revealed, and Bellaire does not leave you disappointed when the tension boils over.
The dark, moody, and gothic atmosphere that artist Vanesa R. Del Ray creates here is fantastic. The feeling of dread is present all the way through the book and you know that prospects for the characters look increasingly bleak. It’s very gritty too, feeling like the perfect tone for the series going forward. The characters are well fleshed out and the clear distinction between the prisoners and the cops are felt very well. The supernatural element that comes into the picture is a lingering presence throughout the issue and is always really well done, bringing a sense of intimidation to the book as you never really know what will happen next.
If there is one weakness to Redlands it’s that it almost feels like a prologue and not a proper first issue. It’s kind of like the cold open that you’d get on a horror show, something like Supernatural – before the main characters arrive in the town next to investigate the mystery after the title credits roll. It almost feels too short to serve as a first issue as a result, but that doesn’t stop it from being good at all. In fact, this is a world that will almost certainly have readers coming back for more and with the added bonus of not really having any main characters in the first issue also comes the fact that unpredictability plays a huge part here. You don’t know who’s going to survive and the book remains all the more complex and entertaining because of that, especially when none of the characters on display here are particularly perfect people.
This is a book that should hook readers and draw them in. There is plenty of promise for Redlands to become a must-read if it isn’t already, and there’s enough here for the series to quickly become a staple on the monthly pull-list of comics fans going forward.