"Redlands #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Written by Jordie Bellaire
Illustrated by Vanesa R. Del Ray
Colored by Jordie Bellaire
2017, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on August 9th, 2017
There are few images as ominous in American history as a tree with a noose hanging from it. It brings to mind the horrific lynchings that scar the country's past. Now imagine three nooses swinging from that tree. Now set it on fire. That's the opening image of Redlands and it only gets more unsettling as it goes on.
Redlands is the latest in an ever-growing trend of Southern horror comics. It joins other notable titles like Harrow County, Redneck, Moonshine, and Cannibal. It's definitely a worthy addition. The series picks up in a Florida town with a police station under siege by a trio of witches. You can start putting the pieces together to figure out who those nooses were meant for. Obviously, things didn't go the way the officers planned and now they're paying the price for pissing off the wrong women.
Although they occupy positions of power and respect, it's amazing how quickly writer Jordie Bellaire establishes that these men are in the wrong. It comes through in their language, how they treat one another, and how they seem to only be able to refer to the women as “bitches.” While the mysoginistic, racist Southern cop is somewhat of a character archetype, it works well here in cementing just how evil these normal human beings are.
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This is accentuated by the use of shadow, especially with the light coming from the flaming tree, which shows no sign of stopping. When we first meet the officers, they're cast in a smoky orange glow from the fire. It creates a rather foreboding tone right off the bat. The darkness works to the book's advantage even further when the lights go out at the station. Artist Vanesa R. Del Ray gives the figures in these pages a hazy, less-detailed look, as if you're struggling to see them in the darkness with squinted eyes. This is where my favorite – and scariest – panel comes through. I literally yelled out, “Oh, what the fuck is that!” when I saw it. It comes as a complete shock.
Redlands does that repeatedly throughout the issue. It creates this uneasy feeling that never goes away and is only exacerbated by sudden, gory events as the witches close in on the officers. There's a healthy mix between full-on bloodshed and implied violence. Sometimes you'll see it in all its glory while other times you'll just see the blood splatter, leaving you to wonder what horrible thing is happening.
The main characters, the witches, don't appear until the very end, but their presence is felt throughout every page. You'll start to anticipate their arrival with bated breath. When they do show up, it's as a force of pure power and rage. You've heard the saying, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”? Well, these women have been scorned like you wouldn't believe and they are bringing Hell down upon this small town.
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Del Ray's designs for these characters are incredible. They stand with confidence and strength. When you see what they're capable of, you'll wonder why anyone would even think to cross them or be rude to them in any way. They are instantly intriguing. I've got to learn more about them.
Over the past few years we've seen various monsters get their day in the sun. Zombies, werewolves, and vampires have all had time to shine. Now it's the witches' turn. Redlands puts them squarely on the top of the food chain. This is an impressive, terrifying comic that will grab you from page one and never let go. It is brilliantly paced with non-stop scares. Do yourself a favor and buy this book.