Redlands, from Image Comics, sees brilliant colorist Jordie Bellaire take a turn at writing, while still providing colors. Artist Vanesa R. Del Rey and lettered Clayton Cowles make up the rest of this phenomenal creative team.
***SPOILERS LIE AHEAD***
In a world where every obsessive comic book reader has way too many books to read each week, Redlands is a book that manages to stick with you. Sometimes it’s tough, when you have so many comics to keep track of, for a newer series to keep you invested in a story and remember all the players.
This is why a lot of readers move to trades after they fall behind, even a little bit, on an independent series. Redlands doesn’t over-complicate the landscape and narrative. It moves at a pace that you can follow on a monthly basis without forgetting major details. Whether this is on purpose or not, it certainly helps keeping this series at the forefront of a reader’s mind.
It also helps that Jordie Bellaire’s characters are so infectious that we want more as soon as possible. Each issue has introduced somebody new, each one as immediately interesting as the last. The opening scene in issue five is a perfect example. Jordie wastes no time in making this character an imposing force oozing with charisma and charm.
We later learn this character approaching the Redlands is the grandfather of our witches. In the meantime, we explore more of the seedy world of prostitution and get more of Bridget’s history of witchcraft.
Nothing is fully spelled out for the reader, we don’t have a complete picture of anything. Bellaire gives the reader little bits and peaks to hold us over each issue. I can’t explain in full detail what is happening as a whole yet, but I can tell you that I can’t get enough of it.
There are plenty of supernatural elements that contribute to the horror element of this title, but the most horrifying scenes come from the most-human characters. This book doesn’t rely on gore and shock to make readers feel uncomfortable.
Redlands looks at sexuality and desire from an interesting angle. It wields it as a weapon against weaker minds, but not exclusively. There are still sexier moments that happen, like the Gator Man sex scene a few issues ago, that are intimate and passionate. Bellaire mines a healthy dose of both pain and pleasure when utilizing sex.
The balance between sexy and scary down in the swamp is astronomical. Jordie and Vanesa Del Rey don’t shy away from nudity and sex scenes. It never becomes a book just about sex either, it’s very much about the supernatural horror. The book’s sexuality isn’t a crutch, it’s another strong factor that makes each issue refuse to leave your head after closing the back cover.
These are strong female characters that quietly rule this southern hellhole. It’s masterful craftsmanship that allows this comic to be extremely effective without dipping too heavily into any of the elements that altogether make this a unique experience.
Vanesa Del Rey draws people in a beautifully realistic, untraditional comic book way. This cast is appealing and unique, some of the best looking body models currently in any book. Del Rey makes these characters, both male and female, sexy and strong without using the standard superhero template.
The dark, heavy pencils this book features allows Del Rey and Bellaire to play with darkness and shadows in major ways. There’s a ton of mystery and suspense lurking. Only little bits of evil are revealed, the rest are left in the dark and left to the imagination of the reader.
The handwritten letter at the end of the issue is absolutely devastating. A young girl abandoned at a brothel by her own father. As she slowly starts to figure her situation out and adapt to her new life, it paints the preceding pages in a completely different light.
The conversations had earlier in the issue have an entirely different weight to them. Including this letter, and its execution, was a fantastic choice. Don’t ignore this creative team, they’re a storytelling force to be reckoned with.
Redlands heads into 2018 as one of the most interesting and intoxicating new series. This sexy, mysterious, and beautiful looking horror comic is a major accomplishment for everyone involved.