Redlands Volume 1
Writer: Jordie Bellaire
Artist: Vanesa Del Rey
Colourist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
Review by Mark Jones
Redlands, Florida is the stereotype of a small, southern town. 40 years ago a witch hunt found something actually supernatural and, well, that ended badly for the would-be lynchers. After a fiery cleansing of the town, Bridget, Ro and Alice take over Redlands. In the present, they’re still running the town through the police department. Their supernatural abilities mean they haven’t aged but nobody in the town seems to have noticed.
I find it hard to get my head around Redlands Volume 1. If I had to describe it in a single word, then it would be overambitious. The five issues collected here contain a whole host of events and flashbacks and plotlines. However, they still feel like exposition for something larger rather than a satisfying arc in and of itself.
Redlands tries to give us the historic background for our three protagonists from multiple time periods. It tries to introduce additional key characters from the town. It tries to give us a ritualistic murder investigation, a body snatching revenge story and a mysterious figure returning to town who seems to hold something over our trio. That’s without mentioning Itsy, the not-quite human child Alice has adopted. There’s no shortage of plot points but they feel isolated and rushed rather than part of a cohesive whole.
The constant flow of events and new points of interest make it hard to care about any of the characters. Each sequence is kept short to make space for everything else. Our protagonists do not seem to be defined by their pain, their past or their circumstances, yet we know little else about them.
One specific sequence implicitly references Stephen King, saying that a long build up of normality is required to fully appreciate the horrors that come later. Redlands would benefit from taking this advice. Who are Alice, Bridget and Ro? How do they interact with each other normally? What do the townspeople think of them? What even is normal for them? We get glimpses but little else.
The artwork, on the other hand, is exquisite. Vanesa Del Ray’s art gives us well defined, easily recognisable characters and settings. Jordie Bellaire’s colours are as good as they always are. They draw the eye where needed while filling each scene with an overall tone. When events descend into violence the art and colours combine to give weight to each blow.
Despite my misgivings, there’s a lot to like about Redlands Volume 1. There’s a tangible sense of place and setting. Some of the plot threads drew me in and left me wanting to know what happens next. I’ll continue reading Redlands because I do want to know more about the characters. I could just do with events being more slowly paced so that I have more time to get to know the people involved. Let me get to know them and see how events change them, rather than just seeing things happen to them.
Verdict: Buy it(?)
I want to wholeheartedly recommend Redlands. I want to say I loved the characters and want to know what happens to them. But I can’t. I want to know more precisely because there’s not enough about them in this first volume. If you’re unsure whether Redlands is for you, it might be worth waiting to hear how the next few issues turn out before deciding. Redlands Volume 1 is good, but it is just a beginning.
Redlands Volume 1 is released on April 4, 2018, by Image Comics.