Everything begins with a burst of flame and descends into madness from there. A skin-crawlingly satisfying first issue.
100 %
Wonderfully Sinister
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REDLANDS #1 opens on the most sinister of images. In the foreground, a large tree is on fire, flames licking at three empty nooses hanging from its branches. In the background lies a police station, the doors barricaded. From inside we hear a voice, “Where did them bitches go?” We, the reader, know something is up, that something is wrong. We turn the page and we discover the intended victims of this hanging survived: their necks didn’t snap. Inside the building, bathed in an orange glow, the police are looking out. They know they’re trapped. They are under siege. From what, we can only guess. A bloodbath is a-coming.

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Written and colored by Jordie Bellaire with art by Vanesa R. Del Rey and lettering by Clayton Cowles, REDLANDS #1 is a claustrophobic supernatural horror that will have you as confused and scared as the poor saps laid up in the police station. There is mystery here too. The reader has just enough information to understand what is going down. A small “old fashioned” town, led by the sheriff, attempted to lynch three witches. This will not end well for the town.

Courtesy of Image Comics

The REDLANDS Creative Team Aims to Scare

Jordie Bellaire, pulling double duty, writes a fine and gritty script, jumping into the action straight away. The tension never lets up. Our cast of characters sweat continuously, whether from the heat of the fire or the dire situation, who knows. Bellaire, however, does not have us necessarily rooting for the besieged cadre of racist, sexist, and violent police officers. Their disdain for anyone non-white or female seeps out through their language. Guns and Confederate flags are proudly displayed on the walls. Their mantra of “to serve and protect” is at odds with their views.

Courtesy of Image Comics

Vanesa R. Del Rey gives REDLANDS #1 a raw and intense feel. With the walls closing in and the ceiling just above their heads, she controls the pace with fury and energy. Rey’s pencils and inks are scratchy. They have an almost rushed feeling to them as if trying to convey the horror as quickly and intimately as possible. When the horror comes, it comes fast. The monsters are ill-defined, blurred demons eager to spill blood. Bellaire adds a deep fiery orange to Rey’s art. We can almost hear the crackle of the burning tree continuously in the background.

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Clayton Cowles handles the dialogue with precision and ease. His font use and word balloon placement let the emotion flow on each page — the desperation in the sheriffs’ sons voice, the deep sarcasm of the prisoners in the basement, and the almost god-like tone of the witches as they justify their actions. His work is perfect for the tone of the book.

Everything Burns

Courtesy of Image Comics

If I haven’t made it clear, REDLANDS #1 is fantastic. The comic hits all the right notes of a horror book, weaving fear of the unknown with blood spatter. REDLANDS #1 feels like it could be a grind-house movie from the seventies; a combination of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT THIRTEEN and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. The issue contains some cool back matter, including character sketches and Jordie’s coloring process. As #1’s go, this one hits the ground running and screaming. Would you rather have a town run by monsters than murderers? REDLANDS will surely answer that question.

REDLANDS #1 will be released on the 9th of August.

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