Redlands is the new horror series from Jordie Bellaire and Vanesa R. Del Rey, along with Clayton Cowles on lettering. On the surface, it sounds a lot like Image Comics’ previous successful horror franchise Wytches from Scott Snyder – there’s a dark theme about the evils of humanity, there are witches, and there are the usual environmental connotations about those witches including their ability to move like the wind. But Bellaire and Del Rey, who share story credits, have done a great job of setting Redlands up to be a sprawling tale about witches taking over the titular town in Florida to craft it into their own version of hell.
Issue one opens in medias res, with the townspeople of Redlands bunkered down in the police station to hide from three female witches who have already destroyed most of the town. But Bellaire and Del Rey draw attention to these victims in a way that makes them feel like the instigators; the cops that we meet are corrupt, their intentions are mostly evil, and their misogyny is apparent. They’ve even locked up most of the “others” in the town, those that don’t fit into the minuscule spectrum of normalcy that these white males have defined.
The reader also has to recognize the setting in which Redlands is set: we’re in the south in 1977, certainly a turbulent time for race and sex relations. Del Rey’s artwork is often beautiful with heavy dark lines and sketchy character profiles, but she really excels at the more detailed aspects of the issue: in the background of the cop precinct hangs a confederate flag, and the burning tree that defines the plot of this issue seems to have noose ropes swaying from its branches. The element of human corruption and evil is both implied and explicit in this book, and so far Bellaire and Del Rey have done a great job of ensuring that the audience understands the rage boiling within them.
Interestingly, Redlands draws closer to its three witches Alice, Ro, and Bridget during the finale of this first issue, making them into potential anti-heroes as the series evolves. This premiere storyline seems to be some inciting action that allows Bellaire and Del Rey the opportunity to travel through time to see how Redlands changes with the witches at the helm, and it’s an interesting perspective that affords a lot of room for growth.
And if Redlands maintains the pacing and sinister moods that this issue creates, it should become a promising new series for Image Comics and this talented female duo.