Written by Jordie Bellaire
Art by Vanesa Del Rey, Jordie Bellaire, Clayton Cowles
Published By Image Comics
Release Date: September 13, 2017
The first issue of Redlands intrigued, terrified, and absolutely confused. This issue is not different, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Redlands #1 was an eery, dark introduction to the series, and it successfully conveyed an overarching theme of power, magic, and dread without so much as an ounce of unnecessary exposition. This issue does not necessarily pick up where the last left off, but once again, Jordie Bellaire works magic with an unexpected take on graphic storytelling. This book is backwards, inside-out and upside-down, but this twisted approach to plot development is the prefect path for this particular story. It requires actual work and critical thought from its readers, which is refreshing and compelling. Once you pick up this comic, you are already invested— you are part of the mystery…and it feels good.
I have, while digesting this issue, both fallen in love with and developed a deep fear of these mysterious witch-sisters. Their easy command of the town is inspiring, and their dark side is a pleasant twist. The book still does not have a protagonist, or even a clear antagonist, to latch onto, making every page a true surprise. As this issue reveals, the witches may not be holding all the cards, for all the power they control. Someone is fighting the balance and trying to steal their flock, which is bad news for a few innocent lambs.
Aside from the witches, Jordie Bellaire is the real magic behind this book. As a colorist (and a woman in comics) she has been forced under the radar for too long, and Redlands is an inspiring reflection of that struggle to the top in an industry that is built to push strong women down. Her witches are powerful and nuanced, beautiful and terrifying, wonderful and strange. They have an easy authority to them, and an implied queerness and strong sisterhood that adds realistic layers to their relationship. The Redlands witches are not just “strange female characters” they are powerful women who know that sometimes, there has to be fire and blood to get what you want.
The colors, not surprisingly, are the perfect companion for the plot. It is obvious that Bellaire is writing to her strengths, and the different aspects of her artistry intertwine in beautiful ways. The color story pushes the plot, and the story is punctuated by the colors. The deep reds and dark shadows, especially in the more sinister scenes, carry the weight of the mystery and murder that is unfolding, while the lighter hues of daylight and everyday life serve as a helpful contrast to the darker scenes. I never expected Bellaire to write a comic, but I am already anticipating whatever story she puts into the world next.
Vanesa Del Rey is absolutely integral to this book. Her style lends itself wonderfully to the plot, and perfectly complements the dark mystery as. it unfolds. Her witches are not perfect, but they are beautiful. They are real representations of women, but have a darker, otherworldly quality that sets them apart from the other characters. detailed backgrounds collide with innovative angles and perspectives to reveal the scenes in intriguing, thoughtful ways. Clayton Cowles letters this series, and the font is perfect. There is so much color and shadow, coupled with detailed art and a growing cast of characters, but the fluid art and expert lettering keeps everything moving smoothly along at the perfect pace.
Coming into this second issue, I thought I knew what I wanted. I wanted to see some magic, some mystery, and a little mayhem. All of that happened, but in ways that were unexpected, enthralling, and undeniably fresh. I was expecting that Redlands #2 would answer some questions about these witches and this world, but we are left with more mysteries to solve and more threads to wind together. I feel sad for anyone who stopped reading after Redlands #1, because they are going to miss out on one of the most beautiful, suspenseful, and downright creepy books of the year.
In an industry full of recycled ideas and formulaic storytelling, the Redlands team is flipping the medium upside down, dousing it in fire, and resurrecting it with blood magic.
The Verdict: 10/10