Jordie Bellaire’s name can be seen multiple times across a comics stand. She’s a one woman coloring machine, and chances are if you’ve read a book and even noticed the coloring on it in the past five years, Bellaire colored it. The list of projects she’s colored is too long to rattle out here, but Redlands is notable because it’s the first time she’s done anything that wasn’t coloring on a comic. She writes Redlands, with Vanesa Del Rey on art and of course Bellaire herself colors it, because why wouldn’t she?
Redlands tells the story of a coven of witches who have taken over the titular small town in south Florida. There’s a lot going on in this first volume. From the skips around time periods, to body swaps, to a serial killer getting eaten by crocodiles, all the bases are covered. I found the story a bit disjointed, though. It starts out pretty straightforward with three witch sisters who are also cops, but as the volume goes on, so many plot threads are introduced, and then the story just forgets about those for more plot threads. The entire first issue is taken up by an extended tale, taking place in the ’70s, explaining how the sisters came to be in the town. This easily could have been portrayed in fewer pages as it has little to do with the rest of the comic, and in the end it seems weird to have an entire issue dedicated to something that is essentially backstory.
There were a lot of plot threads that didn’t really make sense to me, like a dead girl named Nancy — who before issue #4 is not mentioned — taking over Bridget’s body which then takes up the rest of the trade with her trying to get revenge on the men who killed and raped her. Then there’s the Dani girl who is seeing ghosts and commands a truck driver to cut off his nose and set his truck and himself on fire. There’s also the little kid who Ro takes care of who might not actually be human at all. Oh, and the serial killer who is set up to be an important part of the story who dies in the third issue and is never mentioned again. I get that Bellaire might be playing the long game with this one, and maybe it will all become clear, but I can’t imagine reading this in single issues, as I was enraged just reading this trade with how many characters and plots I had to keep straight for which there was little to no pay off.
Del Rey’s art at times evokes such an overwhelming sense of dread and mystical horror that it fits the book perfectly. The sisters performing the sacrifice was probably the best sequence in the entire volume, in part because of Bellaire’s exquisite knack for emoting mood with color. When the characters aren’t doing anything with fire or blood, the art ends up being sort of boring. It’s a give and take, and I will settle for exposition scenes being unremarkable for the level of fear that strikes when the horror aspects of the book kick in.
There’s a really great setting of tone in this series, and that’s probably its saving grace. Sometimes the plot details don’t matter when a creative team can make you feel exactly the complicated feelings they’re trying to convey, especially in horror books where mood is so important. I’ve complained a lot so far about this book, but it’s not a bad read, and if the subsequent arcs can improve on the plot stumbles, Redlands will be a horror book to be reckoned with.