Since Warped Perspective recently celebrated all things folk horror, it’s only appropriate that their own comic reviewer checks out a new addition to the folk horror comic scene, Redlands. Comics and folk horror have gone hand in hand for decades, dating back to early horror anthologies that prominently featured witches, ghouls and the Devil, delivering them into the eager hands of children everywhere. Even now, popular titles such as The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Wytches, Harrow County and others keep bringing back that old Puritan terror of evil lurking in the deep dark woods and Image Comics’ Redlands is no exception. A classic gothic tale of witches and madness, the series is as thoroughly creepy as it is original, though the first issue ends a little sooner than I prefer.
As stated, Redlands is about witches; witches that descend on a small town called Redlands, Florida and hold it hostage. The comic focuses on the sheriff of said town who is desperately trying to keep everyone he can alive in the police station, but a foul wind and a strange girl have different plans in mind. As he scrambles to maintain order above, the jail below is full of prisoners ready to riot and once their bloodlust is released, nothing can stop them. It seems like the sheriff is between a rock and a hard place, but his hands aren’t clean either. Did he bring this plague himself or is the Devil coming to town?
There’s a lot to like about Redlands. There’s a solid feeling of claustrophobia and panic throughout the whole issue that really adds to the overall witchy vibe. You really get a feeling for the atmosphere, especially with the heavily shaded and scratchy artwork by Vanessa Del Ray. Each character is uniquely designed and fits the bill of their personalities, which almost makes you feel bad every time one of them is killed. Lots of high octane action surrounds the creeping terror of a town in danger and the first issue refuses to slow down on them. Also, on top of all the wonderfully grotesque horror, the comic also contains a strong vein of social commentary. Setting the work in the 1970s, Redlands doesn’t shy away from speaking openly about the racial issues that plagued the South at the time and even uses these to its advantage.
Personally, I did feel like the issue ended too soon. This is one of those “dropped-in-the-middle” type of first issues where the reader is thrown into the action without warning and usually would have some sort of mini-resolution, especially with what seems to be about three storylines happening at once. Unfortunately, there’s not real resolution or ending point to the issue. It felt like a middle issue instead of beginning issue. Sure, they finally reveal the witches, but it feels like these characters demanded more than a quick add in at the end. I would’ve loved to see them peppered in throughout the issue or to see some kind of longer reveal to give the issue less of an introduction feel and make it more of a contained work. Redlands is gonna make a kick-ass graphic novel, but it falls just short on being a kick ass first issue. Still, those witches are pretty damn rad.