By Daniel Vlasaty
I want to be completely honest here. Until very recently I had not read a single issue of Redlands. I’m not sure why this is. It’s been on my list. I own all the issues. Just never got around to reading them. So immediately before reading issue #4, I read all the previous issues. Had to catch up. And I am glad I did. Glad I finally got my head out of my ass and read this thing. Because the book’s fucking great. It’s easily the best horror book coming out right now.
Redlands is an interesting book. It’s horror, yes. Obviously. They’re witches. There’s a dude that’s also a lizard or an alligator. There are ghosts. These are all elements of the horror genre. But it’s also kind of not really a horror book. All those horror elements are there but they’re kind of just details. Like trivia. I think the book is more about the characters and these things – the horror pieces – kind of take a backseat to that and the town and the mystery of whatever the fuck’s actually going on.
And, to me, in that aspect the book is giving off a very strong Stephen King vibe. In that his books connect readers with the characters and the setting before dropping that real horror shit on readers. And it’s interesting because this issue opens on Ro Reading Salem’s Lot to Itsy – who’s a new character and, really, I’m not 100% on what’s going on with Itsy yet. She’s calling RO “mama” but she’s might not actually be human. I don’t know. Alice has some choice words on that. But Itsy’s into death and scary things. Itsy likes Stephen King but not all the mushy, “romantical” shit in the books. Not the characters’ lives. She only wants the vampires. That is until she learns that by connecting readers to the characters on an emotional level only makes all the horror shit that much worse, makes it hit that much harder. And this is exactly what I feel like this book is going to do to us. I feel like there’s going to be some bad shit coming soon. Just when we’re starting to get comfortable.
This issue almost immediately moves past the event from issue #3 and, really, seems kind of directionless. Not necessarily in a bad way. But a decent amount of the issue is spent introducing new characters and digging deeper and deeper into the mystery of the town of Redlands. Plus. There’s something weird going on with Bridget. Again, this isn’t an out-right bad thing. I was just hoping that by issue #4 I would have a better understanding on what the hell’s actually going on here. But it’s obvious that Bellaire is building something huge with Redlands. And she’s got a lot to work with. Interesting/mysterious characters, creepy small town, folklore and urban legend. There is much she can do with all this.
Del Ray’s art is great. And when combined with Bellaire’s colors it really gives the book a spooky, eerie, vintage feel. It looks great. The art just feels right. There’s a solid sense of place in these pages. It feels real and lived-in. The character designs are believable and true-to-life – even if they are witches and lizard-men and other non-humans. They look like real people. They look like they could be anyone. Not the generic, hyper-sexualized caricatures we sometimes get in comics.
I generally pride myself on being on top of the good shit that’s coming out in the comics world. But I’ll admit I fucked up here on not reading Redlands from the beginning. It’s a great book – both in story and in the art. It’s one of those books where once a month just isn’t enough. It’s a book that I want to binge. It’s a book where I want to know every fucking thing right now and I can’t wait and it’s killing me to wait.