The introductory issue of Redlands from Image Comics is engaging as hell, particularly because it doesn't actually introduce anything the way you'd usually expect from a debut issue. Starting in media res, every bit of exposition the story provides brings up multiple questions. Writer Jordie Bellaire, best known as a colorist, does a fantastic job of building intrigue. She grabs the reader by the curiosity from the first panel and doesn't let go until several minutes after the ending. The book left me wondering what exactly I just read and what sort of supernatural shenanigans are afoot in the town of Redlands, located somewhere in the American South.
The first image we're presented with is that of a burning tree and three empty nooses hanging from its branches in the front yard of the Redlands Police Department. Apparently three women who may be witches somehow escaped their execution. The officers inside, along with the sheriff, are noticeably shaken from the lynching gone awry and had begun to barricade themselves inside. After this puzzling beginning, things quickly get even weirder as we're introduced to an obviously evil creepy little girl, some kind of demonic creature, and a large group of people being held prisoner in the basement. By the end, we become aware that there is some kind of supernatural force vying for control of the town. Who or what that force is and what their goal may be is left to speculation, but we can be sure the weirdness has only just started. The flow of the story is fast-paced and paranoid, with every bizarre revelation coming in what seems like rapid-fire succession; there isn't one dull moment. Just don't expect any of your many questions to be answered by the issue's conclusion.
I did not expect to enjoy the art at first glance. It looks sketchy, unstructured and somewhat messy with rapid linework utilized for shading. It’s an aesthetic that I don't usually appreciate, as I find it has a tendency to be visually distracting and at times hard to distinguish forms on the page. Artist Vanesa R. Del Ray really makes this style work, though. The sketchiness of the art provides a rushed vibe that perfectly fits with the fast and frantic storytelling, while Bellaire's moody coloring does well to reflect the dark tone of the story.
This issue is a most auspicious start for a new IP and, if subsequent issues live up to the first entry, it could very well be my favorite new series of 2017. I really can't wait to see what kind of strange happenings befall the town if this is the kind of craziness we can expect. Overall, Redlands #1 is a roller coaster ride that ends far too soon, but I'm anxiously anticipating another go in a few months.