Redlands opens at a point in the story that many writers would have put towards the end of issue one, or possibly the start of issue two! It’s a bold move. It puts a lot of trust in the reader to make the effort with the story without knowing what lead to this point in the story. Bellaire creates ambiguity about the characters. We don’t know if they are the heroes or monsters of this piece. It’s a refreshing change from a ‘bait and switch’ after building up the characters to be something else. The choice of dropping the reader into the middle of a siege also gives the story a heightened tension. It’s a tense and thrilling opening issue to the series.
The line art by Del Rey dials up the tension of the siege to eleven. Much of the horror in the comic is conveyed through shadow-play. It just shows that sometimes the unseen horror can be worse than the monster revealed. Through most of the comic, the reader is as unaware as the besieged police station as to what is lurking just beyond the field of vision. A lot of the panel layouts do a great job of conveying the sense of siege. At times it felt as if I was crammed in the police station with the characters. There’s also a number of panels where you can barely make out an outline of characters as they only only illumination is the fire outside the station.
Bellaire makes great use of the burning tree on the opening page as the sole light source for the comic. Warm oranges illuminate the front of the station, with progression to red as people move to the rear of the station. The strong reds serve as a a visual warning to impending violence. The faint outlines and choice of colour also are a great short-hand for placing the characters position in the station. One panel had a great effect on it. It’s a panel where a police man is coming up some stairs. You can actually make out the area the flash-light is hitting on his body.
The lettering (by Cowles) is easy to read and well positioned throughout, but it’s the sound effects that I paricularly liked. Some of it was down to how the sound effect was positioned in the panel, ‘SLAM’ following the line of action for example. Others where the shapes of the lettering, ‘BANG’ having an explosive sense to it or ‘SPLAT’ becoming part of the blood flying across the panel.
The first issue has the reader on uneven ground from the first page. It offers up so many questions, both about the events and the characters. Some much of the comic is ambiguous. And that’s what I enjoyed the most about it. The reader has to follow on to issue two if they are to have any hope of unravelling the mystery of Redlands.
Not Irish international soccer player.
Can be found on Twitter @Stephen_C_Ward.