Cover to 'Redlands' #1. Art by Vanesa Del Rey/Image Comics

Cover to ‘Redlands’ #1. Art by Vanesa Del Rey/Image Comics

By Jarrod Jones. There are few images that conjure dread quite like a tree on fire. That’s how Redlands begins: exterior shot. Night. Nooses dangle empty from a tree overlooking a darkened police station. We’re looking into the middle of nowhere, illuminated only by the raging fire that’s erupted from the old, angry tree.

There’s more. Angry words, tinged in fear. “Where did them bitches go?” The letterer, Clayton Cowles, adds a blackened emphasis on the noun. Someone is gonna pay for that insolence. Whoever lit that tree on fire will make sure of that. This full page image, conjured by Jordie Bellaire and Vanesa Del Rey, shows so much. Turning the page is practically an involuntary thing.

If it’s terror you’re looking for, Redlands has so much to offer you. It’s a tale told well, by creators who know their craft and have an appreciation for catharsis. There’s a world out there beyond the tree, beyond the barricaded walls of that police station, beyond the thumping hearts of those about to die. We’ll get to that. In the meantime, someone has done something horrible, and they’re about to get theirs.

Interior page to 'Redlands' #1. Art by Vanesa Del Rey and Jordie Bellaire/Image Comics

Interior page to ‘Redlands’ #1. Art by Vanesa Del Rey and Jordie Bellaire/Image Comics

Redlands is written by Eisner award-winning colorist Jordie Bellaire. She bends and twists the story into intricate origami and leaves it for us to unfold. One of the pleasures of reading it is finding that every fold reveals something new. This book reads like Bellaire’s been writing for years. That’s likely the case. The sequences Bellaire concocts are as dire and loaded with character as her color palette. You’re in capable hands here. Sit back and let Bellaire make you gasp.

Vanesa Del Rey is provided plenty of room to craft a wicked game of her own. Her varied uses of shadow maximize the panel layouts — sometimes Del Rey bathes her pages in jet-black ink, allowing Cowles’ word balloons to carry our eyes to the next page. That’s when Del Rey moves in for the kill. If your breath is shortened by the end of this book, it’s because it was created by a team that shames the mere professional-grade. There’s passion in here too, and it shows.

The story unfolds in real time. We learn only what we need to, which leaves plenty of room for surprises. Redlands loves surprises. It’s methodical. It’s diabolical. It’s terrific.

Image Comics/$3.99

Written by Jordie Bellaire.

Art by Vanesa R. Del Rey.

Colors by Jordie Bellaire.

Letters by Clayton Cowles.

9 out of 10