I've admittedly been keeping a careful eye on Bedlam since I first heard about it shortly after Green Wake finished its run. I had been really drawn to Riley Rossmo's art style and I wanted to keep track of him going forward. I have also had the luxury of enjoying Nick Spencer's ongoing Morning Glories. Having said that and acknowledging the high expectations of the book going in, I was totally unprepared for what awaited me. I was blown away. Nick Spencer and Riley Rossmo have developed something special in the villain Madder Red. Between Nick Spencer's story and Rossmo's steady hand, this may be the most memorable first issue I've ever read.
The art; simply put, is stunning. The opening pages are full of blacks and whites; splashed sadistically with red. When its snap to the present the world is full of dulled and muted colors — except the color red. Of course you're seeing the world through the eyes of a medicated and recuperated homicidal maniac, so perhaps this color palate is intentional… or I am reading too much into it. Either way it works amazingly well with the overall arching feel of redemption. The character designs themselves… well if you haven't seen Rossmo's vision for Madder Red then you are doing yourself a disservice. He fucking nails it. Instantly iconic. It is such a simple design, but it leaves an indelible mark. You wonder why he hasn't been around before, and the mask… that mask is creepy. Perfectly so. This is a costume you're going to be seeing a lot of at Cons. The clothes don't make the man, however.
In a way this feels like the Batman and Joker comic that everyone wants to write. Horrifyingly insane with no sense of honor, Madder Red feels like the Joker if you stripped away everything but the brilliant homicidal maniac underneath. There aren't any tricks, no traps or gimmicks. He wants more than to simply kill though. He is challenging society; even going so far as quoting Rousseau's thoughts on man's downfall. Spencer knocks it out of the park, going so far as nailing verbal ticks and having him delight in the intentional chaos caused by his actions. On the flipside of Madder Red you have Fillmore, the recuperated sociopath who still struggles day to day with his alter ego Madder Red. A man who clearly isn't quite right in the head; from licking a gun to begging to be shot. He has an overwhelming desire to help the town of Bedlam redeem itself that overrides his flirtatious nature towards death. Is a functional sociopath a thing? Because that is what he seems to be. He is fully aware of who he was. And honestly, it seems like he could dip back into it at the drop of a hat. It is wonderful.
I've tried to describe the feeling of reading this book the first time to you, but my words can't do it justice. Do yourself a favor; whether you liked my review or not… just read the fucking book. It's worth it.
Dylan B. Tano is a relatively new reviewer powered by a love of bacon and constantly distracted by a kitten who would rather use his laptop as a bed. He grew up idolizing Spider-Man and can’t believe he gets to review comics all day.
You can read some of his short stories at tanoworks.tumblr.com