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Disclaimer time: Bedlam is not for everyone. It’s violent, twisted, and unafraid of going to dark places. It follows Filmore Press, a man barely keeping a lid on his mental illness, as he helps the city of Bedlam combat their various serial killers and villains. Filmore also happens to be reformed supervillain, Madder Red — a Joker-esque mass murderer whose skull was opened and brain rewired by a mad doctor, who must keep his past a secret for fear of… well you can imagine what people would do if they found out he used to kill men, women, and children for fun.
The last six issues were his kind of origin arc wherein Filmore began working with a spitfire police detective on catching a religous-themed murderer.
Here, we get a better look at the world of Bedlam. The city is debating on whether or not to increase funding for The First, Bedlam’s Batman analogue. Filmore, basking in his success, seems to be loosing his tentative grip on sanity as hallucinations of his Madder Red persona begin to appear uncalled.
Ryan Brown’s art is different from what you normally find in a comic book. Its sketchy penciling makes it unique and lends to the insane, frantic nature of the story. The strongest component of the book’s artwork is the use of color. The flashbacks, much like The Crow comic, uses red blood in contrast with the black and white of everything else to great effect. It’s not the details the city remembers so much as it the bloodshed.
Unfortunately, at times the wild, anarchistic penciling makes the book suffer in a few areas. It muddles up details and makes connecting to some scenes tougher. They become a mess of lines, shadow, and color.
The story so far, written by Nick Spencer, has been one of Image’s strongest. Again, it’s not for everyone, but the plotting has been clean and interesting. It’s Dexter-meets-Batman point of view is so compelling it’s a wonder no one’s thought of it before. The genius choice is to barely focus on the superhero at all. The First hardly ever appears and we, much like everyone else in the book, know very little about him (or her, who knows).
The issue is what I like to call a ‘bridge’ issue. It’s the one that comes between two arcs that acts as a wrap up/set up for the two. As with most bridge issues, there’s not a whole lot going on in terms of story progression, that is, until the end when we get a kickass set up for the next issue. The writing here is solid, some parts are funny in a warped way, but overall consistent with the rest of the series. Just a bit sparse in terms of content.
Technically, this comes with a recommend. If you haven’t read Bedlam and something above has interested you, do yourself a favor and go back to the beginning and catch up. There’s only seven issues so far and it’s all worth the read. It’s a really strong series that has a ton of potential (or “legs” as we say in the business).