Chain Reactions | <i>Bedlam</i> #1

Halloween saw the debut of a psychological horror/mystery series by writer Nick Spencer and artist Riley Rossmo -- Bedlam, the story of a former mass murderer who finds himself consulting with the police department. Here's how Spencer described the main character to CBR earlier this year when it was announced:

"Madder Red is a homicidal maniac and criminal overlord in the city of Bedlam until he is finally brought to justice after his worst attack on the city ever," Spencer explained of the series. "After his trial, he is found insane and sent to an institution wherein he undergoes experimental treatments that cure him of his mania. After a few years of close supervision and testing, he is released. He's undeniably cured – no longer ill and no longer a thread to society. So he's a free man, and he finds himself living in transitional housing for former mental patients, undergoes extensive plastic surgery to get a new identity and finds himself slowly but surely being drawn back into the world he was once a part of.

"He finds himself compulsively studying serial killings and crime in the city of Bedlam, and he's eventually recruited by the police department to become a consultant for them. The story is about his new life with a secret past. He's the worst murderer the city has ever seen, and now he's around all these people day-to-day who have no idea who he is."

So does it sizzle or fizzle? Here are a few snippets of reviews from around the web ...

Dean Stell, Weekly Comic Book Review: "... this was a very eerie comic book and it all stems from the nasty/creepy main character. In this issue, Spencer and Rossmo introduce us to a horrible serial killer named Madder Red. He’s just freaky as all hell. When we first meet him, he’s in the middle of a horrible killing spree involving dead kids and the horror continues throughout the issue as we alternate between seeing his crimes and following him has he (perhaps) tries to recover. It’s a great example of creators really using the medium of comics to its fullest."

Matthew Santori-Griffith, Comicosity: "It’s difficult not to spend a bit of time, at least initially, counting the ways in which Madder Red mimics the Joker — bloody smile against a white pallor (albeit mask), playing cards in hand, a sharp wit all the while setting himself up to get caught by the city’s slightly generic caped crusader. In this regard, I didn’t find the character of Fillmore Press, the former serial killer, to be that compelling in this first issue. Once you take the crazy out of a figure like the Joker or Madder Red, there’s a feeling that you’re can only be left with the equivalent of a sad clown or deflated balloon — something that once was grand and entertaining now worn and empty. I’m not sure if Spencer can overcome this impression, but the mysteries behind the premise definitely make me curious enough to follow up. How exactly did Red fake his own death? Who is the Good Doctor and how did he rehabilitate this monster? And just whose voice (Real? Imaginary?) is that echoing in Fillmore’s head?"

Monica Piluso, All Geek to Me: "I absolutely love the artwork in this comic. Riley Rossmo (Rebel Blood, Green Wake) makes the world balance between gritty and realistic. But it is Jean-Paul Csuka that steals the show with his colors. For some reason I am a sucker for black and white scenes with smudges of color. As for Nick Spencer (Morning Glories, Thief of Thieves) the writer, he needs to lay off the speeches. I get that he is trying to set the series set up but you cannot have too many speeches contained in one comic. It gets a little overbearing. Hopefully this won’t happen in future issues."

Jennifer Cheng, Comic Book Resources: "As a villain, Madder Red outdoes even The Joker in his exultation in the ecstasy of drama and the aesthetics of violence. There's a lot of blood, but gore is not the point, and Rossmo's stylized art is a good fit for Spencer's intentions. The contrasts and simplicity of Jean-Paul Osuka's black, white, red and green palette not only complement Rossmo's art, but further reinforce Spencer's emphasis on theater and its duality of comedy and tragedy."

Jonathan Pilley, Omnicomic: "With the art, the simple fact is that you'll either love it or hate it. Rossmo's style is very unique and it really works for Bedlam #1, showcasing Madder Red with a white mask littered with red triangles. He looks as unhinged as he actually is and that's a testament to Rossmo's artistic ability. Csuka's colors are what complete the art though. The book is drenched in reds, blacks and whites, presenting a stark reality and world that Madder Red inhabits. It's a violent life he leads and seeing the despair through the colors really hits home how detached the character is from reality."

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