Saturday, November 3, 2012

Bedlam #1

Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Riley Rossmo

Bedlam is a very strange new series from Nick Spencer, a writer who excels at writing strange comics (Morning Glories is excellent, but almost impossible to predict).  Basically, this is a Joker comic, but featuring creator-owned characters.

Madder Red is very similar to the Clown Prince of Crime - he wears a creepy mask which shows off a toothy grin, and he likes to kill people - especially children.  As the series opens, in a flashback, we see his greatest crime - slaughtering a large group of children on a field trip to the symphony.  This vicious crime ends with his incarceration, after The First (in other words, Batman), beats him down.  This is part of Red's plan though, as he has a broadcast arranged that announces that, if he is not killed within an hour, bombs that have been planted at a number of local schools will go off.  This leads to bedlam in Bedlam, and the police station explodes, killing Red.

There are the usual conspiracy theories that he wasn't actually killed, although after then years, he's never resurfaced.  In the 'now' part of the book, we meet a man who is clearly mentally ill, and is taking a great interest in the murder of a few old men in a series of home invasions.  This man ends up interrupting an internal dispute among some drug dealers, and generally gives us the impression that he may be Madder Red.  The flashbacks suggest that he did survive the explosion, but not in a way that makes a lot of sense.

Basically, Spencer is using some of the same tricks that work so well for him in Morning Glories - setting up some mystery, and effectively using flashbacks to lead our thinking in one direction, without ever revealing the truth.  It works, as I'm very curious to see where this goes next.

Riley Rossmo has become Image's go-to guy for mini-series.  Since Proof, his ongoing series, went on what looks like a permanent hiatus, Rossmo has been involved in a large number of books, often having more than one comic on the stands in any given month.  That's pretty impressive, especially considering that this first issue is double-sized.  He's never been a favourite artist of mine - his work is pretty scratchy and hard to follow at times, but I do think he did a great job of constructing a sense of dread in this comic.  The use of colour (the flashback scenes are coloured only with some reds) works well to support the dual narrative of this comic.

I'm not sure how long this series is set to run, but they've got me on board for a mini-series at least.

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