By Nick Spencer, Ryan Browne, Frazer Irving & Jean-Paul Csuka
Bedlam is a series that always fills you with conflicting emotions. It’s hard to follow a character whose past is stained with so much blood, and somehow feel anything but disgust for him let alone like him. Fillmore Press is a rehabilitated psychotic, mass-murdering super villain known as Madder Red, who now is trying to do some good with his new lease on life by trying to help police detective Ramira Acevedo solve grizzly and complicated murders that he is all too familiar with.
This issue mostly deals with Detective Acevedo and Fillmore trying to piece together who is brainwashing innocent people to commit homicide and suicide. After a large group of financial workers all jumped from their office building littering the pavement below with their bodies, Fillmore walks the police through the finer points of hypnosis and subliminal messaging to reveal that this is the way their killer is pulling off these crimes. Spencer does a superb job of explaining in detail the intricate ways the killer uses hidden messages to influence innocent people to do as he pleases. Most of this issue is breaking down motive and execution of these crimes building up the killer and showing how dangerous he really is, building up tension for the coming issues. This is a grand example of making an interesting and thought provoking build-up issue without losing the readers interest.
One of the main stays of Bedlam is the art, which has a very sketch heavy look to it with lots of dark colors and plenty of blacks and reds. After artist Riley Rossmo left the series, at issue 6, artist Ryan Browne has taken over and his style still fits the tone of the series quite well. Browne is still able to really capture that Bedlam style that this book has been known for while still expressing his own personal approach. Artistically this book really embodies the haunting feel that really escalates Bedlam from a grim story to a truly disturbing tale.
On the surface it is easy to just write off Bedlam as a gruesome horror murder mystery or even the over used genre of “torture porn” but it really is much deeper than that once you really get to the meat of this series and the characters who inhabit it. Nothing sums up the basis of Bedlam quite like the tagline that has always accompanied the series, “is evil just something you are or something you do?”