At the risk of sounding negative, I’ve grown exceptionally tired of the serial killer angle. Bedlam, a new series from Image Comics, opens with another dry and boring run at the concept. The clichés come at a rapid-fire pace almost instantly. Let’s start with the killer’s name, Madder Red. Really? That’s the best writer Nick Spencer could come up with? Did I mention Madder Red has followers? Oh good, the “cult” persona of a serial killer has now been checked off the list. Madder Red kills children without hesitation and makes long-winded speeches about man’s inhumanity man. This is all within the first few pages and all to make sure we know how evil he is.
Bedlam’s debut issue attempts to take a new stand on the serial killer by introducing Madder Red post-lock-up. He’s been cured, or so it seems. He uses self-help techniques and reassuring one-liners to keep himself in check. I have to be honest here, I’m only guessing this guy used to be Madder Red. Nick Spencer attempts to keep the book interesting by slicing up the timeline, but only succeeds in making it convoluted. There’s also a rush to introduce too many characters and a climactic interrogation room scene that appears to present Madder Red as deceased via beheading. Spencer attempts to explain this during a badly written press conference scene that is so ripe with exposition it becomes hard to read.
If I had to venture a guess, I’m assuming Madder Red’s death was faked so he could be whisked away to some dank gothic hall to serve as a guinea pig for some kind of reform drug. This is just a guess, but it seems logical based on the clues given. The man we meet, who could be Madder Red, acts like he’s just about to lose his grip on sanity, especially in a scene that takes place during a drug dispute. Suffering from boring writing and a confusing slice and dice history, Bedlam loses its luster about halfway through.
Riley Rossmo doesn’t do much to help this book. His artwork is a hodge podge of styles that never come together. The flashback stuff is black and white standard comic book format, with red being the only color present. The scenes in the present-day are in color but muted, again with red being the only highlight. The flashback stuff is more tolerable than the modern work, but none of it is exciting. I also hate Madder Red’s costume. It looks like something designed by Pinhead and Simon Dark.
I understand this is a first issue, but to me, that’s when the comic should grab you and hold your attention. Bedlam, thus far, is banal and boring.
2 Story, 2 Art