Review - Bedlam #1

The world is full of psychopaths, all of whom are seeking some perverse joy in life that doesn't exist for others. Their chaotic nature makes for nothing but unpredictability and it's that chaos that leads to Bedlam #1 from Image Comics.

The issue is written by Nick Spencer, with art by Riley Rossmo, colors by Jean-Paul Csuka and letters by Kelly Tindall.

The opening scene is ten years in the past, with a man frantically calling 911 on behalf of his wife. She called him from her field trip where Madder Red opened fire before murdering everyone on site. His excursion is ended by the arrival of "The First," a caped hero who arrives to see the carnage wreaked by the vicious individual. Of course, that plot is just the start of Madder Red's malicious intent.

Fast forward to the present, where Fillmore Press is struggling with the psychopathic tendencies inside. There's been a recent spate of killings and Fillmore feels he could be of some help. This is a man who willingly gets shot to prove a point, so it's clear he's a little off.

First off, the issue has a sufficient creep factor to it. Spencer has crafted a tale that features a truly depraved individual at its core, a man who finds joy in killing any and all comers. He does it all for sport, with little reasoning behind his actions given at all. It's likely as Fillmore continues to reach out to the police that some of the motives will become clearer.

Now the second part. Madder Red screams Joker. Not just any Joker, but Heath Ledger's Joker from The Dark Knight, right down to the bomb in the police headquarters. Madder seeks a slightly different end than the Joker, but their approaches to life are very similar. Ledger's Joker wasn't the first or last psychopath, although he's one of the higher profile ones considering the gravity of the role and the success of The Dark Knight.

The character comparison is blatantly obvious and, thankfully, Madder evens out a bit as Fillmore in the future. Madder is fond of expository and monologuing, whereas Fillmore is a bit more connected with his madness. Fillmore only begins his relationship with the police in the double-sized issue and his future choices will prove to be an interesting reason to continue reading.

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.

Bedlam #1 is about a mad man with a conscience. Whether or not the conscience overrides the psychopathic tendencies remains to be seen, but at the very least it'll be a fun ride to find out. There are clear influences on the work (Ledger's Joker and Die Hard With a Vengeance) that sort of snap you out of the tone while reading. Overall, there are some interesting character developments being laid out in Bedlam #1.

Bedlam #1 is in stores now.