Review by: harpier

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Avg Rating: 4.2
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Story by Nick Spencer
Art by Riley Rossmo
Cover by Frazer Irving

Size: 0 pages
Price: 3.50

While issues 1 and 2 of Bedlam had several really prize storytelling ideas and darkly beautiful artwork, the trajectory of the series remained difficult to tease out. Issue 3 “Let Him Have His Fun” consolidates some of the best elements floating around in the first two and brings its main ideas into sharp relief. In other words, even though enjoying the series’ opening episodes, I was still on the fence about Bedlam. No longer.

Part of the Bedlam’s early unevenness had been its uneasy fusion of horror noir and psychedelic superhero fantasy. Madder Red, though he is much indebted to the Joker in his comic book lineage, feels far less like a supervillain despite his mask. Nevertheless his mysterious incarceration and his “Clockwork Orange”-esque behavioral reclamation by a team of freak show doctors and nurses and his shadowy rivalry with the so-far peripheral superhero the First place Madder Red soundly in the realm of caped heroes and maniacal villains. By the third installment, this fusion has become more familiar and less disorienting, and this issue’s ending promises further integration of these genres.

Unexpectedly, Spencer’s characters, who were so sharp in issue 1, have acquired nuance very nicely. Fillmore Press, formerly Madder Red, is compelling as a recovering sociopath, a remarkable synthesis of a man (re-)learning morality and one with alarming social acumen, especially regarding Det. Acevedo. The two have an easy chemistry and a quick rapport. Their interrogation scene hits all the right notes in just the right rhythm.

After some early, ambitious bumbling, Bedlam seems to have hit its stride. It’s an off-kilter hitch of a stride, to be sure, but its one that has found its footing. Fans of absurdist horror and gruesome detective mysteries, as well as those interested in more extreme character studies, should find Bedlam worth reading.

ART: No doubt, Bedlam’s artwork is more heavily stylized than most–though by no means all–comics. Rossmo’s pencil lines are deliberately rough and sometimes chaotic, and Csuka’s coloring is evocatively stark in flashbacks and muted in the “present”. However, these suit the noir-ish tone of the series admirably. Page design and layouts are not typically complicated, but they’re deceptively adept at storytelling. Eye movement is easy, visual pacing matches the narrative step for step, and even the little story shifts are reinforced subtle design changes.

Story: 4 - Very Good
Art: 5 - Excellent

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