This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Bedlam
I had stopped into my LCS in the middle of a bit of a winter storm on my way home (depending on where you’re from will depend on how bad you’d have found it. I’m in Eastern Canada, and it wasn’t too bad; I could still see across the street and the snow wasn’t super deep), and my friend had just finished reading the first volume of Bedlam written by Nick Spencer with art by Riley Rossmo and colours by Frazier Irving. He suggested I check it out, so I did and started the trek home.
Bedlam was published by Image beginning in 2012 and ran for 11 issues – which was not enough to tell a complete story, but if you stop reading after the first volume you get a solid open-ended thriller comic.
The book focuses on a villain who is essentially the Joker named Madder Red as he tries to navigate the world after being cured of his evil and sadistic desires. We also get to see how the city of Bedlam has moved on since Madder Red’s three year reign of terror, and we join the story just as a new killer begins to haunt the city. Spencer divides the time between revealing more about who Madder Red was whilst also showing who Fillmore Press is now as he tries to help the police capture a killer by using intuition honed by years of being a homicidal maniac himself.
It’s an interesting story that doesn’t shy away from who Fillmore used to be; Spencer never once tries to make Madder Red sympathetic, though we never see Madder Red without his mask during hiss reign of terror or his rehabilitation which left me wondering whether Fillmore was “cured” of the evil, or if he had simply locked it away.
As with any story about a Joker analogue, there is a Batman-like character here called the First (of many) who actually takes a back seat to the police detective Ramirez and Fillmore Press as they attempt to get ahead of the maniac murdering his way across Bedlam. It’s the lack of focus on the superhero that I enjoyed the most, with Ramirez and Press being the focus of the book that gives us a peek behind the curtain of what it would be like working with a reformed villain.
Riley Rossmo and Frazier Irving give the book a haunted horror style presentation, the world shown primarily in monotones or flat grays with only flashes of red standing as the vibrancy on the pages. Almost as if the comic is insinuating that Fillmore Press was only truly alive before his reformation.
It’s an interesting book, and I read both volumes of the trades in one sitting. For me, it certainly started stronger than it ended – but that’s only because I felt it ended in the middle of the story. But such is often the way with comics.
If you see this book when you’re at your LCS, give it a go. It’s a solid read, and I don’t regret the $15 on the buy one get one sale. It’s certainly worth $10 for the first volume alone, so don’t be afraid to grab this when you see it on the shelf if you’re looking for something to read; if you skip it, then you’ll miss an Underrated gem.
Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.