I have to admit, that as much as I’ve enjoyed this series… this issue had me nervous. Anytime the artist of a series leaves the book its nerve-racking for the fans because you just don’t know what you’re going to end up with. That’s not to say that a series can’t come back from an art change with something bigger or better, you can look no further than just about anything the big two produce. With a creator owned series it can be a lot harder, but there are successes. I’d say that The Walking Dead has benefitted from Charlie Allard’s involvement on the series; and I would say that Bedlam is going to be just fine with Ryan Browne’s presence as well. What’s really enjoyable about this issue from the get-go is that it genuinely feels like a first issue. We’re introduced to another major plot line, new characters are introduced and Filmore is showing glimmers of his former self.
The story itself kicks off twelve years ago with the police chief holding a press junket about the two missing religious figures that Madder Red has taken. Cue the music as Madder Red arrives wearing a Pope hat and wearing both men’s heads on his hands like sock puppets. He’s riding in the back of a convertible very Pope like while his two followers open fire on the crowd. Madder puts on a show for the crowd and then the story cuts away after he yells that people are going to die.
The story then begins a sequence of one page introductions to random characters. We meet a college professor in the middle of class; the second is a bus driver on his route. The third is a hipster or possibly a writer… I don’t know they sucked and I couldn’t tell if he was hitting on a girl of if she tricked him into hitting on her; the last one is an assistant that helps her boss dodge a call she hasn’t wanted to take all day; all of them seemingly normal and going about their daily routine without leaving us a clue as to their importance to the plot line.
The story checks in with Fillmore as he watches the news and eats some cereal, but as he’s watching Madder Red appears behind the news anchor. At first you think that it might just be a memory, but the news anchor is talking about things currently happening in the world/story. The Madder Red on the TV screen puts his hand in front of the face on his mask and then turns on a chainsaw and begins to cut the news anchor in two. Fillmore freaks out because this is all happening in his mind and it’s scaring him shitless. There’s a knock on the door and he panics and breaks the TV. At the door is Acevedo with a case and a job offer for him.
Back with our newly introduced regular people, they break from what they’re doing and pick up their cell phones. Like a mindless zombie they stand up and eventually blow up. The who’s and what’s are yet to be seen, but I’m sure the next issue will cover it.
Surprise, I didn’t tell you about the entire issue. There’s a bit more that definitely flips the story on its lid. Again, this felt like reading a first issue and sure this time around I was familiar with the main characters for sure, but there are plenty of new characters introduced which gives it that new car read.
Spencer really does an incredible job of making the series approachable for new readers. Just enough is recapped about the world, but really everything has begun again. If you missed out on the first story arc then Fillmore goes back to being a mystery to you, but one that is sure to be addressed sooner rather than later this time around. This issue had a great pacing and the expendable characters were a great addition. Even though they were barely in the issue, Spencer characterized them well enough that when they go all digital zombie it means something to you. You have a baseline of what their normal is and what you see the second time goes against that completely.
At first, the art was noticeably different, but not by much. By the seventh page or so I forgot that Riley Rossmo wasn’t drawing this issue. I don’t know if this is Browne’s natural style or if he’s imitating the style and design that Rossmo established, but I liked it a lot and don’t want it to change. The coloring plays a big role in the success of the art looking so similar, because it’s a spot on match. I was very impressed by the art and it was the perfect follow-up to the previous series. If the detail and quality is maintained this will be a great second story arc.
Bedlam to me is a “what if” style of story. What if the Joker was rehabilitated and became the next Sherlock Holmes and at any moment could become Moriarty instead. That’s what this story is and it’s fantastic because of it. If you’re not reading it then you definitely need to start with this issue at least and then back track through the previous story arc as well. Spencer and company make a triumphant return and have grabbed my attention once more with this series putting it near the top of my list.
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Ryan Browne
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: 6/5/13