“Bedlam #3”

(w) Nick Spencer
(a) Riley Rossmo
$3.50, 28 Pages

The first five pages of this book will make it or break it for readers. Visually, the first three will turn away a lot of readers who aren’t prepared to see animal cruelty in a comic. New readers to the book will also probably turn away. For hardcore cat lovers, the first three pages are just brutal and heart wrenching. For those who can look past them and people who found issues #1 and #2 of this series to be rather excellent, this book is set to rock your world. Just remember, this book is about a psychopath who is trying to re-integrate into society.

The animal cruelty seems like an outright shock factor thing to do, unless you look at it from a psychological perspective. There have been several documented cases where serial killers started their taste for killing by going after small animals. So it makes sense to me that to help serial killers not kill again would be to use small animals to force them to find companionship in another creature and not reach out to harm them.

The first five pages also re-introduce readers to Detective Ramira Acevedo and set up the dance that she and Fillmore Press, the former serial killer named Madder Red, will be doing this issue. And the dance that they have!

Acevedo is coming to this meeting between her and Press thinking that Press is the killer they are looking for. She assumes that he must be crazily confessing to the killers in order to see his own work and how it is affecting the police. Unfortunately for her, Press isn’t the killer in the situation. He is trying to help the police without revealing that he is Madder Red and that is why he has such intimate knowledge of how killers work. Seeing these two characters play off each other is a dance that is well worth seeing. Just when one thinks they have taken the lead, the other one ups them and takes over.

For me, it is difficult to chose a side to be on between these two. It is similar to the TV show Dexter. On the one hand, you want to cheer on the main character, but the main character is a serial killer. Granted, in this case Madder Red has gotten better, but he has that edge and feel to him that he could just snap back at any time into his old persona. And there are a couple times in this issue where that is hinted at, and I half expected to see it happen.

Acevedo is trying to get psychological with a former psychopath that is trying his best to act “normal.” There is even a moment when Acevedo mentions that she felt this was a grand set up by Press in a similar manner that Madder Red used to do. In Acevedo’s world, Madder Red has been dead for ten years. Little does she know that he is right in front of her, playing his old games once again. Granted, Press is trying to do some sort of good with regards to his intent, but it always seems like there is something else he is trying to get at. Like there is just something a little big bigger to his plan.

Rossmo’s art in this issue is just spectacular. I saw his previous work in Green Wake, which just felt really dark to me. The work in this book is done with a small color palette that is just used brilliantly. There are three distinct settings for the book between the past of ten years ago, the present, and the recent past that shows how the recent murders were committed. I love seeing when the art style changes to show this change in the story, and it helps so much to bring that unique visual storytelling technique to this book. It helps to show that Rossmo isn’t here just to keep panels flowing from one into the next, you get the feel that there is some strong talent for visual storytelling behind all of this.

Typically I will give a book three issues to sell me on the story if it seems interesting. This book has just been added to my pull list. The simple fact that I was glued to this book from the opening page until the last and still wanted to see more was a good sign. I still look at those first five pages and reflect on the idea that if you aren’t hooked by them and don’t like the direction where this book is going then it simply won’t be for you. Between the art and the ideas that this book wants to explore, I’m down with it. The next issue couldn’t get into my hands fast enough.