Imagine a world where a super villain constantly threatens the safety of your city and its citizens (particularly the women and children) and a masked vigilante does his best to thwart his dastardly plans in their every confrontation. Been there, done that, right? Now imagine that same super villain somehow gets treated and become a stable, functioning cog of our society.
That’s a premise worth pursuing.
Our main character is first introduced to us as Madder Red, a masked super villain who draws a lot of parallels with Joker. In fact, the city of Bedlam itself feels very much like Gotham, except there’s only one vigilante jumping from rooftop to rooftop. With that said, all those comparisons come to a screeching halt in the middle of the first issue. Madder Red gets captured by the police, only for them to realize too late that it was his plan all along, but something unexpected happens. We see our main prantogonist (mixture of protagonist and antagonist) wake up strapped to a chair in an undisclosed clinic of sort and a mysterious third party appears. Then this mysterious third party (who is arguably more frightening than our main character) promises Madder Red that he’d treat him so he would become a better person. Afterwards, we see him re-enter society a better man, who goes by the name of Filmore Press as the world continues to believe that Madder Red is dead. He’s no longer the psychotic super villain he once was, but he’s still drawn to the murders around his city.
This is where the story starts, as he takes it upon himself to help the local police force solve murders with his expertise as an ex-villain.
I’ve been keeping my eyes on Nick Spencer since Morning Glories and he does not disappoint. He does a good job of counting the steps toward the main character’s rehabilitation and how it would make sense for him to become a changed man. The art work by Riley Rossmo is very sketchy and minimalistic, which works for this title because it doesn’t distract the readers from the plot (it’s got it’s own quirky little charm, too). The black, white, and red color motif of this title (done by colorist Jean-Paul Csuka) also adds to its somber, yet disturbing urban feel of it, which helps to elevate this book. I like to think the creators are telling us that these characters are colorful enough on their own that they don’t need to add any more colors on the pages.
I love everything about this comic, especially the depth of its story. They’re currently dealing with another murderer and showcasing Filmore Press’s ability to profile the culprit, but the clinic that rehabilitated Madder Red stands firmly at the center of this entire mystery. Who are they and what reason do they have for treating a man responsible for mass murders? Are they truly good Samaritans or do they have an ulterior motive? These are all questions that beg to be answered, but it quickly retreats to the recess of our minds as we get drawn into the current plot. They’re that damn good.
I wholeheartedly recommend this title to anyone not too squeamish. Also, if you have pet cats, I suggest you get a restraining order for this book.
Written by Daniel Lee