Slow build stories only work when you give readers a pay off once in a while. In the case of Bedlam, the first issue was the bat-crap crazy horror story used to draw readers in, but the subsequent issues did not keep the same pace. The story has been a pretty slow build in the last three issues, coaxing a little bit more reader involvement in the mystery each time. That mystery is the best part about this comic, even with all of the sick and twisted gore that horror fans yearn for. That mystery is what we’re here for, and Bedlam #5 delivers a huge reader payoff.
The biggest mystery as of yet has been blatantly solved: IS Fillmore Madder Red? What happened to Madder Red after his lobotomy, and did he ever make it out of the creepiest asylum ever? Both of those subjects get their covers blown with some frequent and strategically placed flashbacks. With more of the mystery of Fillmore and Madder Red solved through these flashbacks, the urgency of the mystery at hand quickens its pace. Let’s not forget that there’s a serial killer on the loose, and Fillmore has some form of a connection to him. With some of the things that Fillmore does in this issue his intentions seem to become completely skewed from what readers may have thought they were. The flipping of Fillmore’s table sets up the next issue with even more shocking developments than all previous issues, even with the foremost mystery solved.
Once again Nick Spencer flexes his mystery writing muscles with Bedlam. He understands that the only way to keep readers into a horror mystery such as this is to keep coaxing them along with no more information given than necessary. Give away too much and you’ve got nothing to keep readers on board with, don’t give them enough and they won’t feel like they’re getting anywhere. Each issue of Bedlam has been a great example of how to balance giving away information, but this issue is the icing on the cake. Readers jump right in to this issue and are immediately gratified with some very important information. But before they can forget what we’re really here for, Spencer flips over the table and builds an even bigger mystery. This is probably the best script in the series so far, with tons of excitement, reader payoff and a satisfying dose of intrigue.
The other half of Bedlam, Riley Rossmo, is also at the top of his game in this issue. His flashback pages are filled with strangeness and true horror, reminding readers of the gruesome background broiling behind what’s going on on the forefront. The “current” pages are drawn with his signature style, but have a less chaotic and more structured and calm feel to them. The contrast developed between the two timelines is great, but the line starts to get blurred closer to the end. Where Spencer is setting up for a big climax, Rossmo is starting to blur the lines. His style is a great fit for this story, making it look truly unique among comic books, and keeping with the dark and gritty nature of the story.
Bedlam #5 picks up the pace in a big way, giving readers a huge payoff while ramping up the conflict at hand. Nick Spencer shows how great he is at writing murder mystery, crime, superhero and horror stories, and also mixing them together. The dialogues are great, the flashbacks flow really well with the pace of the story, and the unique art rounds of the perfect horror story. If you’re looking for a suspenseful crime horror comic, Bedlam #5 is every reason why you should be reading this series.