Last week, the first trade paperback edition of BLOODSHOT was released. It’s a great way to get introduced to this fascinating character for just $9.99. I’m now going to try and persuade you to go out and buy it . . . . . . . . . .
I can still recall my fascination with the original Valiant line of comics which began in 1988 with licensed properties. They made a minor impact on the comics market, but really took off with their original creations in 1992. What I appreciated most was the strong sense of story, although they had a pretty good roster of artists as well. The first issue of BLOODSHOT in 1992 made history by selling close to 1 million copies. In spite of its popularity, I wasn’t following the book back then. I was trying to manage my costs and would try to budget my monthly comics expenses. I was heavily into the X-MEN books at Marvel during this time, and after adding Valiant title after title to my reading list, I had to make some cuts. Two books that I previewed and then decided not to follow were BLOODSHOT (I dismissed it as a Punisher meets Terminator plot) and HARBINGER (I thought it was going to be Valiant’s lighthearted teen book). I was wrong about both back then. Now, I’m determined to give them a second chance in their 21st century versions. It’s funny that HARBINGER has moved up to the top ranking of my favorite Valiant titles in the present day. And, before I forget the subject of this review - - let’s turn our attention back to BLOODSHOT in 2013, a very entertaining book with a huge potential.
Reading this book brings on a warm wave of nostalgia. It’s not that it reminds me of the early days of Valiant. What it reminds me of are several iconic and classic characters that I have enjoyed reading in the past. Steve Rogers (a.k.a. Captain America) was the product of the best science the Army could fund, the super-soldier of the future. He received his enhanced skills and longevity through the serum injected into his bloodstream and circulatory system. Bloodshot (a.k.a. take your pick of several names) is the product of modern science, developed away from the watchful eye of the federal government and just another property owned and developed by a powerful covert paramilitary organization (funded by who?). What’s been put (injected?) into his bloodstream are incredibly tiny machines (nanites) that give him incredible strength, speed and reaction times. Logan’s (a.k.a. Wolverine) bones have been replaced with an adamantium skeleton, the most powerful metal known. He possesses the ability to heal and regenerate after severe injuries that would cause death in others. His background and history are often confusing, as overlapping and contradictory back-stories continue to plague him, implanted memories that seem real but are falsifications. The nanites in Bloodshot’s system help “reconnect torn skin, arteries, muscle tissue and nerve fibers; rebuild bone; and repair and reconstruct damaged organs”. He’s been given so many different false memory implants that he’s thoroughly confused and subject to extreme suggestions (all in the service of Project Rising Sun’s devious designs). He’s not sure of his name, his family, or his actual origins. Reading the current issues of BLOODSHOT also brings to mind favorable memories of Deathlok The Demolisher, Robocop and The Punisher. I could go on but I won’t. Bloodshot is like an amalgam of all those characters - - not a copy cat, just a fresh original blend that will pull out some favorable memories.
BLOODSHOT #1 – 4 (Valiant, July 2012 through October 2012) Writer: Duane Sweirczynski. Pencilers: Manuel Garcia with Arturo Lozzi. Inks: Stefano Gaudiano (#1), Matt Ryan (#2, #3), Matt Ryan and Arturo Lozzi (#4). Colors: Ian Hannin (#1, #2, #3), Ian Hannin and Moose Baumann (#4). Letters: Rob Steen.
There is some incredible detail in the art of these four issues, which comprise the first story arc of BLOODSHOT, that bears repeated viewings. I keep picking up extra things that I didn’t catch the first time around, like the awesome shading of the sky in the background or the use of shadows to get more dimensionality to the image. BLOODSHOT is a great book to look at, especially the fight/action scenes. But the dialogue and pacing reflect a mature approach that helps us tolerate/accept the unbelievable nature of these events and digest it readily. It’s a great job all around by the whole creative team.
Bloodshot is sent into Afghanistan to save an old war buddy. Project Rising Spirit (PRS) has kept him in the dark about their real purpose, which is to kill a young agent with apparent super-powers who is working with terrorists. Double cross and double crossed again. A former PRS scientist really wanted to lure Bloodshot to Afghanistan in order to pirate away some of his downloaded information and use it against PRS.
Learning of the deception and now back in the U.S.A., Bloodshot tries to conduct his own investigation and learn of his actual identity and background. Meanwhile PRS agents are hunting him down with instructions to terminate/shut him down to avoid any more information leaks. At the conclusion of the first story arc, PRS tracks him down with the assistance of an imprisoned young girl with equally dangerous and powerful abilities.
ISSUE #1 HIGHLIGHTS:
Bloodshot has the ability to shape-shift, but not forever. This must be how he appears to his faux family as a normal human being while in their company. From time to time Ray (real name of Bloodshot?) sees his son John appear to him during times of crisis, convey a message and then vanish. Is Ray/Bloodshot pulling this from his own memory or is this just another form of manipulation (by whom?). If you’re going to be reading this title on a regular basis you’ll need to get used to seeing the main character completely torn apart and reassembled later. When Bloodshot needs to utilize his powers, he apparently appears to everyone as a gray skinned, metallic looking macho man.
ISSUE #2 HIGHLIGHTS:
Visions of son John and now wife Ashley help Bloodshot revive quickly and take down his PRS captors before they can put another bullet in his head and render him unconscious. Soon he is getting him from all kinds of ghosts from his imaginary past. Ray/Bloodshot has genuine fighting skills and can certainly handle guns with either and/or both hands. (I’d love to see him go up against Frank Castle/Punisher.) One of the best lines this issue is uttered by PRS head honcho Simon Oreck as he gives direction to henchman Dodge: “You can’t put toothpaste back in the tube, Dodge. I want them both dead.” Following a brutal crash landing Bloodshot enlists the help of a female EMT to try and find his family.
ISSUE #3 HIGHLIGHTS:
Ray/Bloodshot finds his family, but there’s not the young wife and infant son he left behind when he began this mission. Ashley is beyond middle-age with graying hair, and son John sports a full beard and looks like a college student. Meanwhile, the former PRS scientist Kuretich is uncovering some of the devastation that Bloodshot caused through PRS misdirection, including an entire demolished city under the desert in Nevada. Dodge and the girl with electromagnetic powers catch up to Bloodshot in an awesome car chase and crash finale.
ISSUE #4 HIGHLIGHTS:
The best cover so far is right here, showing a tormented Bloodshot besieged by multiple memories of family members in miniature swarming all over his face and head. Inside the pages, we witness a flashback to a former Nevada PRS research site gone wrong and find out what a one-man containment team can fatally achieve. A double-spread panel of art only speaks for itself. My favorite line this issue is: “You just shot an unarmed man in the head and you’ve got a teen-aged girl on a leash. So tell me . . . who’s the psychopath here?”
Are you convinced yet? You just don’t want to miss what Valiant is doing. It’s exciting and the time to jump onboard this crazy ride is right now.