BLOODSHOT U.S.A. #1of 4 (Valiant Entertainment, October 26 release date) Written by Jeff Lemire. Art by Doug Braithwaite. Colors by Brian Weber. Letters by Dave Lamphear. Covers by Kano, Doug Braithwaite, Dave Johnson, Ryan Stegman, Cully Hamner and Butch Guice. 32 pages. Rated T+. $3.99.
This book grabs the reader beginning with the very first page. Once the brief introduction and set-up is finished, Lemire’s story engages in high gear. If the dialogue revealing the conflict doesn’t command attention, the art certainly will. This is some of Braithwaite’s finest work, and that is something special.
EDITOR’S NOTE: There are some spoilers in this review. We’re not going to re-cap the whole story and tell you what the surprises are, but we do cover the main conflict and some plot details. It should not limit your enjoyment of the book. However, if you would rather find out for yourself, just take our recommendation and buy this book.
The story opens one year ago, in a New Mexico bunker where officers of the paramilitary organization Project Rising Spirit (P.R.S.) debrief following the conclusion of a superhero battle against the Immortal Enemy, one in which P.R.S. agent Bloodshot was involved. (See THE VALIANT limited series of 2014-2015 for the full story.)
One consequence of that battle was all the nanites being expelled from Bloodshot’s body. This occurred as the last act of the dying Geomancer Kay McHenry. Unfortunately, some of these became airborne and turned some unsuspecting Colorado residents into nanite-powered mindless killers. Bloodshot was able to contain the spread and re-absorb the nanites from the infected. (This was the opening storyline of the BLOODSHOT REBORN series of 2015).
It’s not necessary to have read either one of those stories to follow the new one in BLOODSHOT U.S.A. There are major player profiles and a plot points summary provided on the backside of the front cover. Also, Lemire’s succinct summary in the opening two pages allows readers to follow along easily. The debriefing is being conducted by P.R.S. CEO Moris Kozol, who proposes a diabolical plan. It’s on the bottom of Page Two where the first shocker occurs.
After studying the Colorado events, P.R.S. has found a way to replicate the nanite virus.Kozol proposes using the virus, which P.R.S. can also turn on and turn off as the need fits, to infect the massive population of New York City. Then, after nationwide panic sets in and the federal and state forces are unable to prevent chaos, P.R.S. can enter to “save the day”, thereby earning them favored status as a contractor to the U.S. government and also gaining access to the highest seat in the land. (Lemire injects a little amusing and dreadful political commentary here.)
Braithwaite’s art captures the facial expressions and body language perfectly as the other members of the P.R.S. power elite react to Kozol’s plans in various ways. Then, Kozol reveals the second shocker (which we will not spoil), a secondary facet to his horrifying scheme that will surely create even more angst for Bloodshot.
Flash forward to one year later, and an incredible splash panel that illustrates the carnage and chaos erupting in downtown Manhattan. The nefarious and ruinous Morris Kozol describes it as “short term loss for long term gain."
Cut to the Pacific Ocean, and an aimless drifting raft containing six similar appearing castaways, the survivors of the Bloodshot Island event. (See BLOODSHOT REBORN Issues #14-18 for the full story.) The Bloodshot we know is joined by five out-dated versions of the Bloodshot template from wars gone by: Tank Man, Cold Man, Viet Man, Quiet Man and Bloodhound. Following a little dialogue and grumbling between the six, an aircraft with Ninjak onboard arrives and recruits them to assist with the emergency in New York City. The virus is spreading too fast for Unity members Livewire and Gin-Gr to contain.
This opening issue of the limited series is heavy on plot and action, which doesn’t leave much time for Lemire to script any scenes with character insights. That’s the one thing that Lemire excels at, and we’re noticing the absence. He does manage to sneak in a few asides in a panel or two. Here’s hoping he gets more room to stretch in the ensuing issues.
However, there is some friction between the castaways that is allowed to develop. Later, Agent Festival and Magic bond and begin to respect each other’s abilities. Also, enroute to Manhattan a heated discussion ensues between Bloodshot and Ninjak regarding responsibility and blame for the nanite invasion. Bloodshot, of course, blames himself. Ninjak puts him in his place in blunt fashion: “This isn’t about you. Not anymore. It’s about all those people in New York. And we all know how you tend to get - - shall we say - - a bit indulgent in your self-pity."
As the elite of P.R.S. observe the skirmishes between G.A.T.E., MI6, and the infected from the safety of their bunkers, Kozol reveals yet another shocker. This leads into the final three pages, with the issue ending on an abrupt and unexpected eye-opening cliff-hanger.
We expect even more surprises as well as the return of the Lemire character magic as the next three issues allow for more developments. Reserve your seats now.
BC RATING SYSTEM:
STORY: We were engaged throughout. The pacing is good. The plot is complex. The only flaw is not enough space devoted to character development. We expect to see that change in the next issues. 2 POINTS.
ART: Amazing, as can be expected from this artist. Very creative use of angular and odd shaped overlapping panels to convey as much action as possible in some limited spaces. 2 POINTS.
COVER: While we love all these covers, it’s hard to rate when there are so many variants. We feel like we should deduct a point when that happens. While the standard regular cover may not convey as much action as some of the variants, it does the best job of creating reader curiosity -- a dangerous looking icon overtop of a bullet-ridden American flag. 2 POINTS.
READ AGAIN: Definitely worth a second reading, and a third. It takes two reads to fully grasp the complexity of this plot, and the art absolutely requires a longer look for complete appreciation. 1 POINT.
RECOMMEND: We absolutely recommend this. It looks to be as epic as THE VALIANT limited series, and also should play a role in “The Future of Valiant” as promised. 1 POINT.
FINAL RATING: 8 POINTS — definitely premium quality.
More covers and interior art below . . . . .