Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Mico Suayan
The Dark Knight Returns casts a long shadow over comics. Unfortunately, that shadow caused – for years – some of the worst trends in comics throughout the 80’s and 90’s. Gritty reboots which did nothing to reveal character, heroes replaced by psychotic anti-heroes and dark tones just for dark tones’ sake plagued our medium. If we had to sit through two decades of crap in order to get comics like Valiant’s Bloodshot Reborn #1, then honestly, I think it was worth it.
I’m actually new to Bloodshot and generally new to the Valiant universe. I’m aware that they are looking into finding their way into the movie business, so I’m aware a lot is riding on this new line. Luckily they did an excellent job on filling in the reader with the history of the character. We’re starting to see more and more text blurbs shoved into the first pages of new titles in order to establish the history of that particular book. It’s an inelegant solution, but, it works. Bloodshot however, actually has a quick comic to catch the reader up. Why don’t more publishers do this? Comics are a visual medium, why wouldn’t you want to show us who Bloodshot is instead of telling us? Anyway, the basic premise is that Bloodshot was a killer/superhero who lost his powers and is now trying to make a living in Colorado.
The “retired superhero who lost his powers and now has to deal with a society that has moved on” bit does strike a little too hard as an homage to the Dark Knight Returns. And I’ll admit that at times the comparison is a little too opaque. But if writer Jeff Lemire was going to steal from the best, at least he had the sense to grab the parts that work. So, we get subtle jabs at a world which has turned its heroes into pop culture icons, which those heroes have no control over. Bloodshot’s likeness is used in video games that ADHD addled children play. We get a world where villains are not simple “Rogues Galleries,” with conveniently located lairs and stories resolved in an easy 22 pages. And, probably most importantly, we get some real mirroring between the violence and blood-lust of the villain and the hero. The subtle idea being that all that separates the two men is a thin code of conduct, not innate heroism. All of these ideas were present in DKR but they’ve gone missing or been misused sinse then. Bloodshot takes these tropes and then owns them.
Mico Suayan’s art is a perfect complement to the tone of this piece. Unlike the 80’s and 90’s grit, this comic feels modern. The panels are sparse, widescreen affairs that pack a lot of punch but should be easily understood by new readers. There also isn’t the drastic exaggeration of previous decades. Bloodshot looks like a man who works out, not like a Ken doll blown up with a bicycle pump. The whole presentation is very down to earth, to the point of almost banality, which helps us settle into the general malaise of the main character. And without spoiling anything, this allows for some of the more playful art of Bloodshot’s fantasies to stand up and slap us on the face.
If this is the type of work that Valiant is going to put out, then it is time to give some of our attention to Valiant. Bloodshot Reborn should be used as a textbook example of how to start a number one issue for a continuing series. It actually feels as welcoming as a new beginning, but also throws you into an established universe that I can’t wait to dig my fingernail into. At times it does borrow a little heavily from prior established works but it never feels like it is tracing old ground. I’ve never read a Bloodshot property before “Reborn #1”, but you can be damn sure I’ll be picking up #2.
“Bloodshot Reborn #1” earns 9/10 – Highly Recommended.