Valiant has really got to be congratulated with how quickly and effectively they’ve built their super-hero universe into a compelling alternative to DC and Marvel. By recruiting top talent to help flesh out and construct their universe’s mythos for a new generation, they’ve wound up with some great books, reinvigorated characters and an effective universe around which to construct big events. Bloodshot U.S.A. #1 is a great example of all the things that have made the Valiant line so great over the last few years.
Written by Jeff Lemire with art by Doug Braithwaite, the issue sets up an apocalyptic storyline revolving around Bloodshot, a living weapon searching for redemption whose nanite-based abilities have been weaponized by a shadowy organization called Project Risiing Spirit. Now, they’ve unleashed the nanites upon New York, turning anyone and everyone into mindless drones with Bloodshot’s abilities. Rising Spirit wants to create a terror attack that no one but they can solve, thereby making them into the only truly indispensable military contractor on Earth.
What makes Bloodshot U.S.A. #1 work so well are two qualities. First, Lemire knows how to make the issue as accessible as possible to new readers. There’s definitely a lot of backstory to the events of the issue that long-time readers will enjoy and will make the issue resonate in a deeper and more engrossing way. However, even if you’ve never really read about Bloodshot before, the excellent recap page combined with the minimal and well-constructed exposition in the issue mean that new readers won’t be lost or baffled in the slightest by the events going on.
Second, Lemire keeps the action and plot for the issue lean and streamlined. The motives of the antagonists make sense, and the threat is effectively set up to generate maximum suspense and tension. The idea of the population of Manhattan turned into killing machines in order to act as an audition for a corporation to make a killing is both novel and chilling, and the script doesn’t layer in a bunch of additional subplots to draw the reader’s focus or lessen the tension. The overriding objective of any first issue is to engage the reader with the narrative in order to carry them through as many issues as possible. If your concept, intention and obstacles are as strong, relatable and engaging as possible, then your job is a lot easier. A writer as good as Lemire knows this and keeps the issue as focused and well-paced as possible.
Doug Braithwaite does a similarly exceptional job. His style is classic in that the figures are drawn very much in a style that evokes Neal Adams; hyper-real and well-defined with a strong grasp of using odd or unique angles to jazz up his layouts. But Braithwaite also has a skill in bringing in shadow and texture to his work, giving it a more dark atmosphere than a classic style belies. It’s easy to see why he’s become Valiant’s go-to artist for big story arcs and events, it’s because his stuff feels like comics in a classical way even as it evokes a modern and more shady sensibility. Lovely stuff.
Bloodshot U.S.A. #1 is a killer of debut issue that sets up the event with such skill and lean action that I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to pick up #2 to see what comes next. It proves that, once again, Valiant might be setting up the most exciting and refreshing new super-hero comic universe in comics right now. 9/10
Bloodshot U.S.A. #1 will be released tomorrow, Oct. 26, 2016.