Independence Day has just passed as this review is published, and amongst all the cookouts and festivals and fireworks the 4th of July is also a time (as so many American holidays are) to reflect upon the importance of duty to one’s country. The great American experiment has often been kept alive by the sacrifice of those who answer a call to serve. They do so for many reasons, and not always are they nobly employed by those powerful leaders in whom they place their lives. But that doesn’t make their sacrifice and sense of duty any less admirable. In many ways, that is what Bloodshot’s Day Off #1 is all about, and the skillful way that writer Eliot Rahal and artist Khari Evans evoke the stories of two soldiers who gave up a lot to a larger cause results in a story that is surprisingly affecting.
I’m pretty sure it was Woody Allen who coined the evocative phrase “a bloodbath of sentimentality,” when discussing a famous classic film (I can’t remember which one, strangely) and how the film avoids this fate and manages to be affecting. Bloodshot’s Day Off #1 manages a similar trick. The story revolves around two past versions of Bloodshot and how they spend their first day off in decades. The Bloodshot super-soldier program has had many iterations prior to the modern Bloodshot, and two of those previous soldiers take center stage here; Tank Man, the Bloodshot of WWII, and Viet Man, the Bloodshot of….well, Viet Nam, obviously. Each of these men get one day in New York City for some R&R, and these very different men choose to spend their day in a remarkably similar way. Haunted by their pasts, lost opportunities, and regrets, they try to connect to a life that seemingly has nothing left to offer them. On its face, there’s nothing about the plot of the issue that is particularly novel, but its execution makes all the difference.
The story that Rahal and Evans tell is sad and haunting and affecting, as each man confronts what he’s lost and is maybe surprised by what he’s gained. The issue presents a deceptively simple story, split into two parts. But I often argue that doing an effective done-in-one comic book story has become a much rarer gift than readers sometimes consider. Bloodshot’s Day Off #1 is effective in how the story is executed, not in anything particularly bold or innovative it offers. Stories about returning soldiers finding the home they once longed for has moved on without them are as old as war itself, but that story remains so poignant and effective precisely because of the deep and familiar connection we all have to those who sacrifice on our behalf. The creative team knows this and manages to tell a story that is affecting without being nakedly manipulative or overly sentimental.
Khari Evans’ art is very good throughout, remaining within the super-hero genre without sacrificing the naked emotion of the script. There’s a simple and natural approach on display that keeps what would ordinarily be two pretty fantastical-looking characters firmly relatable, and Evans maximizes the tragic aspects of the story without ever feeling like the art is trying too hard.
Bloodshot’s Day Off #1 may be an example of a story that we’ve seen before, but it’s a very strong execution of that kind of story. Even if you’ve never read a Bloodshot story before, or never seen these characters before, the creative team utilizes this somewhat familiar story to solid success, resulting in an issue that is quietly affecting and touching. 7.5/10