Advance Review: Bloodshot #1 by Duane Sweirczynski, Manuel Garcia, & Arturo Lozzi

Bloodshot #1
Dunk Tank

Written by: Duane Sweirczynski
Pencilled by: Manuel Garcia with Arturo Lozzi
Inked by: : Stefano Gaudiano
Colored by Ian Hannin
Lettered by: Rob Steen

Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99

Warning! This review contains quite a few spoilers!

I have to admit, when Bloodshot first came out back in 1992, I stayed far away from the book. The covers depicted what appeared to be a gun-toting vigilante, and the name Bloodshot just seemed so generic to me…in the same vein as Bloodstrike, Nightwatch, Shadowhawk, and any other number of 90’s characters who’s names are just two seemingly random words thrown together.

Even now as I’ve been doing my read through of old valiant books, I wasn’t expecting too much from Bloodshot, but from his first appearances in Eternal Warrior, it was clear that this wasn’t just another generic vigilante.  After reading 26 issues of the original series, I can honestly say that Bloodshot was one of the best and most consistent of Valiant’s series. They have started to make some of the old issues available on Comixology, and I would definitely reccomend checking them out.

But this review is supposed to be about the new series, so let’s get on with it:

Summary (contains spoilers): Bloodshot starts with soldiers in Neveda running a drone attack in Afganistan. As they approach the target site, there is a young girl standing in the road, who hits the drone with an electrical blast that also kills the remote control pilots in Nevada.

The scene switches to a military higher-up named Hutch trying to convince a retired soldier named Ray to come out of retirement in order to run a rescue mission in Afghanistan. The man Ray is supposed to rescue is named Apanewicz, and we find out that Ray owes Apanewicz his life. Ray agrees, lying to his wife and son saying that he is just being brought on as a consultant, and won’t be in the field.

A few hours later, Ray is parachuting into Afganistan, where he is blown out of the air. His body is brought into the base he was hoping to infiltrate. And his body immediately starts to heal itself, revealing himself to be the pale skinned and nanobot ehnanced Bloodshot. Apparently, this was all part of his infiltration plan.

He sneaks through the base in order to find Apanewicz, using the shapeshifting, healing, and advanced weapons training that his nanites provide. When he reaches where he thinks Apanewicz is being held, he instead finds his son. This causes Bloodshot to pause, but it’s just a hologram. The “badguys” put a bullet through Bloodshot’s head and bring him into the lab of a man named Kuretich.

Kuretich is downloading Bloodshot’s memories and reveals that he was part of the Project Rising Spirit that created him. He reveals that Project Rising Spirit has planted the memories of Ray’s family (as well as other identitities) into Bloodshot’s head in order to manipulate him.

Kuretich also sends a message to Bloodshot’s current handler, Simon Oreck, saying “Gentlemen, the game is over. Those you hunt will soon rise up against upi. And now that we’ve downloaded all of your dirty secrets, all of Bloodshot’s missions will come to light. And all of the innocent blood you’ve spilled will be exposed to the world.”

Kuretich says he can free Bloodshot from all the lies Project Rising Spirit implanted into his head. The process causes Bloodshot to freak out, and he breaks free. Kuretich lets him go, saying they have gotten everything they needed from Bloodshot.

Bloodshot tries to connect back to Hutch, who continues to try to lie to him. It’s clear that Project Rising Spirit has orders to take Bloodshot out. The extraction team rips Bloodshot apart with bullets, and tosses him in a helicopter to give him another memory wipe…something they have done “hundreds of times before.”

Review: The biggest improvement in this book over the original is that Project Rising Spirit seems to have a much bigger role in the new Valiant universe. In the original Bloodshot, they sort of seemed like a throwaway plot device that never got much attention. But Bloodshot 1 and Harbinger 2 both give us hints that Project Rising Spirit is going to be an important faction in the new Valiant.

Much like the original Bloodshot series, I had some concerns heading in to the first issue. The previews and solicitations made it sound a little confusing, and I was worried that it would be hard to follow.

Your name is Angelo Mortalli. Your brother is trapped behind enemy lines and on the verge of — no. That’s not right. Your name is Raymond Garrison. You’ve retired from the dangers of the field, but a desperate plea from your oldest friend plunges you into a vicious firefight that — no. That’s not right, either. You are Bloodshot. You are the shade of gray that freedom requires. The perfect confluence of military necessity and cutting-edge technology. A walking WikiLeaks that is a reservoir of dirty secrets that could set the world on fire. And you’ve just been captured.

But, much like the original Bloodshot series, the comic itself was much more fun to read than I was expecting. Thankfully, Swieczynski keeps it all very easy to follow, and while there is a lot going on, it never becomes a trudge to read through it. Just the opposite actually; from page one, you are hit with a lot to digest at once, but the pacing and storytelling in this issue are just perfect. Actually, I was reminded of Sweirczynski’s terrific work on Birds of Prey. There is a lot of mystery, but it is all done in a very accessible way.

In both this book and Harbinger, we are never quite sure who the good guys and bad guys are. Project Rising Spirit seem to be doing some manipulative terrible things, but I don’t think Kuretich is any more trustworthy. I really got the same feeling from him that I do from Harada in Harbinger; you aren’t quite sure who the lesser of two evils is. One of the best parts of the original Valiant universe was how closely together all the books were tied, and the new Valiant seems to be heading the same way.

The art on this book was just awesome. It might have been the best of the three Valiant books out (and that is saying a lot as I love the art in XO and Harbinger). Manuel Garcia and Arturo Lozzi is given a lot to deal with, but both roll with the punches brilliantly. Draw a normal family dealing with the strains of military life…now we want to see a paratrooper blowing up…and now a mad scientist’s laboratory…and top it all off with a guy getting shredded by bullets and then airlifted to be mindwiped. Everything is drawn with great detail and care. The whole art team deserves a lot of credit, this might have been the best looking comic I read this week.

One thing I am curious about is what connection the new Rai series has to the new Bloodshot. The original Rai series was set 2000 years in the future, and dealt with Bloodshot’s legacy. Rai was set in the same timeframe as Magnus Robot Fighter, but since Valiant doesn’t have the rights for Magnus anymore, I don’t know if they will be doing any series set in the year 4000. Maybe this Rai is another one of Project Rising Spirit’s experiments? If so, I can’t wait to see Rai and Bloodshot face off.

Valiant is already teasing the return of Ninjak, so I can’t wait to see what other Valiant characters will be getting a relaunch. I actually am secretly hoping that they bring back Uzzi the vengeance-seeking clown, who was a reoccurring character in the original Bloodshot series.

The new Valiant keeps on producing some of the best comics out now. All of these series are very worthy successors to the great work Valiant put out in the 90’s. I especially like that they are respectful of the ideas of the original works, but have very different spins on the books, making sure they are relevant to today’s reader. It is a very different comic market these days, and at times it feels like a lot of the industry doesn’t understand that.

Bloodshot continues that trend, and next month marks the return of one of my favorite Valiant series, Archer and Armstrong. If it’s done with the same love and care as Bloodshot, Harbinger, and X-O Manowar, I think the summer of Valiant will continue to be a huge success!

Final Score: 8.5 – There is a lot of crazy things happening in Bloodshot #1, but Swieczynski keeps it all easy to follow and produces a real fun comic here. And the art by Garcia and Lozzi is incredibly detailed and gorgeous. The original Bloodshot was one of Valiant’s most popular series, and I suspect this will follow in that tradition.

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