Looking back to its original universe, Valiant has always been as interested in its ending as it is in its origins. With the Book of Death, they give readers not only a taste of what is to come but also how they will get there. “Book of Death: The Fall of Bloodshot,” the first out of the gate, has an incredibly long lens as Jeff Lemire passes through the many lives and centuries to come for the nanite-powered killing machine. It’s entertaining and concise with a heartfelt ending, enhanced by Doug Braithwaite’s gorgeous and detailed art.
Lemire uses the one-shot to examine how much of Bloodshot’s life is dictated by his view of himself and how much of it is dictated by the world’s view of him. Bloodshot, as a character, was forced into his lot in life through the machinations of others. He has come to accept that the world will always force itself upon him and has resigned himself to the idea that his reaction will always be bloody. It’s interesting and complex as the story, narrated by Bloodshot, revolves around his bleak and justifiably depressed point of view. He lives several different lives through his future, with peaks and valleys of violence. Readers will be entertained by his high seas exploits with Armstrong, which introduce an antagonist familiar to old Valiant fans. Lemire also draws upon scenarios familiar to those fans as well, placing Bloodshot in the role of other characters that cannot be used due to copyright issues, like Magnus and Turok. The story isn’t always bleak, as Bloodshot finds acceptance amongst different cultures in different roles, like protector or scourge or even space king.
What is hard is watching these things be taken away from Bloodshot time and again. Braithwaite illustrates the slow burn on the lead’s face as the years and the heartbreak slowly wear him down and take away any possible hope in his eyes, leading him to a path of loneliness in a future that has even passed by his advanced nanites, leaving him a cog that the machine no longer needs. Lemire drives home the point that the character is viewed as a tool, a means to an end, and — instead of making the life that he wants — he has accepted the world’s view of him. It is a sad journey and, in the character’s last moments, Lemire pulls out an amazing and heartfelt ending. The final page of the book is as touching as it is beautiful.
Braithwaite and Brian Reber work together to give the character an ancient look compared to the dayglo advancements around him and, in his final moments, he gets something he thought he’d never have. It’s an amazing character moment and drives home the quality of the storytelling of which Lemire and Braithwaite are capable. While no one knows how the other one shots will shake out, one almost wishes this was the last one to be released, as it’s a great endcap to the violent and bleak view given in the main “Book of Death” title.
“Book of Death: The Fall of Bloodshot” #1 is not required reading for the most cohesive universe in comic books, but it is certainly enjoyable. Readers looking for a glimpse into the future and some excellent storytelling and strong art should check out this one-shot.