Gimmick or Good? - Bloodshot #1

In this column, Mark Ginocchio (from Chasing Amazing) takes a look at the gimmick covers from the 1990s and gives his take on whether the comic in question was just a gimmick or whether the comic within the gimmick cover was good. Hence "Gimmick or Good?" Here is an archive of all the comics featured so far. We continue with the first chromium cover, Blooshot #1!

Bloodshoot #1 (published February 1993) – script by Kevin VanHook, art by Don Perlin. Cover by Barry Windsor-Smith

Proving once again that the gimmicks of the 1990s are alive and well, Valiant has been publishing special edition “chromium” covers for its Armor Hunters, Unity, X-O Manowar, Armor Hunters: Bloodshot and Armor Hunters: Harbinger series. So today, I thought Gimmick or Good should take a look at the comic book industry’s very first chromium cover, 1993’s Bloodshot #1.

In the early 1990s, Valiant did quite well for itself sales-wise whenever it published one of these special edition gimmick covers, despite not having the history or name recognition of Marvel, or the “extreme” sexiness of Image Comics. Bloodshot #1 was no different, as the chromium cover was considered a true innovation when it was released winning awards and selling about a million copies.

But what about inside the comic?

Based on its first few pages, one would think that Bloodshot #1 was just another in a long line of early 90s comics that prioritized big guns and blood and guts over things like character development and story. But, despite some very pronounced flaws, Bloodshot actually has a couple of things going for it that might be worth checking out depending on how much of a fan you are of the Valiant universe from this era.

The general concept for Bloodshot is an intriguing one: a former mobster named Angelo Mortalli is kidnapped and exposed to a procedure that turns him into a super soldier/killing machine Bloodshot. However, someone interfered with Mortalli as he was undergoing the procedure, which causes him to go rogue. Now, Bloodshot’s former handlers, along with a number of other groups, are out to bring him in – dead or alive.

It’s basically Captain America meets the Punisher, with the usual 90s grit and excess. Still, for a first issue, creators Keith VanHook and Don Perlin manage to bait the reader with just enough mysteries and surprises to justify wanting to pick up the next installment to see where this whole thing is going.

That’s not to say the comic doesn’t have its problems. For one, characterization is just nonexistent, despite some semblance of an effort to introduce a supporting cast, including a Alfred/Jarvis-esque sidekick to Bloodshot named Malcom and a Jim Gordon-esque British special agent Sinclair. Snark aside, these characters just feel like stereotypical archetypes and there’s nothing about them that comes across as being distinct or interesting.

The creators do a little bit better in developing Bloodshot, as he has the tried and true “kill all the mobsters for what they did to me” motivation. But even with the character’s intentions being clearly stated and sympathetic, Bloodshot’s milquetoast personality makes it challenging to actually want to like him. I know I got into hot water last year for taking potshots at Punisher: War Zone, but at least Frank Castle has a sardonic sense of humor that makes his mindless killing perversely enjoyable (if you’re into that kind of stuff).

Bloodshot’s lack of personality dovetails nicely with my larger issues with the comic’s script/dialogue. After reviewing a couple of these early Valiant books for Gimmick or Good?, I’ve found that all tend to suffer from very wooden dialogue and clunky storytelling. What especially drove me crazy about Bloodshot #1 was how VanHook broke up the narration boxes at unnatural intervals. For example, on the opening double spread, Bloodshot’s narrative says in one box, “More of the Terrorist,” before picking up in another totally separate box, “On Hand as Protection for the Drop.” It just seems like such an arbitrary way to write a script, and it’s difficult to read as a result because the words have no rhythm or flow.

Perlin, another late 70s/early 80s Marvel guy who was part of the Valiant stable (such as Jim Shooter, Bob Layton and Barry Windsor-Smith), contributes some very nice artwork for the comic. What’s funny about a lot of these early 90s Valiant books is despite all the chromium covers and machine guns, the artwork manages to have a very classic aesthetic to it. If Bloodshot was an Image character, one would think he’d had bulging, disproportionately-sized muscles, to go along with semi-automatic bazookas. Bloodshot does have pouches though.

I’m on the fence with this since the things I pointed out about the script/writing, really bothered me to read about. But at the same time, I honestly finished this comic and felt the need to jump to the next story. Since Gimmick or Good? operates in a world of absolutes, I think I’m going to be generous here.

Verdict: Good

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