Jeff Lemire's run on "Bloodshot" has seen the writer throw Ray Garrison into some of the harshest environments imaginable. From the darkest recesses of his own mind to the unforgiving wilderness of Bloodshot Island, nothing will compare to the Valiant Entertainment hero's next challenge: a horde of nanite-infected New Yorkers.
Teaming with artist Doug Braithwaite for the storyline, which marks a culmination of the storylines Lemire's been building for the better part of two years, "Bloodshot U.S.A." sees Bloodshot having to deal with a plague which turns innocent people into nanite-enhanced killing machines. As things grow more and more dangerous and intense, the only thing stopping the infected population is each other. But can Bloodshot handle the chaos? CBR News spoke to Lemire to find out about this next, and possibly conclusive, arc of his run with the character.
CBR News: What can new and continuing readers expect to see from this latest chapter in Bloodshot's story?
Jeff Lemire: "Bloodshot U.S.A." is the culmination of my entire two-year run on Bloodshot so far. But it has been written in a way that makes it accessible for new readers, too. It tells the story of a plague spreading across New York that is essentially turning the population into mindless killing machines like Bloodshot himself, but without any self-control. It falls to Bloodshot and his allies to try and stop it without hurting any of these infected people, who are in reality, innocents.
This one is coming at an interesting time. Was it your intent to use this to comment a little on America's current political situation?
America is a scary place -- and I say that as one of your neighbors from the north who is equal parts terrified, appalled and saddened on a daily basis by something new going on, not the least of which is the rise of Trump. So, yes there is social commentary here.
I became compelled by the idea of these heroes being forced to face this mass violence, but not being able to use violence themselves to stop it. Trying to find some other way to help and stop the madness without resorting to more violence themselves.Â
Your run has seen all kinds of stories, and it seems like you're interested in approaching Bloodshot through different perspectives via new genres, and new approaches. How does the sort-of zombie viral epic allow you to reconsider Bloodshot once more?
I tried to have every arc be a totally new genre featuring Bloodshot, but also all build up to a larger story. "Bloodshot U.S.A." is the culmination of all of that. It's not so much yet another new genre to explore as it is all of the past arcs finally coming together. We see the viral outbreak aspect of ["Bloodshot Reborn"] come back in a bigger way. We see the expanded mythology and cast of "Bloodshot Island" pulled into the larger Valiant Universe and we see the emotional core of "The Analog Man," the relationship between Ray and Magic, culminate here as well.
This is really everything coming full circle into a perfect storm.
This sounds like a big action tale, where you can bring everything to a head as a high-octane setpiece. Do you enjoy getting the chance to break loose and just go swinging for an arc?
Well, there is definitely a high concept here that I use as the backdrop, but I think all of my arcs have had a high concept like this. The Analog Man was basically a "Mad Max"-style story, "Bloodshot Island" was "Predator" meets "The Hunger Games," etc. And like all of those, "Bloodshot U.S.A." will use its high concept as the entry point, but the story itself will remain a deeply psychological journey for Bloodshot. It is very much in line with the rest of the series so far. I don't have a whole lot of interest in just doing big bombastic stories just for the sake of it.
As an artist, do you enjoy switching things up as a way to have your collaborators try new things? Do you look to tailor this series to your artists, in this case Doug Braithwaite, to make stories which really give them a chance to try something?
I think there is some of that for sure. I definitely tailored "The Analog Man" for Lewis Larosa, and "Bloodshot Island" for Mico. Doug and I have previously done the two "Bloodshot" tie-ins, for "Book of Death" and "4001 A.D. " together, and, creatively, I think they were both very successful issues, so I knew I wanted to do a larger story with Doug.
And he is really suited to this story -- lots of moving parts, lots of characters, lots of widescreen action.Â Â Having had a year of writing the character by this point, what place is he in, mentally and physically? What do you think drives him?
Ray is in a place where little by little he has been discovering who he is. He started as a blank slate at rock bottom, and each arc has expanded is sense of self-awareness, and his sense of purpose. So now Ray is ready to step out of the shadows and become the man he wants to be rather than the man he was engineered or forced to be by others. And it is at this moment that his greatest threat rises up. This will be his greatest test. Can he really be something more than a killing machine? Can he really find his place in the world?
What do you find most interesting about Bloodshot himself, at this point? As a character, what keeps him new and fresh for you?
His constant drive to never stop going. To never give into his demons, even if that would be the easiest thing to do. His desire to cling to his humanity despite all odds. To never let that spark go out. Despite everything, he still tries to be a good man. I love Ray.
What's interesting is that he's no longer alone, as he has been in the past.
Yep. I had him start totally stripped down and alone, and slowly built a supporting cast around him. I expanded his world and the enemies and allies he has. Now it's time to bring that all together into one big story.
You've been writing the series for quite a while now, and have taken it in a number of directions. How long term are your plans for "Bloodshot"?
I can't answer that at this time. I originally set out with a 25-issue plan for "Bloodshot," so I feel like this is the last act of what I had originally set out to do. But I still love Ray and his world, and still feel very connected to him.
I can't yet say what the future will bring. Right now I'm writing a lot of books. Probably too many. So when I get through to the other side of "Bloodshot U.S.A" and the "Inhumans vs X-Men" event at Marvel, I will step back and take a long look at my schedule and at what I want to do and where I want to go -- and go from there.Â