Why isn't Bloodshot a household name? Sure the name is somewhat off-putting, but if a parody character in red tights with a similar ring of violent ambiguity to their moniker can be on the t-shirts wrapped around fifteen-year old comic fans across the globe and star in multi-million dollar blockbuster movies, why can't the same fate befall Bloodshot? The short answer is that the ivory-skinned black-ops assassin takes himself rather seriously even when paired with weird hallucinatory sidekicks. Bloodshot #1, Valiant's current attempt to relaunch the adventures of the titular anti-hero takes itself rather seriously, but has fun while doing so.
There is a certain tone writer Tim Seeley (Grayson) and artist Brett Booth (Teen Titans) strike that shrugs off the existential horror of being Bloodshot from weighing down the character too much. Bloodshot #1 is stylized with the save gusto of superhero comics that helped usher in the age of "widescreen comics," a term (and style of graphic storytelling) created by Warren Ellis.
This is apropos considering Bloodshot #1 feels very much in the same oeuvre as Ellis' works, Stormwatch and The Authority, at least in terms of stylized action and plotting. Bloodshot #1 reads more like the cold open of a a high-octane summer blockbuster starring [insert large, bald, man who looks cool doing action-y things] than it does a start of a new ongoing superhero comic.
But that's the whole appeal, isn't it?
Taking the premise of on action film and injecting superheroes into it makes for some of the best comic books ever created. This method gave use watershed titles like Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's The Ultimates, Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men and Grant Morrison and Howard Porter's JLA, as well as countless other iconic comic series from the late '90s through the early aughts, right up until the launch of the current comic book blockbuster film cycle we're currently in.
These books, more or less, built the framework upon which billion dollar film franchise rest. And while Bloodshot #1 doesn't immediately reach the same levels of greatness as the aforementioned "widescreen comics," it does set itself apart from the rest of the pack by hearkening back to what made those books work so damn well in the first place.
Bloodshot isn't the washed up, sad sack we met in Jeff Lemire and Mico Suayan's outstanding Bloodshot: Reborn. This version of the character is very much an action hero. He's cool, collected, thoughtful, and most of all, good at his job, much to the chagrin of the bad guys populating Bloodshot #1. Seeley's script is sharp, funny and lays out the stakes very matter-of-factly. Booth's art work has a very '90s vibe (which makes sense given his collaborative background with superstar artist Jim Lee), and he leans heavily into the aesthetic so many adult comic fans first glommed onto in their youth. Bloodshot #1 is something of a backdoor nostalgia trip, one that is absolutely worth taking.
Valiant Entertainment might have something special on its hands with Bloodshot #1. Hopefully, audiences agree and older comic book fans who have been chomping at the bit for more comics from the days of yore will discover it. Bloodshot #1 is a wonderful reintroduction to a really cool character who deserves more love. With any luck the Vin Diesel-led film currently on the horizon for a 2020 release only helps elevate the character's exposure and doesn't sully him. Regardless of the outcome, we still have Bloodshot #1, which is cause for celebration all by itself.