In the opening story - or should it be "opening salvo"? -Â of Valiant Entertainment's "Bloodshot," writer Duane Swierczynski and artist Manuel Garcia put their stamp on the unkillable soldier originally created by Don Perlin and Kevin VanHook by blowing him up over and over again. Of course, there's more political intrigue, false memories and sci-fi plotting underneath the surface of the character than violent action, but after setting a precedent that sees their hero torn asunder in nearly each issue, will bloody Bloodshot deaths be a part of the book forever?
"If I can, I will," Swierczynski joked with CBR News. "Actually no. Not so much. You'll start to see the Bloodshot kills slow down a bit in the coming issues. But Bloodshot is the kind of character that can seem invincible, and I wanted to show how untrue that is. He's very much not Wolverine or Superman. He can get fucked up, and he has to claw his way back."
As part of the resurgent publisher's four title launch, "Bloodshot" will see his world expand in the second arc titled "The Rise and The Fall" which starts off in November's issue #5. The writer explained that his lead character is on slightly more stable footing, allowing him to step out into the world with a purpose. "For the first arc, I saw it as the introduction of the character, but in a funny way, it's Bloodshot's introduction to himself," he explained. "His head is full of fake memories, and the reader is right there with him, ideally. By the end of #4, things start to stabilize. He's not at peace with this by any stretch, but he's started to figure out 'This is where I am. And this is what I have to do. Let's go do it.' It's pretty positive where things end up at the end of the fourth issue, I think.
"But this was an origin story in a weird way. It's him clearing out all the garbage that's been left, which honestly isn't much. And then he uses those very few clues he has to go after the people that did this to him. What's driving him and the ultimate thing he wants to find out is who he is. He wants to know his name. He wants to know if he came from somewhere. Does he have a family? Was he a volunteer? That question will drive him throughout the series."
Swierczynski promised those questions would be touched upon in the second arc, however there were more duplicitous turns awaiting Bloodshot as his benefactor Dr. Emmanuel Kuretich makes plans to aim the soldier at Project Rising Spirit -Â the military program that gave him his miraculous regenerative powers.
"Arc two is kind of your classic assault kind of story. It's a part 'Search and Destroy,' part 'Mission Impossible!' kind of thing. Bloodshot isn't on the run anymore. He's not reacting. He's on the offensive, and that'll be fun to watch," he said. "Dr. K is Bloodshot's former handler, and he's treating him almost like a child," he said. "I think in that first issue, you saw him not quite nurturing but kind of reassuring to Bloodshot. Still, he has his own agenda he's pursuing, and part of that is trying to aim Bloodshot back at P.R.S., but he's also got some alliances that you haven't seen yet, and his backs story goes deeper. He actually has his good reasons for wanting to destroy P.R.S., but I don't want to spoil everything. It ties into the wider Valiant Universe in a cool way."
Eagle-eyed readers familiar with the entire Valiant line and the history of the publisher's characters may have already noted a small connection to "Project Rising Spirit" appearing in the publisher's "Harbinger" series, and Swierczynski said that when characters do start to cross over with each other in the Valiant Universe, it'll happen with purpose. "I know that [Executive Editor] Warren [Simons] very consciously wanted each book to grow on their own for four issues before we made those ties more explicit. We just had a two-day retreat to discuss the next year of plans, and he wanted to make sure we each were on solid footing and then explore the ties that make sense. It's all about having those connections grow out of the story rather than marketing crossovers and forcing 'Okay, Bloodshot...go fight Archer & Armstrong for a while.' It was a chance to see where the books were, and now we've found the webbing that makes sense to develop."
After meeting for the retreat, the Valiant writing team took a group road trip to Baltimore Comic Con where the writer said that story discussion and planning continued. "It's probably obvious, but Joshua Dysart and I are going to be in touch a lot over the coming months. And it was pretty cool to be in the same room with and meet all the Valiant writing crew. I'd met Fred [Van Lente] years ago, and I was introduced to the whole crew at San Diego, but this was the first time we were all in a room for hours on end. When you can get to know someone like that and then go out and have a beer afterward, it makes for a cool crew. I'm happy with everyone, and we'll be talking to each other in the future. Warren very wisely let us establish ourselves before bringing us together to meet, and that's smart because now I'm a big fan of the other books. They're all so different and weird. I can say that same thing about the writers!" he laughed. "So this means now we've got more collaboration going on than other things I've done in the past."
Overall, one of the defining characteristics of the first four titles in the Valiant line is that each of them draws its origins from a different set of shadowy circumstances rather than the classic "radioactive accident" tropes of comics. "In the four books, powers come from very different quadrants," Swierczynski said. "In 'X-O Manowar' powers literally come from space. In 'Harbinger,' it bubbles up through human nature. Years of science and evolution made these people happen. In 'Archer & Armstrong,' it's all rooted in this cool mythology. So for 'Bloodshot,' I'm looking at where in the world his abilities come from, and it's essentially mankind via the military trying to duplicate the other three worlds. We're trying to find a way to superpower human beings and take them to this next level either as a defensive measure or potentially as an offensive one. I mean, if you've got a guy who can fly around with an invincible suit from space, you want to have something in your arsenal to counteract that. That's were I saw Project Rising Spirit coming from."
And as the Project comes into "Bloodshot's" crosshairs, the writer was happy to be continuing his collaboration with Garcia on art. "I worked with Manuel before on a very, very brief run on 'Black Widow,' and I was bummed we couldn't do more," he said. "I knew his strengths, which are formidable, and with this I just wanted to give him some cool stuff to draw. He's great at keeping action sequences looking logical so it's not just mindless mayhem. So I'm looking for opportunities for that to shine."
"Bloodshot" #5, the first part of "The Rise & The Fall," ships in November from Valiant Entertainment.