by Duane Swierczynski, Manuel Garcia and Arturo Lozzi

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Apropos of his sobriquet, Bloodshot gets shot. A lot. Dude gets riddled with bullets in literally every issue of the Bloodshot four-issue opening arc, titled “Setting The World On Fire” from Duane Swierczynski, Manuel Garcia and Arturo Lozzi. For a character that can be summed up fairly accurately as two parts Wolverine and one part Punisher, Bloodshot is actually a compelling character all his own, even if neither he nor the reader really know who he is.  While primarily serving to lay the foundation for what the series will become, there is more than enough mystery, violence and cattle-feasting to deliver a fulfilling read.

Despite compelling evidence to the contrary, Bloodshot's primary power is not getting shot repeatedly
Despite compelling evidence to the contrary, Bloodshot’s primary power is not getting shot repeatedly

We’re introduced to a skilled retired soldier who’s been talked back into action for one last mission to save a comrade in arms, only to quickly see illusion after illusion melt away and reveal an enigmatic nigh-perfect killing machine on the run from his creators. Bloodshot has been brainwashed and used by a covert organization known as Project Rising Spirit so many times that the only “people” he can trust are the ghostly projections of the nanites flowing through his body. Yes, billions of nanites flow through his bloodstream enabling him to heal at an accelerated rate, shape shift, communicate with technology and grant him extraordinary physical abilities. All of this techno babble is provided on page one in a heavy info-dump graphic, which might feel like a slog at first, but the reader, will find themselves grateful that Swierczynski got it out of the way right off the bat to limit any plot-slowing exposition later on.  Instead the plot gets to focus on our protagonist fleeing the villains who created him, trying to come to grips with his false memories courtesy of a former Project Rising Spirit scientist turned rogue and introducing unlikely allies. The arc is filled with great moments like Bloodshot devouring a cow to replenish his protein-starved nanites, and the discovery of a decimated city hidden below the Nevada desert, but it feels a little light overall as though the table needs to be set before we can dig into the entrée of future storylines. It’s not rushed; the pacing is exactly what one would want from a monthly action title, but reading it all in one sitting gives the feeling that even Swierczynski was anxious to get in all the elements needed for a much larger story.

Duane Swierczynski is right at home writing a militaristic anti-hero struggling, albeit violently, to uncover their role in a web of lies and revenge with his past experience on gun-toting favorites Deadpool and Cable. Much like what he did with those two prolific 90’s icons, he has successfully added depth to what could easily be another shoot-first-ask-questions-never character. There are some genuinely heartfelt moments as we witness Bloodshot struggle to accept that these very real emotions he’s had for loved one were purely constructed to provide him with the motivations necessary to slaughter at the whim of his controllers. Manuel Garcia and Arturo Lozzi render many of these scenes in a very photo-realistic soft pencil style, which contrast very nicely from the heavier inked real-world timeline, which is rife with hefty gore and fluid action sequences. There are several moments where the art does an excellent job of conveying the gravity of the situation through well balanced splash pages, such as the aforementioned hidden city or a particularly gruesome flashback to one of Bloodshot’s missions. Colorist Ian Hannin ably compliments the art with colors that are sometimes muted, but never washed out, and oftentimes demanding your attention with bright bursts of gunfire and lavish spatters of blood that deliver on exactly what is spelled out on the cover.

Valiant’s first round of collected editions are consistently hitting the sweet spot, giving readers exactly the right amount of introductory story to their revived franchises while teasing of bigger things to come. Bloodshot leans just an iota too far towards the latter, feeling almost incomplete for a full story arc because there are just so many ideas being introduced. No doubt all of these ideas are essential to what Swierczynski and co. have in store for us down the bloody nanite-filled road, and this first volume is recommended for anyone who enjoys action-heavy espionage tales.

Bloodshot: Ghost Dad!
Bloodshot: Ghost Dad!

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