Armor Hunters: Bloodshot TPB
by Joe Harris, Trevor Hairsine, David Baron
Of all the series that tie-in to Armor Hunters, Armor Hunters: Bloodshot makes the least attempt to stand on its own. Yet, if one can get past this (or if it is simply read in conjunction with Armor Hunters), the result is a fun, action-packed story in the same vein as that of the ongoing Bloodshot title. Those who don’t enjoy Bloodshot would be advised to skip this trade, but those who do will probably like what’s inside.
Armor Hunters: Bloodshot is neatly divided into three chapters. The first shows what Bloodshot had been doing in between the end of Bloodshot vol. 5 and the present before detailing Bloodshot’s arrival at the M.E.R.O. facility and his battle with the Armor Hunters’ hounds, while his battle with Lilt spans the second issue, and in the third he attempts to prevent Malgam from escaping.
The key to enjoying Armor Hunters: Bloodshoot is to accept it for what it is: a story which fills in some of the gaps in Armor Hunters rather than something which is meant to stand alone. Therefore, it goes without saying that this needs to be read alongside the main Armor Hunters story. As it also a Bloodshot story, it shouldn’t be a surprise to know that the focus of these issues is pure action. That’s not to say that there aren’t any smart ideas–the ways in which Bloodshot defeats the hounds, Lilt, and Malgam are quite clever actually–but it isn’t meant to be a “deep” comic.
The first and final issues work exceptionally well because the pacing is excellent. In #1 we see Bloodshot pursued by a team of soldiers only take them down one by one (much like Rambo in First Blood). However, the book then slows down allowing the reader to observe the dynamic between Bloodshot, Colonel Capshaw, and Livewire, who serve as the protagonists of this mini-series. Harris’ characterization of the three is surprisingly strong given that this is his first time writing for Valiant. Capshaw, for instance, has no trust in Bloodshot initially, but essentially gets out of his way once it’s clear that he’s the only capable of fighting Lilt and Malgam. It was also nice to see Livewire and Bloodshot teaming up so seamlessly with her often working in unison with his nanites. The beginning of the third issue is especially strong, in which Bloodshot is tracking Malgam through the darkened M.E.R.O. facility while Livewire, through his nanites, serves as his eyes and ears.
The second issue, however, is the weakest because the pacing is off. It’s by no means unreadable, but there was some questionable decision-making on the part of the creative team as a few moments occurred off-panel–in one panel Bloodshot appears to have the upper hand over Lilt, the next panel shifts to Capshaw in another room, and later we see Bloodshot being thrown into a wall by Lilt, but the moment where Lilt regained control of the fight was never depicted. Additionally, despite the fact that their battle only takes place over a single issue, it still feels as if Harris attempted to stretch too little story into 22 pages.
I’m curious as to how much input Harris was given during this mini-series. The creative teams for the other tie-in series were onboard prior to the crossover, and, presumably, attended the writers’ retreat during which the details of Armor Hunters were discussed. Did Harris also participate in this process or did the Valiant editors simply come up with a basic draft of the plot, which was given to Harris to work from? Regardless, the result isn’t perfect, but it is enjoyable enough for what it is.
Although I’m not the biggest fan of Trevor Hairsine’s aesthetic, I will say that he is a perfect fit for Bloodshot. His scratchy, gritty style really captures the chaotic feel of the battlefield. The most surprising part of seeing his work here is that he hasn’t drawn any Bloodshot interiors before this. However, there are some weaknesses in this book. The artwork in the second issue looks sloppy and rushed, and even though Hairsine bounced back in the third issue there were some still some inconsistencies, such as Malgam who shifts in size from slightly bigger than Bloodshot to practically giant. As a whole, the art for this book looks good (as always, colorist David Baron deserves much of the credit), but there is also room for improvement.
In addition to Armor Hunters: Bloodshot #1-3, the trade also includes Bloodshot #0, which had previously been collected in Bloodshot vol. 4, presumably because Valiant didn’t feel comfortable releasing a trade with only three issues (they did something similar with Unity vol. 2). Personally, I’d rather pay less than have issues collected redundantly, and the book’s rating was reduced accordingly. That said, unlike many others, I actually enjoyed the main story (for what it’s worth, I also seem to like Bloodshot more than most). There were definitely some issues with pacing, but I appreciate that Harris didn’t attempt to drag out Bloodshot’s battle with Lilt over three issues, and instead included clever battles with a horde of alien hounds and Malgam. Considering how well he acquitted himself with a story arc that was more or less handed to him, I would have liked to see Harris given the chance to write his own story arc.
Originally from ValiantCentral.com