“When war is “over,” it is never simply “over.” The first war takes place during wartime. The second war, the far longer one, occurs when the fighting stops…”
― Clarrisa Pinkola Estes
For anyone who has read Bloodshot: Reborn and Bloodshot USA over the past year, there is little question that beginning with the Bloodshot Island story arc (which began with Bloodshot: Reborn #14 in June of 2016) none of the characters involved have had a moment of downtime. Bloodshot: Reborn #14 through #17 introduced several new characters to the Bloodshot roster as they banded together for survival against Project Rising Spirit’s newest weapon, Deathmate. Following their escape in Bloodshot #18, and the subsequent catastrophic events that unfolded in Bloodshot USA #1 through #4, the chance to dial everything back somewhat for readers to learn more about “Tank Man” (the Bloodshot of World War II) and “Viet Man” (The Bloodshot of the Vietnam Conflict (or War as those who actually fought in it remember it)) was perhaps long overdue. While each exhibits similar qualities and abilities of the present Bloodshot (aka Ray Garison), they have distinctly different and unique personalities and background experiences.
To tell these stories, writer Eliot Rahal (The Paybacks, The Doorman, and Dark Horse Presents) makes his solo Valiant debut with Bloodshot’s Day Off #1, a one-shot that does not require previous reading, nor is it required reading to fully understand past, present, or future Bloodshot titles. It is, however, a fantastic side-story that provides tremendous insight into the hearts and souls of Tank Man and Viet Man. Up until this point, both have been interesting additions to the title(s), however, have served primarily as background and supporting characters for Ray Garrison’s Bloodshot. While the page #1 plot set-up and premise for Bloodshot’s Day Off #1 arguably reads a bit silly, the story picks up almost immediately before splitting into two stories; Tank Man’s and Viet Man’s stories respectively.
B. J. Neblett wrote:
“We are the sum total of our experiences. Those experiences – be they positive or negative – make us the person we are, at any given point in our lives. And, like a flowing river, those same experiences, and those yet to come, continue to influence and reshape the person we are, and the person we become. None of us are the same as we were yesterday, nor will be tomorrow.”
True to the “Greatest Generation”, Tank Man lived his life in service to his nation. He fought to protect the American way of life, and for those he loved back home. He demonstrated a sense of loyalty and bravery, and was willing to make the difficult and selfless choices that are the very definition of heroic. He is fully aware of his role in the war, and also that for him to become what he must and to save all that he loves, he must also sacrifice all that he was and has known. Tank Man’s story provides a small sense of closure after more than 75 years in the meat grinder of war.
Fast forward a few years to the Vietnam War (Nov 1, 1955 – Apr 30, 1975). Viet-Man’s (aka Dell Palmer) story begins in 1963 New York where he is presented with choices of his own given the prospect of him serving in controversial war that Americans were clearly divided on. Dell is next seen as a Sergeant leading a patrol in Vietnam later that same year (1963). Clearly this must be an editing oversight or typographical error, as it is not actually possible for this to have occurred in the timeline provided.
While the U.S. had military “advisors” in Vietnam (known as French Indochina at the time) they were essentially Special Forces and CIA. U.S. forces did increase in number during the early 1960’s, however, it was not until the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 that “regular” U.S. forces were authorized to deploy to Vietnam by President Lyndon B. Johnson (the year after President Kennedy was assassin). Combat operations and U.S. involvement peaked in 1968. As Dell Palmer is depicted as a young man living with his family (estimated to be 18 to 19 years old due to the issuance of his draft notice. Note that the “draft” during Vietnam did not really take off until after August of 1964 so it is unlikely that Dell’s draft notice would have either been received (or expected) in 1963 as the story indicates). Army basic training takes nine weeks, followed by 13 weeks of Infantryman training (MOS 11B), three weeks of Airborne training, three weeks of Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS), and more than a year in the Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC). This of course is before attending Live Environment Training (LET) which also takes a bit of time. Dell is indicated to be the rank of Sergeant, which takes two to four years after enlistment, which again is not mathematically possible to have occurred by the end of 1963 (used in the story).
This historical inaccuracy aside, Dell’s relationship with his family and subsequent involvement in Vietnam is a well told story. Dell made a series of personal choices, but never the choice to become a Bloodshot in contrast to the decisions made by Tank Man years earlier. This difference leads both characters to have significantly different views of the world and their new role(s) within it.
Artistically, pencils and inks are handled by artist Khari Evans (Imperium, Archer & Armstrong, 19 issues of Harbinger). Khari’s art style is a welcome experience for those familiar with much of Valiant Entertainment’s published books between 2012 and 2014, featuring a classic comic book look and feel using inks and hatching techniques to depict contrast and shading. Colorist Andrew Dalhouse (Faith, Unity, Ninjak, and Ivar, Timewalker) brings the story to life with layered colors which provide further depth, texture, and shading. Andrew’s rendering of flames during a brief Vietnam flashback is first class.
Bloodshot’s Day Off #1 is the heartfelt story of two Soldiers returning home after spending a lifetime at war. It touches on a what many soldiers leave behind, and are often unable to return to; however, it also provides a sense of hope, and of the camaraderie that exists between all who have answered their nation’s call to arms.