Bloodshot Reborn #1
Written by Jeff Lemire
Illustrated by Mico Suayan
Colored by David Baron
Lettered by Dave Lanphear
Bloodshot: Reborn is the newest series in the "Valiant Next" initiative from Valiant comics. It's a strong first issue, and more introspective than you'd expect in a comic about a ruthless killer.
You know how sometimes you have those days where you're not exactly sure what you're doing with your life? You're feeling down and depressed? Bloodshot knows exactly how you feel, he's had those days too. Only, it's because he realized that he was an unstoppable killing machine controlled by sinister forces who used billions of tiny nanites in his bloodstream to make him do and think whatever they wanted, while simultaneously rebuilding any part of his body that got injured, but was finally freed from those nanites by a woman (named Kay McHenry) for whom he had feelings and whose life he failed to save and who died in his arms.* Since all this happened, Bloodshot (who took the name Ray Garrison) has been hiding out, working at a motel in Colorado. He's guilt-ridden, depressed and drinking and snorting himself to sleep. Not to mention the fact that he is starting to see people that aren't there, including Kay, along with what appears to be a little cartoon version of him called "Bloodsquirt". The days and nights have going on like this for six months, when something terrible happens that finally forces him out of his depressive stupor.
This was a very good first issue. The creative team establishes a character and his new status in a way that feels relatively approachable for new readers but rewarding for those in from the start (Bloodshot was one of the first characters Valiant revived). It's a setup issue in that not that much "happens," meant to establish who this character was, where he is, and what his struggles are. Lemire makes very clear that this is a guy with some serious problems. He's racked with guilt and depression over all of the people he killed when he was Bloodshot, when his mind and body were controlled by nanite technology. It doesn't matter to him that he didn't kill these people by choice; in some ways it's even worse because it's like he was a tourist inside his own mind. He's also mournful for the loss of Kay McHenry, because even though they only briefly knew each other, she showed him kindness.** The truth is that plenty happens - the title of "Bloodshot: Reborn" works well with the feel of this first issue; by the end he's emerged from his cocoon, with a renewed sense of purpose (along with several hallucinations that seem like they will follow him around). It's clear that he can't escape being Bloodshot no matter how much he struggles, but this is a new direction for him
The art team on this book really makes this story, as it's a gorgeous comic with weirder flourishes than you might expect. Mico Suayan has a highly detailed, realistic, visceral style of art that feels very much at home in the Valiant universe, and really sells the emotion as well as action quite effectively (no mean feat given the introspective nature of most of the issue). Most of the action here is within the confines of Bloodshot's motel, or in his memories, but there's great intricate detail including the folds of sheets, wrinkles on faces, the dilapidated nature of the motel. Suayan and colorist David Baron render convincingly the fact that Bloodshot has been living a pretty grim existence for the past 6 months.
Baron does terrific and varied work throughout the issue as they complement Suayan's highly detailed art style, along with illustrating some slightly more abstract sequences in the comic book. In particular, any time you see the color red in this issue it somehow feels extra bright. Bloodshot sees red everywhere--he can't escape the blood all around him (hence the title of the issue, "Colorado," where he's been holed up and a word for "red" in Spanish).
Lemire is of course an accomplished artist as well as writer, and this proves to be a great benefit in the issue, as he illustrates the character of Bloodsquirt throughout the issue. Lemire has a highly distinctive style that looks absolutely nothing like Suayan's much more realistic, traditional superhero style, so whenever Bloodsquirt shows up it's an intentionally disconcerting experience (like seeing an actual cartoon character walk around). The colors used on Bloodsquirt are also a much flatter coloring, which adds to the dissonance. Bloodsquirt functions pretty effectively as Bloodshot's "Jiminy Cricket" getting him back into the game.
Lemire is a thoughtful, introspective writer, one whose best work includes writing about fundamentally good, sweet, heartfelt characters and, along with fellow The Valiant co-writer Matt Kindt, seems to have really found a home in the Valiant universe. It will be interesting to see how he approaches this very different sort of character. Bloodshot is plenty introspective but he's also pretty damaged, but I expect Lemire and Suayan to bring some humor and a lighter touch to this character that has the potential to just be brooding.
One interesting aspect of Bloodshot's character is that he used to be essentially indestructible thanks to the nanites in his bloodstream. Kay's parting gift to him was to remove them from his system. He's a man now, and he can be hurt like a man. I haven't read many Wolverine comics recently, but I understand that similar ground was covered when Wolverine lost his healing factor, and this forced him to change the way he approached fighting. Bloodshot will have to learn how to be Bloodshot in a different way than he was before.
This first issue of Bloodshot: Reborn is more of an introspective journey than you might expect in the first issue of a comic book. For both new and current readers, this should be a rewarding read and is definitely worth a look.
* This may be a lot like your life. I don't know, I don't judge.
** For Bloodshot & Kay's relationship (and a great story) I strongly recommend picking up the series The Valiant. I reviewed the first few issues here.