Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Doug Braithwaite (Bloodshot USA), Renato Guedes (Bloodshot Reborn #0)
Colorists: Brian Reber (Bloodshot USA), Andrew Dalhouse (Bloodshot Reborn #0)
Letterer: Dave Lanphear
Cover: Kano, Doug Braithwaite, Brian Reber & Dave Johnson
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
A review by Nico Sprezzatura.
While the vast universes built by Marvel and DC are easily the most well-known, they’re not the only ones kicking about. In the current landscape of the comics industry, Valiant has become something of a “third option” for readers burned out by decades of continuity and frequent relaunches in their superhero stories.
It’s easy to understand why superhero fans have turned to Valiant. It’s a smaller universe, for one, but still expansive enough to host a variety of characters and concepts. Valiant is also younger, which makes jumping into less daunting, especially if you account for their 2012 continuity reboot. Lastly, they only publish a certain amount of books a month — some of them are ongoing titles, others are limited runs.
While I don’t quite prefer Valiant to Marvel or DC, I definitely appreciate what they’re doing as a publisher. They’re very much a “mature” alternative to the Big Two that can’t rely on nostalgia or multimedia crossover appeal to sell books, which means their creative output lingers at a certain quality that can’t be denied.
Bloodshot has been one of Valiant’s most popular characters since his introduction in 1992, and especially since the 2012 reboot, so it’s natural that he’d get lots of editorial focus. Not to strap him with a reductive premise, but he’s kinda like The Punisher-meets-Cyborg by way of Wolverine; a tragic killing machine powered by nano-technology.
Many know Jeff Lemire from his creator-owned works (Sweet Tooth and Essex County, just to name a few) as well as his other work-for-hire stuff at Marvel (Moon Knight) and DC (Animal Man), but he’s quietly been churning out Bloodshot stories at Valiant for the better part of two years. Bloodshot USA, which collects the eponymous limited series as well as Bloodshot Reborn #0, is the latest installment of his saga with the character.
Having read most of Bloodshot Reborn (which recently concluded), I have some basic knowledge of the character and his recent history, but I’m admittedly no expert on him. That doesn’t make Bloodshot USA any less of an entertaining read, even if you might be a little lost heading into the story without having read the former.
But what is the story, Sprezz? Basically, the nanites that create Bloodshot have been unleashed in New York City, and it’s up to him (and others in the Valiant Universe, like Ninjak and Livewire) to put an end to things before the breakout infects the entire world.
Though technically a standalone tale, it’s very much the culmination of what Lemire has been building up to in Bloodshot Reborn, so those out of the loop with the character (or the Valiant Universe, for that matter) might not get the most out of Bloodshot USA. That’s not the fault of anybody who helped create this book, obviously — even a streamlined universe like Valiant’s can still be a victim to continuity creep.
Bloodshot Reborn has generally been regarded as one of Lemire’s best works on a licensed character, and I have to agree. Despite running the risk of being confusing to the uninitiated, Bloodshot USA gives you all the information you need to know, and carries you along briskly with each plot development. His Bloodshot is brutal when he needs to be, but just as sympathetic and thoughtful.
I compared him to The Punisher and Wolverine earlier, and I still stand by it, but Bloodshot is definitely a more nuanced take on either of those characters — he’s Punisher without agency, Wolverine with less unbridled rage. It’s a take that Lemire is particularly well-suited for.
If there’s anything I’m willing to be critical about regarding Bloodshot USA (and to some extent, the Valiant Universe as a whole), it’s the art. It’s not bad, but I’ve always been a little ambivalent towards Valiant’s house style that seemingly runs throughout their publishing slate, Bloodshot USA included.
Doug Braithwaite and Renato Guedes are competent illustrators for sure, but I wouldn’t call their work here exciting or visually appealing to my personal taste. But like I said, it’s perfectly fine art, complemented by quality coloring by Brian Reber and Andrew Dalhouse, with lettering Dave Lanphear.
While I’m not sure it’s the best jumping-on point for prospective fans of Bloodshot or the Valiant Universe as a whole, Bloodshot USA is a worthwhile adventure for those looking to branch out of the Big Two and try something a little different than what they’re used to.