Bloodshot has been a premier title for Valiant for quite some time, having garnered a significant amount of acclaim during Jeff Lemire’s tenure on the character. From Bloodshot Reborn through Bloodshot Salvation, the character was revamped and progressed forward from a fairly generic action hero with a dark past into a father and husband, raising a family and trying to move beyond his past to build a brighter future. After over a year’s gap since the last issue of Bloodshot Salvation, Tim Seeley and Brett Booth have come to the character to bring a more accessible touch to the series, seemingly in preparation for the upcoming film.
The book seems geared for fans of action franchises. There’s some plot exposition done by men in suits, but the majority of the issue is action-packed with Bloodshot making quips and terrifying the soldiers he’s fighting. There’s a scene of Bloodshot promising a feast to hostages he’s rescuing, which portrays some of his kindness, but beyond that there’s very little to make him an interesting character at all. The book spends more time depicting the soldiers being scared of Bloodshot than it does showing Bloodshot doing anything unique. He spends more time singing while blowing himself up than showing any amount of character depth. The action scenes can be entertaining, but there is very little of substance between them, making it all feel like a long slog.
After the nonstop action sequences is three pages of exposition followed up by a stinger intended to set up the direction for the book going forward. Unfortunately, this does very little to set up a direction. The majority of the scene is someone explaining who Bloodshot is as a very clunky attempt at exposition, and saying that he is a threat who must be stopped. There isn’t really anything beyond that, and it doesn’t set up this mysterious organization as a really recognizable or compelling antagonist for Bloodshot — rather just another faceless organization that wants to stop him because he’s dangerous. The only interesting part of this mysterious organization is the “Black Bar,” a concept that looks very interesting on a comic page but ultimately serves nothing more than flavor.
The action scenes are the spine of the issue, and if the spine is good, the issue can overall be enjoyable despite its other flaws. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Action scenes are usually driven by the art, with paneling and pencils as the main tool to depict the flow and choreography of fight sequences. In this issue, however, Booth’s art does not lend itself well to choreography or flow. The panels usually end up slanted and scattered around the page, and make the reading experience chaotic and hard to follow, which would be interesting had it been done for effect. However, this trend carries into the quieter moments of the issue too, as even when there isn’t any shooting or running going on, the panels are laid out skewed and twisted to distort the reading experience. The backgrounds, or lack thereof, also serve to detract from the choreography, as it is near-impossible to tell how Bloodshot gets from one spot to the next. He appears in one location, then the next panel has an empty background, until he suddenly appears in another location. This happens across page turns as well, making it seem as if Bloodshot is just magically appearing in different locations one by one. What further exacerbates the problem is the copious amount of explosions and wide shots, where Bloodshot will make something explode, and the panel will focus on whatever is exploding before the next panel goes back to Bloodshot in a new location. It took multiple reads to make sense of what was actually going on in the fight sequence, and it was the only action sequence in the entire issue.
Bloodshot #1’s timing feels like it was designed to be accessible to potential new readers brought in by the upcoming film. Unfortunately, it also reads like it was designed solely for new readers coming from the film. There is nothing in this issue to even hint that Bloodshot is the same person who went through the events of his prior stories, and he instead feels like a generic action hero. This issue has the feeling that it was designed to be a high-octane, adrenaline-pumping opening to a story, but it just comes out like a mediocre action movie turned into a comic. For fans of Bloodshot’s character development prior to this series, this issue will feel like a regression to his bland status quo. For newcomers, this book will likely not stand out at all.