Review by Ian Keogh
With the Bloodshot movie due for release in 2020, it made sense for Valiant to repackage older stories to capitalise on the anticipation. However, the tagline on the front cover of this Definitive Edition claiming it’s the graphic novel that inspired the movie is stretching a point. When originally serialised from 2011 Duane Swierczynski’s twelve chapter plot was intended to guide Bloodshot toward participation in company crossover Harbinger Wars.
What the movie takes from Swierczynski’s continuity is the idea of programming, that Bloodshot remains a killing weapon because he’s motivated by what are quickly revealed as a variety of false memories of a life and family. Early on he begins to break through that programming, which is just as well, since both he and the violent activities of Project Rising Spirit have been revealed to the wider world. Among those activities has been the alleged rescue of children held captive, who’ve been brought back to PRS headquarters. Even before the information becomes public the order comes down to eliminate an escaped Bloodshot and everything associated with the project.
Of course, eliminating someone whose body and brain can be rebuilt from within by nanites is no easy task, but one of the best aspects of the early chapters is the possible method Swierczynski devises.
Several artists work on the feature, initially Arturo Lolli and Manuel Garcia sharing the pages, with Lolli’s digital rendering supplying the idealised family life and Garcia the extraordinarily violent Bloodshot activities. Matthew Clark draws the grittier look of a flashback relevant to events, while Barry Kitson’s polish supplies the action for what proves an inconclusive four chapter finale to the main story (sample art right).
Swierczynski’s emphasis throughout is on action. We see Bloodshot going about his violent business gradually pulling together more information about his actual past, collecting first one, then several more youngsters with super powers, and facing the memorable villain who keeps them under control. It’s the middle section that’s the best blend of plot and action. The first third is all rush and while Bloodshot is present throughout the final section it’s far less about his issues and far more about the Harbinger crossover. There’s no resolution to Bloodshot’s journey, which is picked up by other creators in H.A.R.D. Corps.
The cover credits, and indeed those topping this review, make it seem as if Matt Kindt had an equal role in the writing, but he and ChrisCross are just responsible for the final outing. It’s good, though, told from the viewpoint of a contractor engaged to programme Bloodshot with a form of conscience to prompt some restraint, and what his real agenda is. It’s a dark tale, well drawn, and makes for good final chapter, if not connecting with the remainder.