Bloodshot: Salvation #1 (Valiant Comics)
Jeff Lemire returns to one of Valiant’s best characters and some of the most inspired writing he’s done.
Sure, his work on Sweet Tooth and Moon Knight and Descender are all fantastic – especially that last one – but there’s some aspect of Bloodshot that clearly speaks to Jeff and he’s done some impossibly cool things with the character for about three years now, starting with the self-contained event Valiant put out called, uh, the Valiant.
In it, a person in touch with the life force of the planet faces off with an evil older than time. All the heroes in Valiant come to the fight to throw down and all of them lose until Bloodshot steps up and saves the day and kind of dies in the process – I say kind of, because Bloodshot was already kind of dead.
See, Bloodshot is a weapon that was designed to kill god. He’s part of a program wherein various soldiers were injected with nanites that allowed them to heal through the consumption of meat, gave them enhanced strength and reflex, the ability to tap into and use local technology, among other things. What started out as a simple super soldier program got a huge upgrade when a man named Harada showed up.
Harada is a psiot – Valiant’s version of a mutant – who is basically god and wants to move the world towards a post-scarcity economy that focuses on individual creative efforts and the betterment of the planet as a whole. The greedy bastards that run the world saw him as a threat and turned to Bloodshot to take him down, which led to all kinds of fun.
One of the upgrades Bloodshot got during this period of time sort of maybe caused him to gain a soul, which became a huge problem. He faced down Harada, decided he didn’t need to kill him, but one god is as good as another and so Bloodshot killed himself and the god that would have killed everything on the planet.
In the process, he lost all his power, but his power comes from little machines. The machines spread and he ended up having to go across North America to collect them all, a process that turned one of the best pure action comics we’d ever read into one of the best action horror comics we’d ever read.
More secrets were unveiled, with Jeff Lemire using the character to explore everything from identity politics to corporate greed to political corruption to body horror. Seriously, his run on this character is the kind of stuff that should be fucking legendary, and it bothers me that more people haven’t read it.
Anyway, Bloodshot saved the world from his nanites when they got out of control, uncovered a conspiracy that hid the previous versions of himself, and earned his freedom. He also earned the one thing that has been driving him from the very first issue: his need for a family.
During his trek across North America, Bloodshot met a woman named Magic and the two of them became a couple. She’s seen him at his worst and the two of them came by their love honestly, and it’s weird how much they make one another better people. She’s preggers and Bloodshot is all excited and…
… and it seems Magic’s family has a thing or two to say about the whole thing. Seems Magic was also running away from something: her original family, a clan of backwoods criminals who aren’t about to let their Magic go.
But Jeff is unwilling to let us focus on the present. No. Valiant, more than any other comics company, has been very careful about how the consequences of their characters’ actions develop. With this in mind, we’re given a look at the future, where Bloodshot and Magic’s daughter, Jessie, has inherited the power and is on the run from the terrible corruption that has taken root in the American soul.
Jeff’s not alone in this. The heavy lines and tenebrous shading of Mico Suayan and Lewis Larosa compliment the story he wants to tell perfectly, resulting in a comic that deals in horror and dread and action, full of thrills and well-built surprises. This is one of the best superhero comics on the shelves, and if you want to see what mature superhero comics look like you would be hard-pressed to do better.