I never read Bloodshot when Valiant first published it in the 1990s. Maybe I was too old; maybe Valiant had a bad reputation by that point, having been sold to Acclaim and lumped in with the horrible X-O Manowar comics that spearheaded Valiant’s second phase. When Valiant announced its relaunch a while back I was interested in the new X-0 Manowar, primarily because Robert Venditti (The Surrogates, The Homeland Directive) was writing it, but wasn’t excited for much else. After reading the first issue of the new Bloodshot I think they’ve hooked me. It seems Valiant has recruited some excellent writers, avoiding the pitfalls associated with the company’s second wave, and is putting out some quite engaging comics.
The premise is simple but interesting: a super soldier, whose life is supported by large numbers of tiny nanites coursing through his veins, is sent into various hotspots by the United States government to kill. His memory is shot so different lives are implanted in his brain, giving him motivation, kind of like Johnny Mnemonic but actually entertaining. These simple plot devices are very intelligent, with elements from Blade Runner (think Rachel’s implanted memories) and philosopher Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation, where our lives, our viewpoints, and our schemas are hyper-reality. It’s science fiction, but good science fiction, where the fantastic takes a backseat to the overarching social commentary about the present instead of the fantasy overriding everything.
Like all the new Valiant titles the adherence to Golden or Silver age tropes are gone, instead trying to appeal to a more adult audience. This doesn’t mean the title is above the average teenager but I doubt they’re seeing the philosophical leanings of the character or the subtle nuances of writer Duane Swierczynski (Cable, Birds of Prey). Nonetheless, that subtext is there for those who look for it but not necessary for somebody looking for a good action comic riddled with espionage, betrayals, and violence (which is here in droves).