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Gimmick or Good? – Bloodshot #1

Bloodshot1_coverIn this column, Mark Ginocchio (from Chasing Amazing) takes a look at the gimmick covers from the 1990s and gives his take on whether the comic in question was just a gimmick or whether the comic within the gimmick cover was good. Hence “Gimmick or Good?” Here is an archive of all the comics featured so far. We continue with the first chromium cover, Blooshot #1!

Bloodshoot #1 (published February 1993) – script by Kevin VanHook, art by Don Perlin. Cover by Barry Windsor-Smith

Proving once again that the gimmicks of the 1990s are alive and well, Valiant has been publishing special edition “chromium” covers for its Armor Hunters, Unity, X-O Manowar, Armor Hunters: Bloodshot and Armor Hunters: Harbinger series. So today, I thought Gimmick or Good should take a look at the comic book industry’s very first chromium cover, 1993’s Bloodshot #1.

In the early 1990s, Valiant did quite well for itself sales-wise whenever it published one of these special edition gimmick covers, despite not having the history or name recognition of Marvel, or the “extreme” sexiness of Image Comics. Bloodshot #1 was no different, as the chromium cover was considered a true innovation when it was released winning awards and selling about a million copies.

But what about inside the comic?

Based on its first few pages, one would think that Bloodshot #1 was just another in a long line of early 90s comics that prioritized big guns and blood and guts over things like character development and story. But, despite some very pronounced flaws, Bloodshot actually has a couple of things going for it that might be worth checking out depending on how much of a fan you are of the Valiant universe from this era.

The general concept for Bloodshot is an intriguing one: a former mobster named Angelo Mortalli is kidnapped and exposed to a procedure that turns him into a super soldier/killing machine Bloodshot. However, someone interfered with Mortalli as he was undergoing the procedure, which causes him to go rogue. Now, Bloodshot’s former handlers, along with a number of other groups, are out to bring him in – dead or alive.

Bloodshot1_02

It’s basically Captain America meets the Punisher, with the usual 90s grit and excess. Still, for a first issue, creators Keith VanHook and Don Perlin manage to bait the reader with just enough mysteries and surprises to justify wanting to pick up the next installment to see where this whole thing is going.

That’s not to say the comic doesn’t have its problems. For one, characterization is just nonexistent, despite some semblance of an effort to introduce a supporting cast, including a Alfred/Jarvis-esque sidekick to Bloodshot named Malcom and a Jim Gordon-esque British special agent Sinclair. Snark aside, these characters just feel like stereotypical archetypes and there’s nothing about them that comes across as being distinct or interesting.

The creators do a little bit better in developing Bloodshot, as he has the tried and true “kill all the mobsters for what they did to me” motivation. But even with the character’s intentions being clearly stated and sympathetic, Bloodshot’s milquetoast personality makes it challenging to actually want to like him. I know I got into hot water last year for taking potshots at Punisher: War Zone, but at least Frank Castle has a sardonic sense of humor that makes his mindless killing perversely enjoyable (if you’re into that kind of stuff).

Bloodshot1_01

Bloodshot’s lack of personality dovetails nicely with my larger issues with the comic’s script/dialogue. After reviewing a couple of these early Valiant books for Gimmick or Good?, I’ve found that all tend to suffer from very wooden dialogue and clunky storytelling. What especially drove me crazy about Bloodshot #1 was how VanHook broke up the narration boxes at unnatural intervals. For example, on the opening double spread, Bloodshot’s narrative says in one box, “More of the Terrorist,” before picking up in another totally separate box, “On Hand as Protection for the Drop.” It just seems like such an arbitrary way to write a script, and it’s difficult to read as a result because the words have no rhythm or flow.

Perlin, another late 70s/early 80s Marvel guy who was part of the Valiant stable (such as Jim Shooter, Bob Layton and Barry Windsor-Smith), contributes some very nice artwork for the comic. What’s funny about a lot of these early 90s Valiant books is despite all the chromium covers and machine guns, the artwork manages to have a very classic aesthetic to it. If Bloodshot was an Image character, one would think he’d had bulging, disproportionately-sized muscles, to go along with semi-automatic bazookas. Bloodshot does have pouches though.

Bloodshot1_03

I’m on the fence with this since the things I pointed out about the script/writing, really bothered me to read about. But at the same time, I honestly finished this comic and felt the need to jump to the next story. Since Gimmick or Good? operates in a world of absolutes, I think I’m going to be generous here.

Verdict: Good

12 Comments

Early Valiant had lots of good stuff, but Bloodshot is, I think, flawed right that at the concept level. It is simply too generic and lacks a drawing motivation. I kept being surprised that the character was spotlighted as if there was something to him.

A lot of the issues with Bloodshot were solved with the current Valiant Entertainment revamp. (The same can be said about “X-O Manowar”.)

I really don’t want to spoil anything because the first issue of the title delivers a lot of reveals right out of the gate. Personally “Bloodshot” didn’t even interest me since I really don’t like the Punisher, but the crossover with “Archer and Armstrong” really intrigued me and got me hooked on yet another branch of Valiant.

Michael W. Everett

July 12, 2014 at 11:05 am

To be honest, in going back and rereading the first 20 issues or so of the original Bloodshot comic, the writer of this review is pretty spot on with the flaws of the first issue. However, all of that being said, even with all of the existing flaws, over the course of the 20 issues that I read I found myself really liking and becoming a fan of Bloodshot all over again. Currently in Valiant comics I am a HUGE fan of all of Valiants modern comic books but Bloodshot is one of my top favorites. Things have surely changed in the comic book industry since the 90’s and one of the things that has changed with me is that I no longer feel the need to buy the gimmick covers. They cost more money for not much more of a bang for my buck so I steer away from them and save some money in the process. Other than the variant covers, the modern Valiant comics is a silky smooth and well oiled machine that certainly shows that the creators KNOW what they are doing with each and every new issue.

I tend to remember the 90’s Valiant era through rose-tinted glasses but, honestly, most of the details are forgotten. The main confusion I have with Bloodshot was what was his connection (if any) to Rai? Was it only similar aesthetics (white skin, red eyes, red circle on chest) or where they actually connected in origin?
I tend to remember him being a modern equivalent to Rai (Rai’s stories being so far in the future) but that could be something I manufactured as a kid because of their similar looks.

Jeff Nettleton

July 12, 2014 at 4:24 pm

For me, this and Turok was when the wheels came off of the Valiant express. I loved the original Turok, when I was a kid, and was intrigued with his reintroduction; but, when his solo book came out, I was rather underwhelmed. Bloodshot did nothing for me. Perlin was a decent, I unspectacular artist (which you could pretty much say about much of Valiant’s art, apart fro Barry Windsor-Smith); but the book did nothing for me. I started drifting aw from Valiant then, part from Archer & Armstrong an Eternal Warrior.

Unless i am mistaken, Bloodshot #1 was supposed to be a full chromium cover (see Superman #82 or X-O Manowar #0. I was soooo disapponted when it came out.

Valiant had SO MUCH potential, but rarely if ever were as great as they could have been.

@G: there is a explicit origin connection. It was forced, unconvincing and IMO cheapened the concept of Rai for no good reason, but it was certainly there.

akkadiannumen

July 13, 2014 at 3:03 am

It’s a totally mediocre issue. Both the story and the art are boring at their best.

In 3216, Grandmother, the freewill caretaker of Japan, forges a spirit guardian in the image of Bloodshot to invoke the spirit of his exploits in the people and ensure her safety against the Anti-Grannies, an organization of citizens who feel oppressed by their lack of control over their lives and believe that Japan’s fate belongs to its people.

Dubbed Rai, whose name is the kanji for spirit, Grandmother’s champion draws upon an unknown form of energy that gives him great strength, the ability to form energy weapons, and access to the Nerveweb, the network that gives Grandmother control of the host body and allows him to move anywhere at the speed of thought.

For 42 generations, the mantle of Rai passed from father to son, though, initially, it was not so.

t h e – b o o k – o f – g e o mancer.wikia.com/wiki/Rai_Lineage

The “Bloodshot’s Day Off”, #13 I think, is one of my favorite books of all time……

I was actually quite fond of Bloodshot, and I really enjoyed the first year and a half of the series. I also thought it was interesting that his blood was later used to give Rai his powers, which was an interesting way of linking two characters who were a thousand years apart. And you’d have Rai teaming up with Eternal Warrior and “remembering” via the blood events that occurred a millenia earlier when Bloodshot and Gilad Anni-Padda shared adventures.

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