Review – Bloodshot: Setting the World on Fire

Bloodshot: Setting the World on Fire updates Valiant’s cyborg soldier for a new era of comics storytelling with a surprisingly smart, thoroughly engaging action book. B+

Bloodshot Vol 01 Setting the World on Fire SC

I admit it, Bloodshot: Setting the World on Fire was the book I was looking least forward to reading. The cover, though strikingly designed by Arturo Lozzi (he, David Aja and Esad Ribic have done fantastic cover work for Valiant, and he also contributes interiors to this book) with a great use of color and an evocative image, just set my “Ugh, the 90s” alarm off. And while Bloodshot, a book about a seemingly invincible renegade soldier betrayed by his country, is very much a child of the 90s, it is (like the other Valiant books I’ve read) at least an uncommonly smart child. Bloodshot writer Duane Swiercyznski knows exactly what you expect from a book like this… and he knows how to use the tropes and imagery of such stories in fresh, sometimes even exciting ways.

Bloodshot: Setting the World on Fire follows the titular hero as he… well, he pretty definitively doesn’t set the world on fire, that’s for sure. In fact, it’s quite possible we’re seeing our hero at his lowest point in this volume, as he finds out the tragic secret behind his past and makes enemies of his creators, all without knowing precisely who they are or what he’s done for them. Bloodshot is a very passive character through much of this, and, refreshingly, what few choices he makes – rather than actions he’s forced into, which drive much of the plot – are more passive. Sure, he kills a lot of people, but that’s mostly when he’s forced to fight; when he has time to think and make his own decisions, he goes looking for people he remembers and tries, by and large, not to hold grudges. It’s a refreshing twist in a genre that rarely prizes introspection, and I’m glad Swiercyznski found time to work it into a story that is otherwise incredibly propulsive.

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Review: Immortal Weapons #1

Weapons

I haven’t been keeping up with Immortal Iron Fist, post-Brubaker/Fraction/Aja.  I loved their run – it introduced me to Matt Fraction, who’s done impressive work all over the place now, and David Aja, who I still consider to be among the best artists working today when it comes to dynamic, exciting, downright cool-looking action scenes – but the high-cost of Marvel’s trades and the low-pay of minimum wage work meant that I have to stop reading some things, and when Fraction, Brubaker and Aja left, so did I.

Still, at the store on Wednesday, I noticed the absolutely gorgeous cover for Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra on the shelf, saw that Jason Aaron was the writer, and was intrigued enough to pick it up.  And I have to say, I’m glad I did.  Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra continues the Immortal Iron Fist tradition of having rock-solid spin-off minis and one-shots to flesh out the retro-pop pulp aesthetic of the setting and characters.

Fat Cobra, one of the Immortal Weapons we met in the Brubaker/Fraction/Aja arc “The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven,” is a massive, surprisingly quick warrior and hedonist who has lived for over a hundred years, and his lifestyle has taken its toll: he remembers little of his past, if anything at all.  To that end, he hired a researcher to discover his glorious past and compile it all into a book.  And thus do we get to know Fat Cobra.

It’s hardly an original device, but as Aaron delves into the character, he shows us why it works well here – Fat Cobra is a proud, powerful man, but his origins are far from either.  Seeing the effect these discoveries have on him is almost as tragic as the story itself.  Despite all the inconsistencies in the quality of the art (there are 7 artists in the Fat Cobra portion alone), the story is simple and potent.

On top of that, Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra has an Immortal Iron Fist back-up by Duane Swierczynski, dealing with an errant pupil of Danny and Misty.  The back-up is brief and to-the-point, though clearly incomplete – it seems as though the back-ups of the Immortal Weapon stories will be the thread that ties the issues together.

Overall, this is an excellent first issue.  As an origin story of Fat Cobra, it is both effective and interesting, with a great deal of potential to lure in new readers.  Immortal Iron Fist has always been a book that combined larger-than-life stories with a pulp kung-fu sensibility, and Fat Cobra definitely continues that trend.  With 37 pages of excellent content, it’s worth a read.

Grade: A-

– Cal Cleary

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