This is part of our new series The Reading List, a monthly column in which we encourage you to take your enthusiasm for a particularly groovy film and direct it into a wide array of extracurricular studies.
We could be on the verge of another cinematic universe. Bloodshot, the new sci-fi actioner starring Vin Diesel, hits theaters this month, and with it comes a massive catalog of potential IPs. Sure, sure, sure, you’ve heard it all before, but no one has proven equal to what Marvel Studios has done with their Infinity Saga. Fair enough.
The Valiant Comics universe has not bitten off more than they can chew. They’re following in Iron Man‘s footsteps. Putting all their weight into one, well-executed flick with their fingers crossed that it will find a hungry audience. If Bloodshot does any kind of business, the potential for a spider web of content is readily available.
Really though, what does it matter if we get another Bloodshot movie or not? The comics are all you need. The character originally spawned from the Eternal Warrior series in 1992, and he was a beastly little mercenary featuring some tricked out techno powers. He proved immediately popular and snagged a series of his own complete with a chromium cover.
Bloodshot was a product of his time, but in recent years, Valiant Comics has lured lots of tantalizing talent to take their crack at the Living Weapon. The result is some shockingly good comics that deserve your attention.
This month’s Reading List is designed to give you more than a taste of Bloodshot. It’s a full-course meal looking to satisfy your curiosity and set you up as a life-long Bloodshot maniac. Let’s chow down.
The original comic book series, written by Kevin VanHook and penciled by Don Perlin, has everything you need to know about the character before walking into the movie. Resurrected by the mad scientists over at Project Rising Spirit, Angelo Mortalli is transformed into the ultimate killing machine when his blood gets pumped full of nanites. These little machine critters allow the assassin to repair any wound, talk to computers, and alter his musculature to combat any threat. The only downside: he has no memory of the man he was before the monster rose within him.
The comic is dated, and your tolerance for it will depend on how much you groove on the ’90s ultra machismo. Bloodshot kills a lot of dudes, and Perlin’s art treats the violence in a clear, clinical manner. The Valiant style of the day reads as stiff for some, but for Bloodshot, Perlin elevates the character’s matter-of-fact approach to the business of killing and the revenge that comes after.
Bloodshot: Definitive Edition
If you’re less inclined to catch up on all the Bloodshot history, and you’re looking for a series with more modern sensibilities, then the Definitive Edition trade paperback is your best bet for wading into the wide world of gnarly Bloodshot mythology. Published in 2012 after the Valiant Universe rebooted in the wake of Acclaim Comics’ bankruptcy, the third volume of Bloodshot comics was spearheaded by crime novelist Duane Swierczynski and features a bevy of talent rotating through art duties. The comic is not some gritty re-imagining, as the original was anything but clean, but it couches all the delicious absurdity of the concept into some form of recognizable black ops tragedy.
Based on what we’ve seen from the trailers of the upcoming film, it appears most of Vin Diesel’s take on the character comes from what Swierczynski set up in these first thirteen issues. Bloodshot breaks free from his programming and goes on a kill-crazy rampage on a mission to discover his identity and slaughter the man responsible for his Frankenstein-like existence. Swierczynski sells the pain of the character, but even better, he’s a sick little puppy when it comes to conjuring vicious acts of vengeance.
Three years later, Bloodshot is once again relaunched with a new number one on its cover. Jeff Lemire, the much-heralded creator of Sweet Tooth, Essex County, and Black Hammer, takes over as series writer, and with him comes a whole lotta pathos. The nanites have been removed from his system. Bloodshot is no longer the ultimate killing machine, and he’s attempting to live a peaceful life in isolation. Until a group of assassins who happen to look very similar to his old appearance starts murdering folks across the nation. Bloodshot pulls himself out of retirement and goes on the hunt.
Bloodshot Reborn is the series where I really started to feel for the monster hiding under the mask of humanity. Lemire exceptionally captures the guilt, pain, and loneliness of the character, and when the violence must appear, it does so with a tremendous sense of apocalypse. Death is the end of everything. When Bloodshot deals it here, he knows the finality which he strikes. Bloodshot Reborn feels impossibly far removed from the ’90s comics from which it came to life. Here is the comic book you’ll start slapping in your friends’ laps, begging them to take a look at what Valiant Comics is cooking.
Jeff Lemire, with artists Mico Suayan and Lewis LaRosa, digs into the rot of America and uses Bloodshot to explore the cancer of gun violence spreading throughout the country. You might ask, “What the hell?” but only Lemire would have the guts or gall to use one of the most ridiculously brutal comic book characters to make a statement on our culture of bloodlust.
Bloodshot finds love in the arms of his girlfriend Magic and hope in the form of their unborn child. As you know, serenity will never last in this line of work. Magic’s family of fundamental lunatics comes out of the cold, determined to reclaim their lost daughter and take hold of the child yet-to-be. Flashforward eight years, Bloodshot’s daughter Jessie is alive and carries all the same attributes of her father. She’s on the run from a clan of killers called Omen, destined to upend the nightmare America beneath her feet.