Under the guidance of writer Jeff Lemire, Valiant’s Bloodshot franchise has grown in recent years from being a revival of another ‘90s heroes who carries big guns (plus also maybe a sword) and can heal from gruesome wounds, into a walking metaphor for the human toll of the military industrial complex. In Lemire's stories, our man Bloodshot has looked for love, found it, and become a dad—only to be dragged back into war and violence.
Lemire’s characterization of the principal Bloodshot—Ray Garrison—is top-tier, just like Lemire’s characterization in most books, but where his work on Bloodshot has really excelled has been in telling the story of the Bloodshot technology over time, bringing in past Bloodshots as metaphors for the military industrial complexes in bygone eras, including Vietnam and World War II. This issue focuses on another recent addition to Bloodshot’s supporting cast, his faithful dog Bloodhound, who we learn here is a veteran of WWI.
It’s a solid issue of Bloodshot, to be sure, and it’s the type of story Lemire, joined on writing duties here by Ray Fawkes, does well: one that fleshes out characters and is so entertaining that readers can forgive a one-month break from our plot (see his work on Descender for more great examples of this). The end result is an issue that both adds to the larger Bloodshot mythos but could also work as a poignant standalone for first-time Bloodshot readers.
All of that is a credit to the plot, which subverts expectations in terms of the roles the two main characters in the narrative seem poised to play at its start. The groundwork is laid for the sensitive doctor, who is seeing his first battle, to be our heart, our humanitarian, our entry point into a violent and savage world of war. Meanwhile, we also get a foil for our assumed protagonist, a seasoned military commander who barely tolerates the doctor’s presence, one I assumed would be a cynical roadblock, complicating the doctor’s efforts to save lives.
This issue, however, just isn’t that neat or simple, and, not to spoil anything, but there ends up being shades of gray throughout. There’s a particularly poignant bit where one character refers to “cost,” and it later becomes unclear if the true cost being referred to was lives or money. It’s a moment that puts the lens back on the reader and asks what are you as a civilian more concerned about: sending soldiers to die or finding more efficient ways to kill enemy soldiers at minimal taxpayer expense? Yikes.
My only gripe with the issue is a small one, in that some of the commentary is a bit on the nose, with soldiers randomly cursing the war, or describing it as a pointless meat grinder.
Overall: Bloodshot No. 9 is a well-done issue, one that sets out to create an emotional origin story for Bloodshot’s faithful companion Bloodhoud and succeeds, all while paying off one of the better commentaries about the military industrial complex and our role in it as civilians, which is what I’ve long seen as the overarching theme of Lemire’s Bloodshot work. 8.5/10
Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.