(w) Jeff Lemire, (a) Doug Braithwaite, (c) Brian Reber
What’s better than a nanite-infused, self-repairing killing machine? A city full of nanite-infused, self-repairing killing machines! That’s what’s in store for readers in Bloodshot USA #1. Though marketed as a the first in a four-issue miniseries, this issue acts as a continuation of Jeff Lemire’s Bloodshot Reborn. That is not an indictment on the issue, but rather a testament to its quality, as Bloodshot Reborn was one of the strongest titles Valiant has ever published. That level of quality continues in the apocalyptic world established by Lemire and artists Doug Braithwaite and Brian Reber.
Skillfully, Lemire’s script threads the needle in crafting an issue that is welcoming and engaging to new readers without alienating the established fanbase. The script is well paced, with neither the action nor any exposition dominating the issue. The issue begins with a 2-page recap of the events Bloodshot Reborn, using a secretive board meeting as a framing device. These shady executives of Project Rising Spirit are the architects of the disaster at hand, and their meeting continues with the discussion of their latest creation, which is certain to play a role in the story going forward.
What makes Bloodshot USA #1 effective is Lemire’s steady pacing, which gives the issue a steady momentum from the opening pages to the last. No sequence lasts longer than a few pages, giving the issue very little fat. Each word, panel placement, and image has a purpose. Rather than string readers along with a needless and predictable mystery as to who is behind the story’s epidemic, Lemire lays his cards out on the table early on and instead focuses on our heroes’ journey.
The art by Doug Braithwaite and Brian Reber is a great match for the issue’s apocalyptic landscape. Braithwaite’s art style gives the characters and their surroundings a tired, worn aesthetic. It sells the dire straits that the world is now in under Project Rising Spirit’s heinous plans. While their work is great on a technical level, there are a few moments where the script calls for some genuinely cool stuff – like the amalgamation of Valiant’s major players. The idea that anyone in the Valiant Universe can become infected with the Bloodshot Virus results in imagery that is equally awesome as it is horrifying. Brian Reber’s colors enhance the dark and decaying world of Bloodshot USA. His palette, comprised of chilling greys as well as orange, red, and brown hues, give this world a look that is either lifeless and antiseptic or burning to the ground.
Outside of his work on Image’s Descender, this is the best work that Jeff Lemire is producing. Bloodshot USA #1 is an exciting and tightly-crafted first issue of an event-worthy story. The character work is outstanding, and the action – when called upon – is thrilling. This is one “superhero” story worth picking up.