Writer: Duane Swierczynski
Artist: Barry Kitson
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
I’ve sung the praises of Valiant so many times now I’m waiting for the “house that Shooter built” to send me custom knee-pads with a big red V embroidered on the front. I’ll be the first to admit I have a pulled-punch approach at times because I love comics so. And I’ll also admit I can be viewed as sycophantic if you’ve never read one of my scathing reviews. I can’t stress enough though; I’m not pandering with Valiant. In the course of one short year they have resurrected from the ashes of the 90s like a phoenix with two nacelles strapped to its ass for a warp 9 ascent to greatness.
Valiant is a salvation from the convoluted and inconsequential continuity at the big houses. To be fair they don’t have as much history to carry, but even at an individual issue level Valiant is trumping the best efforts of other publishers. They are adult without being bawdy, dialog is genuine instead of camp and the universe is carefully orchestrated by meticulous editors instead of a bunch of guys looking for individual title glory. Case in point: the big yet contained crossover HARBINGER WARS, which is now serving as the undercurrent for the titles BLOODSHOT and HARBINGER.
BLOODSHOT 11 is the perfect encapsulation of how a crossover should be managed. It is the space between the raindrops of HARBINGER WARS. It’s a focal point without being required reading, it adds new information, but not so much that those on limited budgets would be punished if they aren’t reading the rest of the series. Quite simply, it cares about a good story first and serving the event second.
If you’ve never read BLOODSHOT or Valiant before, I’m amazed you’ve read this far into the review. For all of you Valiant Virgins here’s the skinny on the story without getting too spoliery. Harbingers are Valiant’s answer to mutants, these next generation humans started when we nuked Japan and irradiated the Omega level Toyo Harada. Today new harbingers are cropping up all over the globe; HARBINGER WARS is the power play to see who will control them.
The two main puppet masters are of course corporations, a sad but accurate reflection of the age we live in. In one corner is the aforementioned Toyo Harada’s Harbinger Foundation, a multinational conglomerate that rose to power in the 20th century thanks in no small part to Harada’s Xavier like mental capabilities. In the other corner is Project Rising Spirit (PRS), an organization more clandestine than Harada and infinitely less virtuous. Harada is the villain you love to hate; he leaves room for sympathy in the fact that he does bad things towards a possible good end. PRS is basically Blackwater, a government contractor that will do anything for any government if the price is right.
BLOODSHOT is the PRS weapon of choice. A man with nanotech in his blood and a host of constructed memories meant to control him. And as we find out in this issue, he’s more than a rogue HARBINGER hunter, he’s also PRS’ final fail-safe to stop Harada.
HARBINGER WARS unfolded a deep history between Harada and PRS and it’s not a good one. Apparently back in the 60’s these two warring entities were once friends…or at the very least in co-opitition. Now though, as the race to see who can collect the most Harbinger kiddies continues to accelerate, each organization seeks to put the other permanently in the red.
As the confrontation between Harada and PRS escalates over in HARBINGER WARS, BLOODSHOT 11 takes the time to expand on the protocols PRS embedded in their albino killing machine to take down the most powerful man on the planet. What was only a few pages become a full 22 as we shift from Harada’s POV to the little boy living in BLOODSHOT. No this isn’t a set-up for a Michael Jackson joke.
The original BLOODSHOT in Valiant universe 1.0 always left me unfulfilled. His blood of heroes was more back-story for the future samurai RAI versus being an engaging character himself. He still had nanotech coursing through his veins, but that is where the similarities ended. For Valiant 2.0 they made one small move that made a huge difference in the story: sentient nanotech. That’s right this blood talks and takes on the form of a small little boy, with a larger than life arrogance. For each Harada protocol released during the battle, the creators take us inside BLOODSHOT to see just how much this is fucking with his mind. An EMP blast, a purging of the nanotech akin to two-girls-one-cup and finally a head explosion that leaves you wondering whether BLOODSHOT’s regeneration can truly handle anything. This would be as good a time as any to give Kitson his kudos on switching between extreme gore and the sterile operating room of BLOODSHOT’S mind.
The Eisner award nominees were just released a few weeks ago and a stark trend is forming. While Valiant didn’t make the list, their indie counterparts dwarf the modicum of accolades bestowed upon the Big 2. This is a sign of our storytelling times. I consider Valiant and Image to be some of my top reads right now. Valiant satiates my thirst for an interwoven universe, where I turn to Image to deliver cool quick-hit concepts. Not three years ago I was being satisfied on both fronts by DC and Vertigo. The ability to dethrone a giant in the hearts’ of readers is probably the best compliment I can give Valiant and of course BLOODSHOT.