Publisher: Valiant
Writer: Deniz Camp
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colourist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Hasan Otsmane-Elhaou

Bloodshot Unleashed is an interesting beast. It has action and gore and earns that mature tag for the visuals alone. Yet there’s far more going on underneath. There’s guilt, regret, subtle character reflection and a subtext that seems to be making a statement about the current USA. It’s bleak and dark and harks back to the tragic potential of Bloodshot at its heart. There’s a lot here to admire.

I will start with the one thing I disliked and that’s the fridging of Bloodshot’s wife and daughter. On the one hand continuity forBloodshot Unleashed picks up after Lemire’s excellent run, which is still my favourite take on the character. On the other hand killing off the hero’s family to send him spiralling down and then using it as an excuse for revenge is an old trope which was played out decades ago. It’s not new or interesting and was my least favourite aspect of this new run. Mostly because I feel this series has bigger potential than falling back on old ideas.

There is a definite compelling air right from the first page. We have the exposition of Bloodshot’s past against the background of red coloured, panels where Bloodshot is front and centre, the white contrasting with the red. Then there’s a panel where he shoots his brains out. It’s shocking, sparing no gory detail and quite sudden. Of course Bloodshot grows his brain back but it still hurts, both the shot and the emotional pain after. There’s a whole heap of character going on there in between some very evocative art.

I think that’s the real strength of this issue. The character work. Shoutout to Nobody, the CIA operative who clues Bloodshot into the existence of a bunch of escaped, insane, super soldiers. Nobody never gets a name and the character design is clever, not obviously masculine or feminine. You can read into the character, rather anonymous. It’s a clever device. Nobody is someone we don’t know the name of but whom we learn a hell of a lot about, and about the kind of person they are. The interactions between Bloodshot and Nobody are very rich. The art again is the same stark red background, small less than showy panels allow the characters to just be with great little details, like the smile of a cigarette.

Not to say that there isn’t action. There is. If you want to see Bloodshot facing off against an adversary and getting shot then there is plenty of that. His nemesis this issue: Lieutenant Robert Chambers isn’t your average bad guy as he’s a super soldier who has strength, determination and a big gun. The colouring of yellows and greens gives highlights to the fights.

Even in those fights there’s character work. Chambers is a self proclaimed patriot. You can’t help but feel there’s some timely subtext underneath his bluster. He represents something we’ve seen in recent events in the US. He seems to almost be a comment on certain factions. Ironically given the obviousness of this action and some of his words the interpretation is a bit more subtle.

This is a solid return for Bloodshot. Surprisingly there is a lot of character work going on. Don’t get me wrong it’s also interesting and action packed but it feels like the mature rating is for more than that. It isn’t just about blooded corpses but actually for some very unsettling ideas and sentiments. The themes get pretty dark. Bloodshot has only just started his new mission but it will be interesting to see if the real deep potential is fully realised. I hope so because this does have the potential to do some interesting things beyond the man pain and revenge possibilities.

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