Bloodshot has been a title that would feature its lead character on the hunt for answers about himself and his history since the inception of its run. Whether he has to go through Project Rising Spirit or Toyo Harada to get them, then that is exactly what he will do. As far as he knows, his entire life has been a lie, in fact numerous lies, piled on from years of programming to make sure he never remembers his past and stays a puppet. The only truth that he knows is the now. From the moment he broke free of PRS he has been on the hunt for his life and with this current volume by Cristos Gage, Joshua Dysart and Duffy Boudreau, it continues in the same manner. It just so happens that like all the previous volumes, it is filled with exciting action sequences, tense and dramatic moments and a whole lot of suspense.
The current volume finds Bloodshot and the H.A.R.D. Corps in Africa, attempting to stop Simon Oreck and some former employees of PRS during a mission to stop pipeline theft. Things do not go quite as expected as they are more than a match for the H.A.R.D. Corps and Bloodshot himself. What follows is some history on PRS and Simon Oreck’s squad, a murder in the ranks, an out of control member and deception at the highest level. It is up to Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps leader Charlie Palmer to sort it all out, make compromises amongst themselves and the enemy and find out just what is really going on before everything comes crashing down.
The writers of this book, while continuing off of what Duane Swierczynski has previously built, have ramped up the intrigue and paranoia immensely. It is now impossible for anyone on the team to know who to trust anymore, including each other. PRS seems to play the long game with all of its pieces, meaning both Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps, being considered expendable. While Bloodshot and the team essentially know that, things are getting worse and when one of them dies, seemingly at Bloodshot’s hand, things start to go from bad to worse. Factor in the mystery of Simon Oreck and the members of his team of operatives and knowing who to trust, much less what to think, is becoming an impossible situation.
Seeing some of the team’s history is a good thing as we have some but not as much as we would like up until this point and it adds another facet to the book that only helps to keep the interest level high. With new characters like Coldwar, Chernobyl, Big Boy and Sharpshooter, it aids in increasing the rogues gallery which up until this point has been pretty limited. In only a short period of time, the writers take this new historical element to PRS and these new characters and use them to good effect, challenging the team and Bloodshot like they have rarely been challenged before, at least as far as the reader is concerned. The fact that Gage and Dysart, and then Boudreau later, could introduce all of these new elements so effortlessly and seamlessly, really speaks to their talent.
Artistically, the book is a mixed bag. While most of it looks pretty good, specifically Al Barrionuevo’s section of the book, there are a lot of artists to differentiate between time periods and though it is good of Valiant to try something like that, it would have been nice if they had just stuck to one artist to give it a bit of consistency. The weakest part of the book, sadly, was Bart Sears. It was by no means his worst work, but when paired up with the other artists, it was a little lacking. Even compared to his other work, such as the covers on the rebooted Turok at Dynamite which are magnificent, Sears’ work here just looks a little rushed. Maybe that was the case, and maybe not, but he has done stronger pencils and if he should get another gig at the new Valiant, hopefully they give him some lead time to give it all he’s got.
One thing that can be said about the book is that it never lacks for excitement and you are never bored when reading this title. There are no wasted moments and everything feels like it counts which is really important. Though Bloodshot has little background that he can remember, you feel for the guy in his quest to know himself, as well as Charlie Palmer and the team. Working under constant threat has got to be hard and the team of writers make the reader experience that oppressiveness and it is not only suspenseful, but highly enjoyable. Bloodshot’s fifth volume marks another win for Valiant in their quest to provide quality comic books in a marketplace that gets larger everyday.
4 out of 5