I consistently rank X-O MANOWAR as my favorite Valiant title, but I can say with full confidence BLOODSHOT is a really close second (not to belittle their other titles -- they all legitimately rock). I can always rely on the book for some twisted action, and now that HARBINGER WARS is invading the book's pages, there's a fantastic plot to compliment all of the chaos, too. But the truly great thing is the publisher's first big event isn't totally taking the wheel and sidetracking all of the book's previous plots. Instead, writer Duane Swierczynski manages to merge them together and delivers a satisfying (and violent) conclusion to his relationship with Kuretich.
It's not all blood and gloom, though. The incorporation of the psiot kids brings a nice sense of levity to the book. One moment a man is being cut into pieces and the next an innocent and powerful kid is using his powers to make enemy soldiers play duck, duck, goose. It's hard to believe something adorable could come from this series, but there you have it, folks. Oh, and seeing Baxter use his power is always fun.
The art in BLOODSHOT'S initial stories had more of a superhero vibe to it. The characters were bulging with muscles and overall it had a pretty energetic vibe. But Barry Kitson's pencils give the book a darker, rougher and slightly more realistic approach to the book. The gritty style compliments Duane's script perfectly and makes all of these gruesome events appropriately cringeworthy (I can't get over how frightening Bloodshot's blown apart face is). Throw in bright yet never overwhelming coloring by Brian Reber and defined inks by Rob Steen and Stefano Gaudiano and the end result is a consistently solid looking issue.
Minor gripe: I'm not the biggest fan of opening up a story with a glimpse of the future before eventually diving back to that exact moment. I feel like that scene could have been handled just fine when we reached the point later in the issue and it would have made what happened to Bloodshot way more shocking.
While the plot didn't take any big steps regarding HARBINGER WARS, it managed to successfully implement the characters and close a fairly big chapter in Bloodshot's life. Additionally, I'm really digging the moments where we can see what's going on in Bloodshot's mind and he makes a huge development in there. BLOODSHOT is Valiant's way of serving up a terrific R-rated action film once a month. Since issue 1, it has been consistent with offering twisted action, detailed panels and a legitimately engrossing adventure.
No one tell PETA about the cows, though.