Review – Bloodshot U.S.A. #4 (Valiant)

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Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Doug Braithwaite & Brian Reber
Release Date: 25th January, 2017

Everything ends as it begins.  Well,sort of. There is a real sense of coming full circle from Colorado to Bloodshot U.S.A. here that fans will appreciate. The question is, was the journey worth it? Certainly, we’ve had some fantastic arcs, with Colorado, The Analogue Man, and Bloodshot Island being the picks of the bunch. Yet, for me at least, Bloodshot USA doesn’t reach that highest of standards that I’ve come to expect from this title. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled rotten.  Hell, I know that sometimes the streak can’t continue, and I want to clarify that I’m not saying Bloodshot USA is bad, not at all, it’s just not quite as good as its predecessors.

All the right ingredients were there; Kozol and Project Rising Sun; a new enemy; a battle against insurmountable odds. Yet when all these components were mixed together, it just hasn’t blended as well as you felt it perhaps should have. This was supposed to be a mini event series, a moment of real change in the Valiant Universe. Yet the extra characters, namely Ninjak, Livewire and GN-GR, added little to the story. It’s almost like they were just there to fill out the roster. Sure, we had one small moment of drama with a virus-infected Ninjak decapitating Ray a couple of episodes ago, but that resolved itself in a couple of pages, reducing the act to a cheap moment of manufactured drama. It’s frustrating when you think back to how amazing Ninjak’s addition to The Analogue Man story was. The ensemble cast could easily have been removed here, having only Bloodshot Squadron fighting off the infected inhabitants of New York, and the reader would have been none the wiser.

The addition of Agent Festival promised an interesting new turn in Bloodshot’s story. Could she be the Psiot equivalence of Sherlock Holmes as Kozol implied? Well, we never get to find out, as her role in this story is basically that of a spectator. It’s even Magic that breaks them out of their cell, with Festival being little more a ride-along. Even the perceived love triangle of Ray, Kate and Magic seems a bit forced, more like going through the motions than an actual plot vehicle.

Enough about what I didn’t like though, let’s get to the good stuff. Sure, it may not sound like it so far, but there are a lot of positives mixed in with the negatives. Kay McHenry/Deathmate, for instance. What a great character she could be now that she has been liberated from the control of PRS. Bloodshot 2.0, more powerful (perhaps), and with the Kay consciousness returned she looks absolutely badass. There is a nice little throwback to The Valiant with Kay talking to her younger self – could this be Deathmate’s own Bloodsquirt? Who knows, but it’s one of those nice little touches that Lemire has skill in adding to a story.

The final battle, where the odds appear to be too much for Bloodshot Squadron to handle is conducted at a rigorous pace, and their struggle and sacrifice seems fitting. The story truly shines at the culmination of the battle. What happens, and how it’s drawn and coloured by Doug and Brian is, hands down, a little moment of pure magic. Or perhaps I should say a grandiose moment of pure magic, as the scale of the action is, for want of a better word, cosmic!

Doug Braithwaite and Brian Reber have drawn this issue brilliantly.  It’s a great show of skill. There is such a sense of speed as we hurtle towards our conclusion, and they’ve paced it with spot on dexterity. There’s also a sense of unbridled power in the way Doug draws Deathmate as she moves through the story. I swear if I listened for it I could hear the pages hum. There is also a spectacular two-page spread at the conclusion that Brian has coloured to damn near perfection. It gives a perfect sense of the scale of the events, as well as incorporating one of the more iconic superhero poses.

Bloodshot U.S.A. is a great story, brought down a little by some unanswered or redundant pieces. As a conclusion to the Bloodshot Reborn story the actual ending is brilliant.  The reader has come full circle and has learned much on the way. It’s fitting. For the greater Valiant Universe, there are some exciting questions for the future. Now Kay is back, the Immortal Enemy must surely be due a re-appearance? As Geomancer, their destinies are entwined, and if he returns he must find out about the new Geomancer. The one Gilad brought from the future to break their cycle of death.  Unity has several new wards in the remaining Bloodshot Squadron, Deathmate and Diane Festival, and PSR may have lost the battle, but not the war. How will the world react to the events of New York, and how will that shape what is to come? All those things aside, has Ray finally found a sense of equilibrium? Can he make a go if it with Magic? Only time will tell.

Rating: 3.5/5.

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13043453_10154167818863408_9180033184388957427_nThe writer of this piece was: Andrew McGlinn
Andrew Tweets from @Jockdoom.

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