Sunday, November 30, 2014

Bloodshot: Overall (Acclaim Comics)

The original Bloodshot series from Valiant Comics is extremely boring to me. It's incredibly mediocre, and the whole thing just screams of wasted potential. The Acclaim remake on the other hand improves on every aspect of its predecessor.

Bloodshot is the story of a man brought back to life by a sinister organization known as the D.O.A., seemingly to be made into a superweapon. He manages to escape, knowing that he's supposedly named Raymond Garrison, but he doesn't believe it. He's drawn to the name Angelo Mortalli, and goes on a search for the truth of his identity, in the process finding nasty truths, and battling superpowered opponents...

First of all, this is a very good remake! Nevermind that it's good while the original series sucks. This is a fine remake as it changes enough to be different, but keeps enough to still be the same thing.

Bloodshot isn't just regular action fare, but is also a really bizarre series! Its dialogue is either unintentionally hilariously pretentious, or deliberately so. I'm willing to bet it's the latter, as this series knows to poke fun at itself and its writing style at times. This series has humour here and there, and far from being out of place, it adds to the surreal tone.

This series' themes of soul, identity, meaning to life, science and supernatural, and totalitarianism are pretty fascinating, and the series is very literate, especially in how it ends each issue with a quote pertaining to each story's events. They're all great quotes, but the best is by far the last one, which caps off the series' fantastic ending perfectly!

The titular character is very well-written. His superpower set is interesting, while his attitude is kinda darkly snarky, and his journey for soul and identity adds depth. Best of all, unlike most other anti-heroes of the '90's, Bloodshot is not cliched, and not annoying! YES! Not once does he complain how 'Murderers get a slap on the wrist in court while good men die', and he never says 'Take back the night'! Both phrases are among the most repeated ones in the '90's, and are thusly infuriating to read, to the point where they're mostly only used nowadays in parody.

Simon Oreck is a very good villain! While we unfortunately don't find out his true motivations until the last issue, he's still a well-written villain althroughout. His dialogue could make him come across as a know-it-all if the writing in this series wasn't as good as it is, but thankfully it instead paints a devious and cunning villain! As for how he looks, it's deliberately grotesque, given he's as big as Mr. Creosote from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, but this actually plays into the story, and isn't there for laughs.

Bloodshot features quite a few different characters from Acclaim's shared universe in cameos here and there, but the proper crossovers it has are with XO Man-O-War, and Shadowman. Both of these stories are complimentary to the respective characters, and they feel like they actually have a reason to play a part in the story, rather than just show up because Editorial wants a crossover.

Unfortunately, the more minor characters are wasted. The Chainsaw hit squad are an interesting bunch, but they're all killed in their respective issue. And then there's Agent Sinclair, who has some scenes that really give him character, but never lead to anything.

The art in this series is a mixed bag. Sometimes it looks cluttered and confusing, other times it's better. There are also chapter headings, which are ok, but can get a bit confusing when the stories are non-linear, and we get Chapter Three before One. Still, when that confusion wears off, the headings actually help you more easily realize the non-linearity going on.

Overall, only one Issue (#9) of this series is bad. The rest is a great read, and the most surreal action odyssey this side of Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning!...

Bloodshot #16 (Acclaim Comics)

Superhuman man Bloodshot is dead, by his own hand. However, while he wanted his journey to be over, as he saw his way of ending things as a means of foiling his adversaries, the people he meets in the afterlife tell him that nothing is over for him. Bloodshot returns to life, newly determined to end the threat of the malevolent D.O.A. once and for all...

The final issue of Acclaim's incarnation of Bloodshot, Issue #16 wraps things up perfectly. It provides a fantastic conclusion that ends this epic journey, providing a definite conclusion, yet the character's future is ripe for more stories.

The dialogue in this issue is great! While there's much of the story's arc concerning the title character that's unexplored, it doesn't feel like it's in a bad way, but rather intriguing. I especially like when Bloodshot meets Raymond Garrison in Deadside. His words to Bloodshot are cryptic, yet say so much, and are actually of worth, as opposed to just being mysterious for mystery's sake.

Some of Bloodshot's finest moments are in this issue, and he's a well-written anti-hero, with a definite arc. While it's not fully explained, there's enough to be a good character journey.

In previous issues, Simon Oreck has been a good villain, but we've never really known his motivations. Here, we learn them, and the add greatly to his character. He's pretty multi-faceted, albeit a tad underused, and he's definitely a well-written antagonist for this series.

The art here is very good, while the cover is ok, but a bit confusing.

Bloodshot Issue #16 is a great finale, and ends the series perfectly!...

Bloodshot #15 (Acclaim Comics)

Following the end of his journey retracing the steps of his past self, undead supersoldier Bloodshot returns to the headquarters of the D.O.A., the sinister organization that gave him life after death. There he finds them attempting to recreate the Project Lazarus experiment with a clone, who's been told that his agonizing incomplete nature was caused by Bloodshot...

This is an entertaining issue of Bloodshot, which brings things to the endgame. It's got good dialogue, good writing, and there's some neat dark humour.

Now onto the problems with this issue...

On the cover is a stylised name change-up-Bloodbath. It sure is a bloodbath alright...But not on the side you'd think! It's Bloodshot who easily takes down his imperfect clone, not the other way around. This is pretty bad writing. If this issue were double-sized, it'd be better able to flesh out its story and characters, but as it stands, nothing here poses a challenge for Bloodshot.

The clone's character is way too unexplored, and it's killed far too soon. As for the returning Eric Stroheim, he too is dispatched far to quickly and easily.

There's a cameo from what I think is another Acclaim character, but I'm not sure who. Maybe Eternal Warriors.

The art here is mostly decent. The clone is grotesquely overmuscled, but there's an actual reason for it, rather than it just being terrible Liefieldian artwork. As for why it looks so monstrous, that's never explained. If it was for a scare factor, then it fails, considering how easily killed the clone is.

Also, the final panel makes the same mistake as the similar-looking cover to Issue #9-Bloodshot's meant to be pointing his gun to his head, but it looks more like it's resting against his head. This kinda ruins the moment.

The cover isn't bad, but it's only showing a face, so it does come across as wasteful.

This is a problematic penultimate issue of Bloodshot, but it's still not bad by any means...

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Bloodshot #14 (Acclaim Comics)

Undead supersoldier Bloodshot is on the last leg of his journey of identity, which has led him to a secret underground Vatican library. Full of thousands of books, only one is of any importance to Bloodshot-A mysterious 'book of creation'...

This issue of Bloodshot is a mixed bag. One one hand, the writing is decent, and there are good scenes, but on the other hand, the plot is pretty underwritten. It's very confusing and unexplained what this book of creation even is, and why the D.O.A. originally wanted it.

Unfortunately, the ending is also a mess! Bloodshot bumps into Acclaim character Alexandre Darque, who espouses cryptically about stuff, then a giant star man is looming over Rome as Darque talks, then nothing is ever made of this again next issue! Huh?!

I have no idea if the giant Solar (as in Man of the Atom) at the end is metaphorical of something, or if this is supposed to be a lead-in to the Solar: Hell on Earth miniseries, or both. Either way, this is a baffling ending that'll probably leave you cold, despite the neat twisted humour, and if  it was meant to be a lead-in, then it should have said so in a caption box, rather than just assume the reader would automatically know of the Solar event comic.

A highlight of this issue is a two-page spread that shows characters from the original Valiant universe side by side with their Acclaim counterparts. It looks great, for the most part, and while it's confusing as hell what's going on with this Vatican book Bloodshot's reading, it gets across a nice sense of nostalgia and legacy.

There's not a whole lot of pretentious Bloodshot speak, but what there is is amusing. "Ever-rising tide of obfuscating verbiage; the plural deafening itself to the singular. Noise frozen in ink."

The art here is good. The two-page spread is drawn very well, minus a couple of problems. 1, the Acclaim Gilad looks oddly obese, and 2, the Acclaim Magnus' arm musculature looks odd.

The cover is pretty good! It's stylish, and has many facets all over to look at.

This is a confusing issue of Bloodshot, but it's not worthless filler, and it does get across important arc details, so I still recommend it...

Bloodshot #13 (Acclaim Comics)

Superpowered undead man Bloodshot is on one of the final legs of his journey of identity. He's in Russia, at the site of a secret project so dangerous, everyone involved in mapping and charting its location was liquidated, and the test facility is in the middle of a vast fenced off area 100 kilometres wide, with five nukes pointed straight at it from a satellite, prepared to fire at a moments notice. Whatever it is that necessitated such safeguards drove Bloodshot's former self Raymond Garrison mad for half a year, and he's intent on finding out the truth behind this encounter...

Bloodshot Issue #13's story is by far the most strange of this series, but not without good reason. The story here is rather fascinating, with its ideas of disastrous reality-breaking psychotronic experiments, and their effects on land, the human mind, and the abandoned test subjects indirectly responsible for all the chaos.

Interesting this story indeed is, but its concepts are sadly too unexplored for its own good. The psychotropic weirdness just suddenly stops, Bloodshot talks to the test subject at the heart of the warped facility for a couple of pages, The End. If the issue was double-sized, then I think it would've been able to flesh out its story more. Still, A for effort!

The non-linear flavour to the narrative makes things a bit confusing, as does the rapid onset craziness. One second, things are fine, the next, Bloodshot's in a giant D.O.A. shredder bin that may or may not actually exist. A bit of segue would've been good.

This isn't much of a character issue at all, more focusing on events. Bloodshot doesn't have a whole lot of character here, but we do get a sense of how computer-like his mind is, especially when the psychotronic stuff affects him like a computer virus. As for the test subject, what she has to say to Bloodshot is quite interesting in regards to what he is, though the story then ends too soon for her.

After a few issues without that distinctive hilariously pretentious Bloodshot speak, we get it in spades here, even to the point of parody! It's nice that this series knows enough to poke fun at itself, yet still take everything seriously. It also helps that it does have small doses of humour here and there. Not only does it not feel out of place, but it adds immensely to the absolutely bizarre tone this series has!

"Fabric of space-time unraveled; tangled snarls of Gordian knots and strange loops. Causality violated by the double murder of Cause and Effect. The seconds twitch by fitfully, broken-sprocketed movie footage. Eternity's deck of cards shuffled at random. Uncertainty writ macrocosmic, unleashed from its sub-atomic quantum prison. Einstein wept." Cause was posthumously tried in the court of quantum space.

"This is the place where men briefly held reality in their hands, only to stumble and irreparably shatter part of it-Where time's arrow has been hammered into knots by a psychotic blacksmith, and all God has forbidden is mandatory." It's of course well-known that psychotic blacksmiths are among the universe's greatest dangers.

And then there's my personal favourite line from the whole series-"Secrets breed documentation. Lies kill trees!"

The art here is quite good! It's not cluttered, except in the craziness where it's meant to be. There's also some stylishly different artwork with the crazed test subject's mental form, which adds to the story's feel.

The cover is sorta lacking. The background with the ethereal face is nice, and Bloodshot's not terribly drawn, but there's not quite enough going on.

This is one of my favourite issues of Acclaim's Bloodshot, and is the epitome of what this series strives to be...

Bloodshot #11 and #12 (Acclaim Comics)

Resurrected superpowered corpse Bloodshot is continuing on the trail of his past self to find out what he is now that he's no longer Raymond Garrison. His search leads him to Vietnam, where a superhuman Triad assassin named Warcat is out for his blood. Their fight is short-lived, however, as Voodoo warrior Shadowman comes onto the scene and draws their attention to a a mechanical army of the living dead, and the unwilling trio have to fight for their lives...

This two-parter in Acclaim actioner Bloodshot has a well-written action story, which delves both into Bloodshot's past, and present.

The present story is ok, albeit a bit bare, and there's an interesting flashback story with Raymond Garrison, which, due to its content, is an important memory for Bloodshot to be looking answers from, rather than just being pointless padding.

Unfortunately the narration in these two issues can get a bit long winded

Bloodshot is a good main character with a a neat superpower set, and one that makes sense, and doesn't feel overpowering.

Fellow Acclaim character Shadowman is decent in this story. While he unfortunately doesn't actually interact with Bloodshot much until the end, he's not just here for name value. His presence is actually genuinely important to the story, in more ways than one! This story also serves as a neat backdoor pilot if you will. It may entice you to pick up his own series!...Of course I would recommend you not do that, because while it may be the second best Shadowman series there is, that doesn't mean it's all that good.

Warcat is a confusing character. Her entire involvement in this story is unexplained, and there's little to her besides being seductive, and possibly murderous. While her background is partially explained in a brief narration box, it's still a tad confusing why she's a human cat. Also, given that the cat getup isn't a costume, does that mean she's naked? Then 1, where are her proper boobs and 'netherregions', and 2, does that mean sex with her is bestiality?...No, I'm not saying that to be immature, Bloodshot actually bangs her. Geez, no wonder he put a bullet in his brain in the flashforward three issues ago!

D.O.A. Agent Sinclair is completely wasted, not because he's just not used much, but because his scene at the end of this story adds so much, yet the character did so little else in this story, and in future issues.

Like I said, The dialogue in these two issues is longwinded sometimes. "Re-read lines. Scan Between. Doubletalk. Governmentspeak. Stone cold Garrison don't give a damn denial. Look see what he wouldn't couldn't. Casualties of war could learn, did learn. They just had no interest in D.O.A.'s teachings. Their schooling: Lives ended too soon, and for no good reason. Their diploma: A shrieking passion for life fueled by rage and grief. Their gold star: Aluminium naptheate and aluminium palmate. Petroleum gel, aka napalm. Sticks to everything. Burns at 1562 degrees Fahrenheit. School's out for summer."

Other dialogue is amusing. "Shurikens. Useless weapons...Mycotoxins on the tip are another story. Ochratoxin-Ergotamine-Aflatoxin. Grain-based fungal derivatives. Central nervous system decimation. Liver and kidney failure. Nature's way of saying 'Die screaming!'."

The art in these issues is mostly pretty good, despite some odd angles to faces here and there. There's one moment of off continuity though, between the end of Issue #11 and the start of #12, involving Bloodshot's attire, and how he's suddenly wearing them, despite having no time in the zombie attack to put them on.

Another problem is the placement of some narration boxes that should have been before the final panel with Sinclair, but instead, you'll read his dialogue, then the boxes, effectively out of order because of this, which loses the effect a bit.

The cover to Issue #11 is great! It's got neat and dynamic character poses, and plenty going on! Issue #12's cover on the other hand, is not so good. The characters are posed decently, but the nothing background, which also happens to be bright pink does not add to anything.

This is a quite good two-parter of Bloodshot, even if its story doesn't tell quite enough...

Bloodshot Yearbook #1 (Classic Valiant)

Throughout its 53 issue run, Valiant action series Bloodshot had a couple of one-shots. I'll look at the other at another time, and today talk about the Bloodshot Yearbook....

Superhuman MI6 agent Bloodshot is on assignment in New York, supervising a drug deal sting operation. It goes south drastically, and all the feds involved are killed, while Bloodshot is injured in an explosion when pursuing the only surviving culprit. He's retrieved by Anna Trebecci, the wife of a notorious criminal. She's attracted to him, and the feeling is mutual. Things are complicated, however, when they start an affair, and her husband needs to be safely brought back to the country...

As a special yearbook (I'm not sure Valiant knows what that word means) issue, does it focus on something interesting, such as the sinister Iwatsu/Rising Spirit corporation (who gave Bloodshot his powers) plotting some dastardly plan in Japan? Could it be another epic tale for the ages? Nope, it's just some story about Bloodshot meeting a gal, mistaking the need to bang for love, and realizing she's a materialistic bitch and ditching her.

At 41 pages, this story completely squanders the added length with padding, and lead-up to an uninteresting climax and a story that just stops. It also takes nearly the length of a whole regular issue just for Bloodshot to watch a drug deal sting gone bad and resolve the situation!

The story is dull, poorly written in numerous ways, and its 'romance' has very poor chemistry. It also starts and ends too abruptly. Another problem is the 'makes it easy' aspect that the head assassin from the sting-gone-wrong just so happens to be one of Vincenzo Trebecci's would be assassins, otherwise the story would actually have to have Bloodshot doing something aside from lounge about a mansion cooking eggs!

Bloodshot is usually a boring character, and he is here, as well as an unlikeable murderous jerk, but he's also terribly cliched! His attitude is cliched in such a '90's way that it'd be funny if this wasn't meant to be taken seriously! It's a surprise he never says 'Take back the night'! He also never shuts up about his internal clock, despite such a body mechanic of his never having been mentioned before now. And of course, given his mastery over machines, he could just switch it off if it irks him that much.

There are many dumb things about his character this story, such as his feelings of dread concerning New York. He's defused a nuclear bomb with only seconds to spare, fallen 30,000 feet out of a plane, easily survived sniper rounds to the skull, yet a New York alley is enough to make his skin crawl? That's another annoying aspect to this issue-How much it trash talks NYC.

Another dumb moment is also at the start, when Bloodshot realizes that the sting a set-up, but does nothing to save the DEA agents, even though he's got a machine gun! And later on, he 'freezes' for a dumb reason and fails to save another life! And finally, it's idiotic that Bloodshot never calls his boss Neville for ages, claiming he needs to recuperate more. If you're doing one-legged push-ups, then you're healed enough to call your boss on the phone and tell him you're not dead, asshole!

The narration here is both over-abundant, poorly written, and pretentious. And not the fun knowing kind of pretentious like the Acclaim Bloodshot series. Worse is the really unsubtle ending imagery.

The art in this issue is dreadful! Everything looks filthy, scratchy, and gritty, while fight choreography and action posing is wretched! And then there's a typo where someone gasp's so hard, they do it with two P's!

There are other problems, such as the size of Bloodshot's uzi, which looks as big as a damn rifle! It's absurd! Then there's his outfit. His vest melds right onto his skin like it's greasepaint! The titular meathead repeatedly strikes stupid poses, which takes you out of the story a lot!

There's a poorly coloured scene where an assassin in a green shirt shoots a guy in a red one, but when the latter falls over dead, he's wearing an identical green shirt (right down to the folded sleeves), and the assassin's shirt is suddenly purple! What the hell?! Who got shot?!

Backgrounds are frequently negligible, ranging from black and purple negative zone spirals, to looking like the sun's exploded, or a magic eye. One even has Bloodshot striking a pose in front of the Scary Door from Futurama!

Finally, the cover. It sucks! All it is is Bloodshot standing in front of a nothing background, which bafflingly only goes through the middle, leaving both sides as black bordering. As for the art, it's not all that great. First of all, Bloodshot's waist compared to the rest of his body looks unnaturally thin compared to the rest of his body, like he's one of those people who go to bed each night wearing a corset, and second, his legs are both too long, and standing in an awkward position.

To finish, if you feel you could live your life without the mental image of Valiant hero Bloodshot cooking bacon in the buff and getting his man-tackle burnt, then you'll do good to avoid this boring one-shot...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Bloodshot #19 (Classic Valiant)

Like I've said before, Issue #14 of Valiant action series Bloodshot is the first and last fantastic issue in this entire mediocre series. However, that doesn't mean there's not some fun left, as evidenced by this issue!

A bunch of protection racket mobsters teach a circus a 'lesson' in overdue payment, gunning down several performers. They all die, save for one-Lenny Abruzzi. Driven to the edge, and already a tough guy, Lenny, aka 'Uzzi the Clown' recuperates, trains, then goes out onto the streets for some hunting. Uzzi is the toughest clown the criminals will soon wish they never crossed...

When I first found out that there was an issue where Bloodshoot is up against a joking clown vigilante, and in a story called Tears of a Clown no less, I figured this would be the point where the series jumps the shark. As it turns out, Uzzi the Clown is not only the best character to ever appear in Bloodshot, he's one of the best in all of Valiant too! He has a dramatic and well-defined arc, some hilariously ridiculous lines of dialogue, and he really brings some life to the otherwise stale proceedings.

Aside from Uzzi, this is a pretty dull story, of boring gangland nothing, with an end that's far too abrupt. Thankfully, while it seems like Uzzi dies at the end (in a really rushed manner), he comes back for a two-parter a few issues down the line.

Bloodshot is pretty dull here, and has no personal stake in the story. He's just doing stuff because it's his job, and there's no real attachment felt to anything he does. Especially annoying is that there's nothing ever made of the counterpoint between him and Uzzi. Both are men who were brutally wronged, both are pale white (whether it be from facepaint, or human experimentation), and both extracted violent and murderous vigilante justice. Yet the story never acknowledges the similarities, and when they do finally meet, they barely converse, Bloodshot shoots Uzzi's gun away, the clown instantly leaps off a bridge, and the story just stops.

There's one pretty dumb moment when Bloodshot detains a group of criminals, and when they ask who he is, he tells them! I guess he doesn't pay that much heed to the SECRET part of his job description!

The art here is decent. Some spots were drawn worse than others, but overall, it's ok. The cover isn't very good. The faces are a bit underdrawn, the multiple-shots arc is poorly drawn,  and the gunshots look more like lasers!

While this issue of Bloodshot has a fun character in Uzzi the Clown, it unfortunately wastes him. Still, he's an extremely entertaining addition to the story, which would have otherwise been irredeemably boring...

Bloodshot #18 (Classic Valiant)

Superhuman secret agent Bloodshot is on assignment in the Middle East, with instructions to find terrorist Bhutu Hassan, an extremist who has stolen a nuclear bomb, and with it intends to 'liberate' Palestine. Bloodshot tracks the madman down, but unfortunately he's up against a villain who's more than happy with detonating the nuke the moment he sees trouble...

Bloodshot Issue #18 is more mediocrity from this series. The plot is a bore that never takes advantage of its interesting setting, using it only as a backdrop for a stereotypical (not inaccurate, but cliched nonetheless) villain. The stolen nuke is the only thing that comes close to creating tension in the story, and even it's just in a scant couple of pages before it's defused.

Bloodshot is dull and overpowered here. Nothing in the story poses a challenge for him, and in the climax, he effortlessly takes down ten heavily armed bad guys in seconds.

The story's villain, Bhutu Hassan, mugs a lot, but there's nothing too him, and he puts up little fight against Bloodshot either.

A particularly bad scene is one which showcases a dumb part of Bloodshot's superpower set. He puts his hand on a computer monitor, and the robotic nanites in his bloodstream allow him to communicate with his boss Neville through his office. Nevermind the idiocy of doing this when he's touching the monitor, not the computer itself, it's absurd that he simply needs to rest his hand on a computer and talk, and he's instantly able to talk to someone at a different computer, halfway across the world no less! And this is from using a computer described as ancient by 1994 standards!

The artwork is decent, but the background in some spots really leave something to be desired. Those white void backgrounds are annoying enough, but this issue has both yellow and red ones on the same page! It looks absurd, like a kid got loose with the Bloodshot master prints in Paint! The cover is ok, but the background, or lack thereof, is boring.

Again this series completely wastes its plots' potential with Bloodshot Issue #18...

Bloodshot #17 (Classic Valiant)

I'm of the opinion that comic characters The HARD Corps have the ability to elevate whatever mediocre Valiant comic they guest star in. Unfortunately, Classic Valiant seemed all too keen to test the limits of that theory, whether it be by having them appear in the mediocre Bloodshot, having the bland Armorines in the Corps' own series, or by tying them in with an event story that they have nothing to do with. Today, I'll be focusing on the first of those occasions...

After the events of last issue, superhuman secret agent Bloodshot is in a coma, having been shot in the head. The doctor's at the trauma centre have no idea what to make of him, and Bloodshot's associates back in England are worried. Meanwhile, superpowered corporate mercenary strike team HARD Corps, having encountered Bloodshot before, are keen on testing his DNA, to see if he's a Harbinger (mutant that they can copy superpowers from), and make off with him under false pretenses. Back at the trauma centre, Bloodshot's coworker Jillian Alcott is furious at his disappearance, and teams up with Sergeant Major Olga Petrolka, an ally of Bloodshot's, to find out who's taken him. Back with the HARD Corps, they're running some tests, and unwittingly set off a failsafe with the robotic nanites in Bloodshot's body, and he wakes up on autopilot, with intent to kill all of his 'enemies'...

This is a somewhat tolerable issue of Bloodshot thanks to the inclusion of the HARD Corps, but the writing is too subpar. Neither Sergeant Major Petrolka or Jillian contribute anything to the plot, making their scenes entirely pointless, no-one has any character, there's little context for who the HARD Corps are, and there's little Bloodshot, as he only regains consciousness in the last third, and is only himself in the last two pages. That last point is slightly forgivable given the circumstances of the plot, but I'd only forgive it if the characters picking up the slack were well-rounded. Now, the HARD Corps are well-defined characters in their own series, and they are a likeable presence here, thankfully, even though we know little about them in this context.

The ending is the most unforgivable part of this issue. When Bloodshot returns to normal, he recognizes the HARD Corps as friends, and starts talking with them...for all of two panels! The scene abruptly cuts away mid-conversation, which is already poor writing on its own, but it's doubly infuriating for anyone who actually wanted to read Bloodshot and the HARD Corp conversing (me, for one).

On last thing to discuss involving this issue's cast. Sergeant Major Petrolka was a likeable character last issue, so I'm extra annoyed that when she appears again, and for the last time, she's entirely wasted! I don't even know why she's so distraught over Bloodshot's condition (as in, stay in the trauma centre over him for days distraught). They're not an item, nor do they know each-other all that much. I guess the sporadic security discussions, and the one quickie they had last issue must have really been the beginning of a beautiful relationship!

The artwork here is ok, but the same look of wide-mouthed shock on character Miss Lincoln's face (pictured at the top) is damn near copied for Jillian a few pages later, and Bloodshot's face in the last panel looks so wooden that Gunslinger must've slipped him a roofie! The cover looks great! It shows an actual scene from the issue, and one that manages to make for a nifty cover!

The inclusion of the awesome HARD Corps can do little to save this issue of Bloodshot from mediocrity, unfortunately...

Bloodshot #16 (Classic Valiant)

Superhuman secret agent Bloodshot is on assignment in a war-torn Eastern European country, to protect the Ambassador Rokjevich, a politician aiming for bringing peace and stability to the country. There are countless people who want Rokjevich dead, and Bloodshot soon begins to suspect the ambassador's shifty second-in-command Vladimir of foul play...

Bloodshot Issue #16's plot is a bit of a bore, and wastes its setting completely. It could have had a quite interesting plot involving the desperate struggle for peace over a decades-long civil war, but instead that's written as an afterthought and a backdrop.

There's very little action here, and the majority of events are just setting up security, and occasionally detaining would-be-assassins before anything can actually happen. The plot just stops mid-scene. Nothing is resolved, concluded, or anything of the sort, and this is a standalone issue! Every plot point and character is a loose end!

The dialogue can get pretty annoying too, such as when the ambassador starts up a conversation with Bloodshot about the war. "Let me share a story with you," he says, then Next Scene. This is infuriating, as I was interested in a potentially interesting talk between two old soldiers about past deeds and lesson's that seemed to be coming.

There's bad dialogue in the form of lines such as "The front desk will tell you where you're sleeping", and "My cousin was shot for looting while trying to salvage his own belongings after an attack. From his own home", both from Sergeant Major Petrolka. It's possible the intent here is that English is not Petrolka's first language, so her syntax may not be perfect, but her English is otherwise perfect, so I'll level this on bad writing.

Bloodshot is pretty bland here, and is annoying/irksome in places, largely due to his constant referral of Sergeant Major Petrolka by her first name, or as 'lady'. He's also a dumbass who thinks with the wrong head, as when he's about to go spying on who he thinks is a crooked politician, Petrolka goes to his room and starts stripping, so Bloodshot figures that "Vladimir can wait", and decides to get groove on with the Sergeant Major. When the war's over, dumbasses!

Olga Petrolka is a likeable character. Nothing too memorable, but she's a good addition to the story. Everyone else in this story is dull, with nothing to them, especially the villains, or lack thereof. The character of Vladimir might be the villain, but the story stops before we can find out.

The art here is decent, but some characters are drawn worse than others, such as one who looks right out of a Frank Miller comic. The cover is terrible, not because of how well it's drawn, but because it spoils the ending! Bloodshot taking a bullet for the ambassador is meant as a shock ending, but it's literally the first thing you'll know about the issue! Putting that aside temporarily, it is well drawn, and stylish, but, Bloodshot has been hit in the head by a sniper, and we're seeing this directly from its POV, yet there's no entry wound!

This is a dull issue of Bloodshot, which is nothing but a wasteful loose end...

Archer and Armstrong #16 (Classic Valiant)

After a narrow escape from the murderous cult The Sect, drunkard immortal Armstrong and his young Buddhist sidekick Archer go to Vegas. However, it turns out that this casino is run by a former member of The Sect (who are devoted solely to killing Armstrong). Rather than wanting to kill Armstrong, Danielle Devereaux wants to strike up a deal to take down the Sect higher-ups, which'll gain her complete control over The Sect, and leave Armstrong free of their eternal hounding...

This is a dull issue of Valiant comedy Archer and Armstrong with no meat to it. It starts off out of nowhere, and just as it starts to kick its plot into gear, it ditches it, and just stops, with literally nothing having been accomplished. There's one decent action scene with Archer at the two-thirds point, but that's the extent of this issue's fun.

The comedy here is extremely weak. There's no intelligence or wit, and what there is is made up of unfunny punchlines.

The characters this issue are dull. Armstrong has no personality, and is an idiot who comes across an opportunity to finally rid himself of the problem of The Sect, and he ditches it for no reason, screwing over the woman who was willing to help him.

Archer, while likeable-ish for the most part, comes across as a jackass for sleeping around on his 'girlfriend' from the last three issues! In the context of that story (that is to say, no actual chemistry came across to the reader), Archer and Amy, who have been dating, develop a strong connection, to the point where she's distraught at his absence after a huge earthquake, which, as far as everyone else thinks, killed him. While Archer and Armstrong just bail LA for no real reason, not bothering to tell anyone that they're not dead, Amy finds and retrieves Archer's prized crossbow, to keep it safe for him, as she believes in him, and his survival. Meanwhile, the very next issue, he's this close to banging a hooker in Vegas! Couple this with Armstrong's sleeping around on his wife Andromeda, and we really don't get a very likeable duo here!

The ex-sect 'ally' for Armstrong Danielle Devereaux has little to her, largely due to the nothing story ending before it can start.

The only character in this story who's anywhere near likeable is Bethany, the (unnamed until the last page) prostitute Archer hooks up with. I'd much rather read a series about her than these two personality-less, philandering shmucks!

Speaking of Bethany, there's a really dumb scene involving her at the end. After the duo say their goodbyes to her, Archer says that he gave Bethany some money to help wit her college tuition, but instead of just giving it to her, he slipped the money (his thousands in casino winnings) into her bag,  because he "knew she would be suspicious of a gift". Ok first of all, given Archer's background, a gift like that wouldn't be out-of-place for him, and two, it's a damn sight more suspicious if she opens her bag and sees thousands of dollars that she has nothing to do with. Unless Archer also had the time to leave a note, she'll probably call the cops lest she end up like Josh Brolin in No Country for Old Men!

The artwork here is surprisingly ok. That is to say, it's absolutely lacklustre, but it looks closer to the series' original artist Barry Windsor Smith's art style than the dreadful look of future issues. Unfortunately, nearly a third of this issue is blurry and out-of-focus.

The cover is crap. The background is sorely lacking to the point where it almost looks like it's taking place outside, rather than indoors like it's meant to, while the art isn't much better, with the worst being Armstrong, who's oddly distended. Archer and Danielle are drawn decently, and I like the imagery on the pokie machine, but these positives are offset by annoying aspects such as the odd positions the henchmen are flying in, both of which defy gravity.

Overall, this is yet another waste of an issue of Archer and Armstrong...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bloodshot #15 (Classic Valiant)

The apartment building of Bloodshot, a superhuman secret agent, is attacked by an arsonist. The attackers turn out to be Cinder and Glyder, two Harbingers (superpowered people) who seemingly died in a previous run-in with Bloodshot, and are now desperate for revenge...

There's not much to this issue. Two bad guys want the good guy dead, try to kill him, fail, The End. Other scenes throughout do prevent this from being an issue long fight scene, but there's a serious lack of substance, especially in regards to the boring title character. His narration isn't awfully written or anything, but he's just so bland, and has little personality.

As for the two villains, Cinder and Glyder, the return of these characters is appreciated, as their crimes in their last appearance were huge enough that they deserve more story and better sendoff than the abrupt offpanel 'death' they got. However, their characters still aren't all that fleshed out, and are still somewhat boring.

The writing here is ok, but not special, and there are some poorly written exposition dumps in two scenes. The first is when Cinder and Glyder are discussing their revenge, and out of nowhere, Cinder suddenly explains how the duo escaped their 'deaths' last issue*, and the second when Bloodshot's boss, and coworker Neville and Jillian Alcott are discussing the destruction of the Weaponeer organization (who featured in Issue #13), and he too abruptly says something random, which Jillian should already know anyway.

*As it turns out, I accidentally read the characters' dialogue in the first panel of said scene (pictured below) the wrong way around due to a confusion with their real names, which really made Cinder's sudden history lesson feel out of nowhere. Now that I've read the scene properly, the line is less forced (as it could have been a lead-in to real dialogue if not for Glyder's interruption), but only slightly.

There are a couple of scenes tying this to the 'Search for the Vault' story in other Valiant series Secret Weapons, which is pointless, as we already saw the ending scene here in that series. Especially worse is the continuity error, which shows characters Gilad and Geoff in Bloodshot's apartment about to be briefed on MI6's 'search for the Weaponeer arms vault'. The problem is that in Secret Weapons, this conversation happened in a park, and the moment Bloodshot approached the two friends for help, they were dragged into the nonstop adventure.

There's also a pretty dumb scene when Bloodshot and the issue's villains are fighting on a rooftop, and a couple of simple fire blasts manage to make the roof cave in instantly, and make the building's top structure drastically unstable. Unless the roof was made out of tinder wood, I'm not buying it.

The artwork here is mostly decent, but there's one pretty major screw-up when Glyder's talking while in front of a mirror. Her mouth is open, but her reflection's mouth is shut! The cover is ok, but a bit bland, though that's probably more due to how boring I find these characters rather than in any part due to the artwork.

This is a pretty wasteful issue, and it gets across very little, especially when it comes to its characters...