Cover gimmicks were everywhere in the 90s, but seldom were they this gross… Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Bloodstrike #1 awaits!
Writer: Eric Stephenson/Rob Liefeld
Penciler: Dan Fraga
Inker: Danny Miki
Colorist:Byron Talman/Brian Murray
Letterer: Kurt Hathaway
Editor: Eric Stephenson
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $2.95
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $2.50
Previously in Bloodstrike: The Image Comics revolution of 1993 was driven by artists who wanted to branch out and create, free of editorial restraint, and as such, developed a lot of lasting concepts. It also led to quite a bit of derivative nonsense, as many artist pursuits are wont to do, including books that imitated not only popular concepts of other creators (as Youngblood is basically Teen Titans and Supreme is Superman in a bad mood) but also versions of stories and characters done by the Image creators themselves! Thus, we get… X-Force (with the serial numbers filed off!)
The story begins with Cabbot, who looks, talks and acts like Cable, debriefing the team’s latest mission to his AI, explaining that they were sent to an arms facility run by the mysterious G.A.T.E. (Genetic and Technological Engineering), a massive complex that they’ve been tasked with destroying. He sends in his shock troops, Deadlock (who is very much a Wolverine archetype) and Fourplay (a four-armed woman who is similar to co-writer Rob Liefeld’s creation Fourarm) to smash things up, while he sneaks in with a woman named Tag. The dialogue, while not horrific, is pretty much the Tough Guy narrative, in the vein set by Claremont’s Wolverine in 1984.
Tag and Cabbot are ambushed by a cadre of cyborg soldiers led by the evil Commander Corben, who runs this particular G.A.T.E. establishment, and things look bad for our team. Fortunately, the 1990s have a hard-and-fast rule about any team: There’s always a big guy. In this case, his name is Shogun and he is a cyborg full of guns. This is where Bloodstrike earns their name.
By the Big Two standards of the era, it’s a pretty graphic battle, with blood everywhere, and Corben’s men left in lifeless heaps, while he himself is revealed to have been a hologram all along. (I will admit, the art revealing his illusionary nature is pretty impressive.) Cabbot realizes that he’s been duped, and takes off to rendezvous with the rest of the team, deciding to skip out on the destructive mission, only to have Corben arrive in flesh-and-blood to explain that HE hired them to attack his facility! G.A.T.E. was ready to dismiss him, but having heroically repelled a group of super-powered invaders, Corben believes that he now has job security, raising his weapon to fire… and then we find out why they call her Tag.
Her touch freezes the villain in place, leaving him open to one last one-liner from Cabbot, and another hail of bullets.
Cabbot even remarks how you can hear the blood dripping from the villain’s frozen, bullet-riddled body, before declaring mission accomplished and teleporting away. As the issue ends, Cabbot receives another communique, this one offering a new target, the super-team called Brigade, run by his own twin brother! (At least, I assume they’re twins, as they both look exactly like each other and also Cable.) This issue was presented with a special gimmick cover, one streaked with “blood” spatters that felt truly gross, and would change color if you rubbed them. Given the amount of senseless carnage within the issue, Bloodstrike #1’s goofy cover gimmick is at least thematically appropriate, but the story is completely predictable and the art, while better than some Liefeld books, is emblematic of the times, with strange proportions and inconsistent details on full display, leaving us with 1.5 out of 5 stars overall. If you ever get a chance to RUB this comic, you should, but I don’t know if I’d recommend reading it.
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It's not as bad as I (vaguely) remembered it, but it's ends up being very predictable and not really interesting.