Bloodshot And H.A.R.D. Corps #22 Review

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading comics, it’s that forcing people with super-powers to be your minions seldom ends well.  Project Rising Spirit is about to find the truth in that observation first-hand…  Your Major Spoilers review of Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps #22 awaits!

Bloodshot22CoverjBLOODSHOT AND H.A.R.D. CORPS #22
Writer: Duffy Boudreau and Christos Gage
Artist: Al Barrionuevo
Colorist: Matt Milla
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Editor: Alejandro Arbona
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously in Bloodshot And H.A.R.D. Corps:  Project Rising Spirit created Bloodshot as a super-powered pawn, all the better to manipulate him, even convincing him to lead their H.A.R.D. Corps team (based on his own designs).  Now, Bloodshot has freed himself from their control, and is preparing to show his former captors exactly why the idea a super-powered pawn was a bad one.

I’m predicting swift and blinding violence.  Who’s with me?

WELL, THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY

My boss at the comic store, Deon, recently informed me that Bloodshot (a character that even he, a hardcore ((You should excuse the expression)) Valiant fan) has a love/hate relationship with, was the star of Valiant’s best new book.  Since then, I’ve been keeping an eye on this book, and I’ve really enjoyed the tense balance between Bloodshot and his corporate overlords.  This issue begins with H.A.R.D. Corps team member Genius and Bloodshot having what seems like a quiet conversation about Genius’ recent ordeals, and the fact that his implants have been damaged, leaving him to slowly spiral back down to his original not-so-bright mental faculties.  It’s a very ‘Flowers For Algernon’ moment, made even more shocking when Bloodshot quietly says “I’m sorry” and Genius’ head literally explodes.  Cut to a briefing, as the shocked members of H.A.R.D. Corps watching their leader fight down Project Rising Spirit’s security forces and escape into the desert, only to be hit by an RPG.  The creators really excel throughout this whole sequence, giving us full-scale military-grade fighty-fighty, leaving Bloodshot injured, but alive crawling through the desert.  PRS Corporate bigwig Mr. Kozol wants to send the Corps out to bring him down, with tiny tweaks to their own cybernetic systems, changes that should give them approximately 48 hours to defeat ‘Shot before he can blow up THEIR heads as well…

NO ROOM FOR ERROR

Boudreau and Gage pull off some skilled writing here, with a series of reveals that unspool from the main plot, each one perfectly set up and well-crafted, each one completely changing the game.  By the time Bloodshot clashes with Flatline (who was in a romantic relationship with the lost Genius), everything we knew at the top of the issue has been turned on its head, and the battle reveals a few key points about the H.A.R.D. Corps technology as well, carefully injecting the exposition into the story.  From an art standpoint, this one is a barn-burner as well, and I find myself really enjoying the battles both in the field and in the backrooms of power.  Artist Barrionuevo not only draws great guns and military hardware (a battalion of combat helicopters near the end is an amazing half-page of work), but he makes Bloodshot’s ridiculous haircut look utterly cool.  The issue ends with the setup for more carnage next issue, and I’m definitely going to need to pick up next issue to see how this all shakes down.  Twenty-odd years ago, when H.A.R.D. Corps debuted, I wrote it off as a goofy concept full of pseudo-scientific buzzwords (“wetware”, “nanites”, and more) while Bloodshot was just another jerk with a gun and blood in his name.  I can’t say for sure if Valiant’s relaunch has been particularly faithful to those stories, but I can tell you that I’m impressed with how effectively they’ve revamped those oh-so-nineties characters for the 21st Century.

THE BOTTOM LINE: A TENSE SPY THRILLER

Deon’s recommendation was right on the ball: This issue proved to be an excellent chapter in a story that feels compelling and broad enough in scope that I want to read more.  Bloodshot And H.A.R.D. Corps #22 makes for good reading, and has me considering adding the book to my pull list, balancing superheroic shenanigans, back-stabbing intrigue and some nicely handled character work into a solid piece of entertainment, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  I’ll be back next issue, and may be ready to add this one to my pull list in the near future…