Bloodshot Reborn #6 manages to pull of that perfect magic act by which the first issue of the second arc is truly as good a jumping on point as anything in the first arc was. Partly, it’s because the last issue of the first arc was a very surreal, Raul Allen-illustrated journey into Bloodshot’s damaged psyche, and this is a good time for everyone to play catch up. When last we left Bloodshot, he was on a quest to track down the other Bloodshots--unfortunate souls that were infected with nanites by Project Rising Spirit. He was haunted by the ghosts of the nanites, manifesting as a terrifying child version of himself (Bloodsquirt) and Kay, the Geomancer he couldn’t save at the end of The Valiant, before he “killed” Bloodsquirt. Now, he’s killed three other Bloodshots and taken their nanites, and he’s at the tipping point--if he absorbs one more of the four out there, he becomes more Bloodshot than man. He still refuses to read the file about who he was before Project Rising Spirit, but he’s taken in a woman named Magic (the girlfriend of the last Bloodshot he killed), and she read his file for him--but, notably, she did not read it to him. Meanwhile, FBI agents Hoyt and Festival are hot on Bloodshot’s trail, and going through a lot of weird interpersonal shit, when Bloodshot finds out that he’s not the only game in town.
In a lot of ways, Bloodshot Reborn is the least-Jeff Lemire comic by Jeff Lemire I’ve ever read--and I mean that in a good way. Even on Animal Man, there was a core of a family weathering a tough time, Descender lives and dies on the emotional pull of a small child being held responsible for a monstrous attack; with Bloodshot Reborn, he’s taking the story of a killing machine trying to stem the bloody tide of his legacy, and the myriad ways he haunts himself. It’s dark stuff, and at first blush, it makes no sense, but Lemire lets Bloodshot get fun in ways that he never was before (Bloodsquirt) and then even makes that humor blood-soaked and horrifying (also Bloodsquirt). It feels like he’s working out some darker artistic impulses on the page to clear space for everything else he’s working on (seriously, busiest man in comics?). This issue feels like a good introduction in the same way that, if you came in for act two of a musical, the characters spend the first ten minutes addressing the things that happened at the end of act one, and you can pretty much pick it up and run with it--I picked this issue up before I finished the first arc, and aside from it kind of spoiling some things, I followed everything pretty easily.
After the first arc’s art by Mico Suayan, and the in-betweener Raul Allen art on #5 (a personal favorite), Butch Guice has stepped in to illustrate this issue, and he knocks it out of the park, as per usual. Guice seems to be one of Valiant’s go-to’s on a newer book that needs to get that Valiant feel--Suayan’s work had a lot of conceptual stuff (I’m thinking of the splash of Bloodshot murdering people opposite a page of that pose, outlining his nervous system in issue #1), and Raul Allen’s felt a lot dreamier, for obvious reasons. Guice is reliable, and every time out of the gate, he gets better, even when he’s crossing over from a more photorealistic style like this book into a sketchier, shadowier look, like the backup features in Ninjak. His work here is perfectly suited to the rough-around-the-edges road trip story Lemire is weaving, and as per usual, Dave Baron’s color scheme brings a muted sense of doom to the proceedings.
If you’ve been on the fence about picking up Bloodshot Reborn, like I was (he’s the most reminiscent of what Valiant was in the 90s, with the roided-up he-men and things like H.A.R.D. Corps to me), put those anxieties to bed. This issue retreads some old ground, but it’s a fun one, and it’s an intriguing set up for what’s to come.