(Christos Gage / Joshua Dysart / Bart Sears / Matt Milla / Allen Passalaqua / Dave Sharpe; Valiant)
Hey cover banner that reads “All-New Arc!” and “Must Read Valiant,” your shouting makes me nervous. There's a desperation to your punctuation; methinks your admonition protests too much, perhaps. I'm wary, but... well... okay. It's you, Valiant. I've come to trust you over time. Your relaunch has brought such bounty, such pleasure. I guess you're just enthused. I understand. I can be excitable too.
But not all hype is in service to the truth.
There's something droll about Bloodshot and H.A.R.D.Corps #18, something not quite serious in its over-seriousness. It's as if everyone involved is in on this joke but nobody really understands the punchline because it's actually a Nietzschean aphorism and not supposed to be funny in the first place. Imagine, if you will, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson playing the role of Macbeth … in a wet suit … translated into Klingon or Elvish or something nerdy like that, and then packaged as an exercise regimen called “Lay On, Macduff” because The Rock is all muscly and really, we all want to be muscly, don't we?
That's kind of where I ended up when I started thinking about this book.
It could be that I am still associating this H.A.R.D.Corps with THIS H.A.R.D.Corps and that's fucking me all up.
I know, I know. Let this book stand on its own merits. The past is the past, let sleeping dogs lie, a bird in the hand, mama didn't raise no coffee table. Professional in attire and attitude. Ahem.
It's got to be hard to write “team” books – not only do you have to account for all the various personalities, but you also have to find something for everyone to do. Add to that the need to have a team of bad guys be the foil for your team of good guys and you got teams of guys teeming up in all kinds of things. It's messy and I know I sure as hell couldn't do it. So to see Gage and Dysart taking all these balls (or guys or teams or whatever), throwing them up in the air, and then snatching some on their descent and hurling them splattering against the red brick wall of clarity is pretty amazing.
In Bloodshot and H.A.R.D.Corps #18, though, it just doesn't all hold together. There's too much splatter. It's not Jackson Pollack, but neither is it sneezing with a mouth full of borscht.
I'm digging the revenge circle that seems to be expanding concentrically at the heart of this story. I like the manipulation of time as a narrative technique, as much as I like the vibe everyone involved in this book is trying to resonate. There's a lot going on in this book. It seems way longer than its actual size, Gage and Dysart have made a Dagwood Sandwich and compressed it into a Lean Club … easier to eat at parties certainly, efficiency makes for better digestion.
But it loses something in this iteration, and I can't quite put my finger on what that is. Everything is serviceable or works. It's no small story and it's no mean art and there are waves in the distance that you can see from the shore and there's some kind of pose or action sequence all over the place. It's cranking and flexing and caught soft in repose. I find no fault anywhere whatsoever. It's just not.... I don't know.... something. Maybe it's because my expectations for Valiant titles are now so high. Maybe they've been consistently delivering such fine product that First Rate has become Second Class to Excellent. Bloodshot and H.A.R.D.Corps #18 may be a victim of just being really good, which, unfortunately, is now half as good as what it has been.