“Oh, a comic about Bloodshot taking a day on the town, that should be amusing. Probably the antics of a super soldier trying to have a relaxing day, but things keep going wrong.” At least, that’s what I thought when I first saw this comic’s title. What I got instead was a powerful look at two characters, the things they sacrificed, and the impact that war has even on super soldiers. It’s time to take a look at how a little rest and relaxation can turn into an introspective salute to soldiers with this special “Bloodshot’s Day Off” issue from Valiant.
There will be the occasional spoiler to discuss themes and key moments, so be prepared.
Written by Eliot Rahal
Illustrated by Khari Evans
Colored by Andrew Dalhouse
Lettered by Dave Lanphear
Even killing machines need a day off!
For the first time in over 30 years, two nanite-enhanced soldiers once controlled by Project Rising Spirit – codenames: “Tank Man” and “Viet Man” – have finally earned their freedom and some government-sanctioned downtime, courtesy of Uncle Sam. After enduring a lifetime of war, blood, and gore, all these two semi-retired commandos want is a little vacation. But how long can this pair of highly trained tourists unwind and enjoy the sights of New York City… before they find trouble in the city that never sleeps?
Leave the selfie stick at home as rising star Eliot Rahal (DIVINITY III: ESCAPE FROM GULAG 396, The Doorman) and Harvey Award-nominated artist Khari Evans (HARBINGER, Harley Quinn) give these old soldiers the danger-filled day off they deserve…and celebrate Bloodshot’s silver anniversary with an action-packed tribute to the original BLOODSHOT #12!
“Bloodshot’s Day Off” begins with an introduction to our central characters, the super soldiers known as Tank Man (Winston Grover) and Viet Man (Dell Palmer). When we meet them, they’re muscle-bound, shirtless, and more than eager to throw down at the slightest provocation – truly what one would expect from nanite-enhanced soldiers called “Bloodshot.” We’re given a brief overview of their history, from fighting in wars, hellish experiments, and fighting off zombie plagues – all in a day’s work for comic book characters.
Yet once the day off begins, it actually is a day to themselves, allowing the characters to take their own walks down memory lane. The two come from different generations and vastly different wars, so their experiences are nicely juxtaposed to each other.
On one hand, we have Winston. He drives a vintage car and listens to the oldies radio station to hear the music of his youth. The music creates a nice transition into flashbacks, where we learn about his days leading up to his enlistment into World War 2, Project Rising Spirit, and the love he left behind.
At the same time, there’s Dell, whose involvement in the Vietnam War was less voluntary than Winston’s. He didn’t want to go to war, but he didn’t flee the draft either; likewise, he didn’t ask to become a part of Project Rising Spirit, and we see how he’s pained by what became of him.
The two stories in “Bloodshot’s Day Off” mirror each other very nicely. Not only are the flashbacks parallel, but they’re set up by entering a place of worship (and as I happen to be Jewish myself, I was pleased to get some representation as Winston enters a synagogue), and end with saying goodbye to loved ones, whether they’re long since passed or near the end. Both use the flashbacks to tell us all we need to know about the characters and those close to them, giving the concluding scenes intense emotional power. Eliot Rahal does an excellent job giving us the full story of the characters through brief clips of their lives, before tying them back together at the end.
Of course, the artwork throughout “Bloodshot’s Day Off” is excellent. Each scene has an intense amount of detail, from the lines on the characters’ faces to the light shining in through the stained glass windows of Harlem House of the Holy. Khari Evans does not hold back on anything, whether it’s the gruesome deaths in the wars or the way shadows fall over Winston’s face as he looks down at the grave of his once-beloved.Continued below
That said, there are still some points to critique. While the amount of detail put into each panel and design is impressive, the characters can often have an overabundance of detailing on their muscles alone. Yes, the Bloodshot super soldiers are incredibly stacked, with muscles bulging out from their skin to the point where even their necks are full of bulk and veins; it gets a little excessive. Likewise, while most of the characters expressions are fine, often times their mouths are given rather odd shapes while they talk – it’s like everyone talks with lips puckered and teeth clenched.
Yet that’s just a small criticism, and should in no way be taken to mean that the art of “Bloodshot’s Day Off” is anything less than exemplary in every other way. The subtle way the colors shift between locations, along with the brown tint of flashbacks, keeps everything vibrant or dark just as the mood demands. Panels and scenes are framed in just the right way to carry the pace of the story from moment to moment, helping enhance the emotional impact.
In the end, their stories and paths reunite, connecting back as the stories of all soldiers do. Though they’re each from different generations, and their backstories and backgrounds vary greatly, they’re still connected through the horrors they’ve experienced and those they’ve lost. Though they spent the issue apart, the ending brings them closer together.
It would be very easy to end the issue with a gung-ho “this is the path we walk, because we’re super soldiers, and we’re going to keep on fighting,” but that’s not what this issue is about. They may be super, sure, but they’re still soldiers. Thus, “Bloodshot’s Day Off” connects their stories to those of American soldiers and veterans from the wars of yesterday and today. It’s a tribute to the fellowship connecting those who serve, in order to give a message of unity and community to those who have lost so much to war. (And no, it doesn’t attempt to say whether or not any of the wars are “good” or “justified,” that’s not what this issue is about.)
Thus ends the day off. It’s both a somber note but also one of support and solidarity. It’s a great look at two characters, going in to their very souls and see what made them the people they are. If you’re a fan of “Bloodshot” or just looking to get into the Valiant universe, it’s a comic worth reading.
Final Verdict: 8.9 – An emotionally powerful issue, backed up by great artwork and well-structured parallel plots.