Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps #14 is the latest issue in the ongoing series by Valiant. A new creative team of writers consisting of Christos Gage (Avengers Academy, X-Men Legacy), Joshua Dysart (Harbinger), and penciler Emanuela Lupacchino, take the reigns for this new story arc.
Bloodshot has been captured by the worlds most powerful psiot, Toyo Harada of the Harada Global Conglomerates (HGC). Harada funds the Harbinger Foundation as a front for his war against his fellow psiots at the Project Rising Spirit (PRS). Harada has captured Bloodshot in order in to access the nanite technology in Bloodshot's blood stream in order to increase his power. Meanwhile, Bloodshot's old team reforms in order to rescue him. Three hand-selected recruits that match the blood criteria of the PRS program get put through their training to handle their new superpowers. With the help of an old veteran Major, and a slightly insane former team member, aptly named Maniac, the newly reformed H.A.R.D. Corps team set off on their mission. Bring back Bloodshot at all costs!
Being the beginning of a new story arc, and jumping on point for new readers, the summary page at the beginning of the book does a good job of informing readers about who Bloodshot is, what his powers are, and a brief history of his work with PRS. While there is definitely a lot of history between Bloodshot, PRS, and HGC, new readers should not feel lost when picking up this issue or get hung up on past details.
Gage and Dysart do a fantastic job of keeping the pace of the book fast and intense while still being quite heavy with the dialog. Almost every panel had some form of conversation between characters, which the writers use as a tool to develop a bevy of new characters. As Bloodshot spends the issue in captivity, most of the comic is dedicated to fleshing out the members of H.A.R.D. Corps. One character to follow is Major Charlie Palmer, a member of the original H.A.R.D. Corps and one of the first people to have the brain implants granting him access to Lifeline, the PRS psiot system that grants its users powers. Having the experience and understanding of the war between PRS and HGC provides Palmer with an interesting outlook on his entire situation. Completely distrustful of both Harada and PRS, he understands he must side with the lesser of two evils to help train the new recruits. It will be interesting to see how this internal conflict will shape his future decisions.
Gage and Dysart also introduce us to the three new recruits, giving us the background story of Granite, as well as providing some information on the other two recruits, Superstar and Disciple. All three characters seem to have strong moral reasons for joining the PRS program, or legitimate and honorable ones. While their introduction may be brief, I imagine that their characters will be brought more to the forefront of the story as Bloodshot becomes a more involved member of the team.
I’m normally not too critical when it comes to art, but the art in Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps #14 was truly disappointing. For a story that begs for brutality, blood, and realism, the art didn’t depict any of this effectively. Harada retrieves the nanites he wants by using his powers to burst them through Bloodshot’s skin like popping a large pustule. While this is an opportunity to show just how brutal Harada is, Lupacchino's art fell way short of the mark. Throughout the entire book, Lupacchino's depiction of all the characters were too cartoony which took away a lot of the power behind the story. Because of this, it was hard to empathize with some of the characters that Gage and Dysart took time to focus on, such as Granite and her motivation of family.
This is a well written story, but new readers might be disappointed and turned away with the lack of Bloodshot in any action. The introduction of a new H.A.R.D Corps might present enough pulling power for some readers to stick with the title. Despite the disappointing art from Lupacchino, the writing team of Gage and Dysart is compelling enough to see where they take this title.
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