They say that comic book characters don’t ever really stay dead, but comic book publishers often aren’t so lucky. The industry is full of publishers that have either folded or been absorbed—which made the triumphant return of Valiant Entertainment one of the most surprising revivals in the business.
Established in 1990, the publisher quickly built a high-profile, successful universe of superhero comics that served as an alternative to Marvel or DC. Unfortuantely, like the rest of the industry, it suffered in the late ’90s and shut down altogether in 2004. After lying dormant for eight years, Valiant exploded back on the scene in the summer of 2012, relaunching its entire universe with modern sensibilities and attracting top-flight talent. And it’s only gotten better and better with each passing year.
This summer will no exception, with the launch of Valiant Next—a new set of titles designed to be a jumping-on point for new readers, spinning out of the publisher’s four-part miniseries The Valiant. One of the acclaimed creators joining the Valiant universe this year is Jeff Lemire, the writer/artist behind Sweet Tooth, Trillium, and the hotly-anticipated Descender. Lemire—who’s currently cowriting The Valiant with Matt Kindt—is about to get his first ongoing title at the publisher with Bloodshot Reborn, a subversive new take on Valiant’s resident unkillable killing machine.
“I think he’s a really fascinating character; he’s almost a modern Frankenstien,” says Lemire. “This guy whose life was torn apart and he was turned into a monster, really—the most tragic part being whoever he was before this is lost to him now. He may have had a family. Who knows what his life was like? To me, that’s a very tragic kind of thing, and a very easy thing for a writer to hook into and explore.”
Lemire’s exploration comes with a pretty big change for the character, one that’ll surprise longtime readers while serving as a good place for new readers to jump on. Of course, just what happens to Bloodshot is still under wraps—but it will spin out of the final issue of The Valiant, and leave the character in a very dark, isolated place.
To Lemire, a big part of Bloodshot’s journey spins out of a single question: “When you can be anything, what do you choose to be? In his case, he chooses to be something pretty dark and terrible because he’s still haunted. That’s where we start.”
Bloodshot is also an inherently violent character, which is something Lemire wants to tackle head-on with Bloodshot Reborn.
“You look at Bloodshot, and he’s traditionally a two-dimensional action hero—I’m not trying to disrespect the creators at Valiant in the ’90s, but it was a different time,” says Lemire. “It became the perfect vehicle for me to comment on some of the things that concern me as a parent, and as a person living in the world today. I think America’s obsession with guns and with violence in media and society is a horrible sickness. So for me, the story is a way to use a comic book to comment on some of that as well.”
“What’s driving the whole story is his fear of becoming what he was—becoming that monster, becoming a killer again. Maybe he’s meant to be bad. Maybe he can’t be something else, and that’s what scares him.”
Lemire acknowledges that his approach might ruffle some feathers, but a big part of that boils down to the expecations readers bring to the book: “I think it kind of holds a mirror up to the reader as well, as far as what kind of story they want it to be.”
Bloodshot Reborn treads dark territory, exploring very real fears that haunt Lemire as a person and a parent. But it’s all meant to serve an ultimate purpose.
“I don’t enjoy putting my characters through hell, unless there’s a reason. I don’t use violence or anything just for shock value. They’re always a means to an end. So there’s definitely hope for Bloodshot,” says Lemire. “That being said, there’s going to be a lot of pain before he gets it, if he gets it. There’s a light that keeps him going and keeps me going; if there wasn’t, there wouldn’t be any point in going on.”
Bloodshot Reborn #1 goes on sale April 15, with art by Mico Suayan and Jeff Lemire, David Baron on colors, and Juan Doe on the covers. Courtesy of Valiant Entertainment, here’s an exclusive four-page first look: