Knowing virtually nothing about the initial wave of popularity of Valiant Comics in the 1990s as I investigate the current resurgence, Bloodshot #1 was the book I expected to like the least. X-O Manowar had a weird enough name that I was curious about it, and Harbinger sounded generic but promised an interesting look into the madness of telepathy, but Bloodshot? How could that not be some awful Liefeldian tripe? It's called Bloodshot, for pete's sake. It might as well be Dark Blood Hawk Night Shade Death Shot Blade.
To my surprise, Bloodshot is the book that's grabbed me the most quickly out of the three. X-O Manowar is intriguing but not involving, and Harbinger is going to some very uncomfortable places about consent issues that I'm not sure I'll enjoy, but Bloodshot jolted me to attention by setting up the rote good family man soldier going into action routine and then graphically blowing the guy to bits with a missile on page 6. Perhaps low expectations played a role, but I quickly became aware that I'm not going to predict what's about to happen.
Our soldier boy Ray gets blasted to smithereens on a parachute drop to rescue a guy he owes a favor to by the name of Apanewicz. Turns out that was part of the plan, as he regrows himself from his fried corpse, except instead of a Caucasian blond man, he's now a chalk-white naked guy with black hair, attack-o powers and apparently an ability to shape shift and grow a beard at will. Of course, when he finally reaches his extraction target, it turns out to be his son. Or the illusion of his son, before he gets gunned down again.
Turns out "Project Bloodshot" is a seemingly blank vessel over which his handlers insert an identity and motivation in order to use him for mission work. He's been captured by a man namd Mr. Kuretich, who is apparently one of the designers of his many imaginary families. He's essentially a constantly reforming zombie a la Resurrection Man, but also a living repository of information – namely past missions and blackmail material Kuretich can use against Bloodshot's current handlers, about whom we know little other than one of them is named Oreck and they've done this kind of thing to Bloodshot hundreds of times.
So writer Duane Swiercynzski has managed to undercut all of the DarkBloodHawkNightDeathBlade assumed boring tough-guy schtick by making our central character have absolutely no clue what's going on, and getting him blown to bloody bits three separate times in the span of one issue – smacking him around like a chump all over the place. The guy's a mess, not Generic Badass #5, and that makes us like him a bit. Manuel Garcia and Arturo Lozzi go for broke on the death scenes, and they turn in really solid comic book artwork with very distinct faces and a lot of action to keep us close to breathless.
The visceral response to Bloodshot #1 might be what hooks you into the new Valiant. I think it's enough to make me stick with all the books for the near term.