Written by Rob Liefeld
Art by Rob Liefeld, Jeremy Colwell
Published by Image Comics
Release Date: July 8, 2015
Bloodstrike returns to the pages of Image Comics after a stint on the shelf. As a franchise, Bloodstrike is one of the earliest Image comics to be published and has always been the more gory and violent comics produced by Rob Liefeld. The premise behind Bloodstrike is there is a government agency called Born Again and they do black op missions that often results in the death of the team members. The twist is that Born Again is able to bring them back from the dead. There is death but no perishing. It is the hook for the series as it has changed from a team book to a solo book over the comic’s initial run. The newest volume of Bloodstrike unifies both themes, mostly.
Before I get into this book, I have to be upfront and clear. I genuinely enjoy most comics by Rob Liefeld. The man knows how to block action, can layout a page better than most in the industry, and he comes up with some pretty solid concepts. He has flaws. They are obvious and to the point where he has become the proverbial punching bag of shop owners and online comic book critics alike. The “in” thing to do in the early days of comic blogging was to find some random Rob Liefeld comic and rag on it. I found things about him I enjoyed and championed his strengths for years. Today is not one of those days, though. There will be some spoilers.
The issue centers around Operative Alpha performing an off the book mission and it going wrong in the worst way possible. Operative Alpha has his penis cut off. The main objective becomes reacquiring his manhood. There is also an aside featuring Bloodwulf (another dark Liefeld creation that appears in Darker Image) and a silhouette of his penis in the most deformed way possible. These are the major points to the story or at least what stands out.
The story Rob Liefeld delivers is very much like his usual stuff. A lot of shadow organizations and government intrigue. It is what you come to expect. There isn’t much inventiveness or excitement. The story is framed via flashback which is a nice twist but basic.
Liefeld decided to use first person narration to help explain events. This is fine when you want to be introspective but it doesn’t need to describe what is happening in every panel. The style is reminiscent of Chris Claremont in a lot of ways in terms of volume of words and amount of description. It is overused and makes the actual narrative and exposition told in the captions less important by dilution. When 10 caption boxes cover a page and 3-4 are just descriptions of the art it makes the important ones less impactful.
Problematic, still, is the misogynistic overtones that are present throughout the issue. Women are referred to only as “bitches” or some variant. If they aren’t the villainess they are maimed in a gore-ridden blood bath. The fact the villainess takes Operative Alpha’s penis and sticks it in the jar is ripe for misogynistic themes to be explored speaks volumes of this issue. She will literally have his junk on a shelf.
It is written as over-the-top as it can be. There are gratuitous use of swearing and hyper-violent story (which is par for course for this franchise). It feels like it is trying to be a parody of the bad Image comics that we try to forget about but it is played off straight. There is some tongue and cheek moments but if the message is parody it is lost in the sea of carnage and penises.
Liefeld’s art is also par for course. The men are large and broad with thick wrist and small hands. It is typical Liefeld style that most people have their minds already made up on. The biggest surprise of the issue is the multiple penises that Rob decides to draw. Bloodwulf’s genitals are puzzling from this. Liefeld has issues with anatomy but this is wild even for him. One word describes it: Oversized mushroom. Just you have to see it to believe it. The other penis is found in a jar and is probably the saddest looking penis I have ever witnessed. I didn’t go into this expecting Liefeld penis, but that’s what I got.
The inking is overall solid and one of the best looking inks on Liefeld in a long time. Rob can ink his own lines better than most and it shows here. Jeremey Colwell delivers with a color palate that is subdued and fitting for the tone of the issue. Nice contrast to the usual harsh bright colors that you usually see from Liefeld comics.
Bloodstrike #1 is so absurd and just weird. I don’t want to call it offensive despite some questionable content because it is as offensive as a teenager learning to swear. I don’t know what the intention here was. Was it to be offensive? Because we saw worse last week and we’ve seen more over the top violence from Liefeld in the past. The art is run of the mill and outside of the penis shots it is quite a bit better than some of his recent output.
I can’t figure out if the intent was to be a parody, either. It seems to be played straight by Rob online and nothing in the comic seems to indicate that it is meant to be satire. Liefeld typically plays that up in his work. It is at a weird place that doesn’t seem to have a market outside of the loyal Bloodstrike fans that demanded this series but they surely would be taken back by some of this book. It isn’t compelling story telling. There are elements of Bloodstrike that are fantastic especially the brother aspect between Cabot and Battlestone and the concept of Born Again but those are neglected here for some cheap attempt at ribald comedy that doesn’t click. The story is paint by the numbers Liefeld. I love the guy but this book, outside of some absurd moments, is just boring.
The Verdict: 4.0/10
I see a lot of people hating on Liefeld just for the sake of hating. I’m glad the author of this article tries to look for the good in Liefeld’s work and at least went into Bloodstrike #1 with an open mind. If it still fell flat for him, then that’s just how it goes. I personally got a kick out of it. I’d give it a 6 or 7 out of 10 just for the art alone. Pretty much all of the major complaints people make about Liefeld’s art have been addressed here. There are feet in this issue and the look much more like feet than they did in Liefeld’s past work. The linework and shading on faces is much more clean and a huge improvement over the black blobs in the center of the face that we saw in his 90’s stuff. The swords are not bent and are at the correct angle relative to the hand that’s holding them. There’s even a more practical number of pouches! I see complaints about the wang in the jar at the end looking weird, but the chick holding it even says she spent time mutilaliting it. And speaking of the wang-centric story…yes it’s goofy, yes it’s over the top action peppered with low brow humor, yes it’s a classic ‘dude invades a base’ plot. But this is Liefeld. Why expect anything else? Why not just enjoy it for what it is? It’s clear that this is a just-for-fun book, and even the issue’s description on the image website helps us see they are just having fun with it. “…a lively romp that reveals a more mature side to LIEFELD than fans have previously experienced.” And it is! More mature in terms of graphic content and not in terms of story depth or poignancy. There’s tons of that kind of deep stuff out there already and there will be tons more on the way. But we can still have some fun in the shallow water once in a while too. A lot of people forget that. So no extra points for plot but still a 6 or 7 out of 10 for the art and for being goofy, good time overall.