Indie darling and Copra cartoonist Michel Fiffe helms the latest incarnation of Extreme Studios’ Bloodstrike in a comic that tells the origin story of the Rob Liefeld created team of reanimated super soldiers: Cabbot, Fourplay, Deadlock, Shogun, and Tag with fan favorite Chapel showing up in a backup story. Fiffe’s filtering of the early Image aesthetic through a Fantagraphics, art comic filter is quite enjoyable, and Bloodstrike #0’s pages have the feel of a labor of love fanzine instead of corporate product. Unfortunately, Fiffe’s story is utterly incomprehensible for anyone who wasn’t already familiar with the characters in Bloodstrike, and it ends being more like fanservice through an auteur lens than a bold, new beginning for the property.
Probably, the most enjoyment I got out of Bloodstrike was the similarity of the characters to various X-Men; it’s like Liefeld, and by extension, Fiffe weren’t even trying to hide it with bad guy-turned-kind of good guy Deadlock sporting Wolverine’s cowl and having the code name Patient 10 to Cabbot, the lantern jawed gun and pouch sporting team leader and Cable wannabe. This is probably the joke, but the personalities of the members of Bloodstrike seem interchangeable and differently designed action figures going on missions around the world for the good of American imperialism. (The comic is set in the hey day of the first Bush’s presidency and ends around the Gulf War.) They’re reanimated corpses so there’s no possibility of permadeath. By extension, there’s no one to really latch onto, and the time skips and jumps and introduction of other Image characters give the book a stop and start feel like vignettes stitched together. Thanks to Wikipedia, I did understand the cliffhanger ending, and it reminded me of what Mark Millar tried to do with Wolverine in Ultimate X-Men in making him a Brotherhood member and not the Captain America of Canada. So, cool with a “k”, I guess.
It’s kind of funny, but the character that stood out to me in Bloodstrike #0 wasn’t even member of Bloodstrike, but of Rob Liefeld’s flagship squad: Youngblood. (Thank you Wikipedia, again.) Her name is Vogue, and she made some hilarious quips about costume aesthetics in the heat of battle in a nice bit of commentary on the whole style over substance trend of mainstream comics in the early 1990s where art came before story. And it comes back full circle in Bloodstrike #0 where Michel Fiffe constructs balls to the wall, paramilitary action scenes with neck biting, diagonal panels, and a red “bleed out” effect on his background colors, but doesn’t give readers a reason to care about the characters. Honestly, this is a cast of characters and conceit that could use the minimalist action plotting of The Raid or Dredd, but with more of a team dynamic than the Frankenstein’s Monster of continuity and heavy artillery fire that was Bloodstrike #0.
Maybe, if you’re more knowledgeable about the Image Comics creations of Rob Liefeld and Extreme Studios in general, Michel Fiffe’s Bloodstrike #0 will tickle your nostalgia fancy and filter the excess of the 1990s in a stylish new way. This is definitely not new reader friendly, but it’s worth flipping through to check out Fiffe’s unique art and metamorphic color palette. From the backmatter and care that Fiffe takes at replicating the original costumes, Bloodstrike #0 seems like a passion project, but unfortunately that passion is hard to transfer through this story.
Story: Michel Fiffe Art: Michel Fiffe
Story: 3.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 4.8 Recommendation: Pass
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review