Part of Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios from the 1990s, this series about resurrected government agents has been given a second life and lives up to all the 90s cliches. But is this the ultimate parody of an easily mocked sub-genre or should this be one series that stayed as 90s nostalgia?
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Rob Liefeld
Artist: Rob Liefeld
Price: £2.49 from ComiXology
Rob Liefeld’s Bloodstrike was part of the early expansion of Image Comics in the 1990s and so for many fans belongs in a dusty forgotten long box alongside titles like Brigade, Black Flag, and pre-Brandon Graham Prophet. Representing some of the worst excesses of the style that is now ridiculed as ’90s Extreme‘, for some reason the powers that be at Image have decided to give this book another lifeline, a bit like the resurrected agents who are sent off on government sanctioned missions and star in this book.
If that sounds awfully like a certain squad of suicidal villains who have a movie coming out next year, well you’d be right. But that appears to be Liefeld’s schtick these days. He takes the plot from one book, and pads it out with thinly veiled copies of characters he has created before or just copies of other peoples characters who may or may not be included ironically.
In Bloodstrike we get a lead character who wants to be Deadpool – complete with a cover which homages Wade Wilson’s first appearance in New Mutants – and begins the series in a dismembered disembodied state. After some flashbacks that explain how our unnamed hero got here, he is rescued by a grimacing Cable clone called Cabbot Stone, resurrected and rebuilt (well most of him) before we have a brief aside from Bloodwolf, a parody of DC’s Lobo, who originally poked fun at 90s excess yet seems to have forgotten about the joke in the ensuing years. We are then subjected to one of the most truly unforgettable final pages you will see all year which truly defies description!
Liefeld renders all this in his trademarked crosshatch-tastic, anatomy defying style chucking in buckets and buckets of blood and lots of crude humour – because that’s how you make a book edgy in the 2010s!
The frustrating thing is, Bloodstrike #1 isn’t actually that bad a book. Sure, it’s crass and offensive and 1-dimensional, but in the hands of a more accomplished artist then it wouldn’t be half bad. If this was a Millarworld book drawn by Steve McNiven it would be optioned for a movie by now! However, thanks to the Liefeld legacy and his own truly unique sense of how to tell stories, then it has ended up being a complete joke that people will use as a stick to beat him with – and quite rightly so. But who is having the last laugh here?
Bashing Liefeld’s work is not a difficult task – he can’t draw feet, his characters only have three expressions (all of them grimaces) and his grasp of perspective defies the laws of physics (especially when it comes to guns and swords). Yet still he makes books, and they sell, so perhaps the joke is on us.
Sometimes his books can be enjoyable despite their flaws, like his recent DC series Hawk and Dove, but Bloodstrike seems to have lost all sense of irony or subtlety in favour of pure bad taste. Perhaps the partist and satire is hidden behind the crude humour and excessive violence but on first impressions of this debut issue, if it is meant to be a joke we simply don’t get the punchline!