Jeff Lemire has some worries about being a parent. “The biggest fear you can have as a parent is whatever flaws you have, you pass them on to your child,” the Canadian comic book writer and full-time father confessed to Inverse in a recent phone conversation. Lemire’s anxieties are at the root of his newest book, Bloodshot: Salvation, the next volume of Valiant’s best-selling Bloodshot comics which hits shelves on September 20.
Picking up where Lemire’s Bloodshot U.S.A. left off, the new book is told in two parts: In the present, Ray Garrison — the retired gun-toting superhero Bloodshot — is finally at peace, enjoying time with his girlfriend Magic and infant daughter Jessie. But when the violent family of criminals who raised Magic want her back, Ray finds himself slipping back into the role of Bloodshot to protect his family. Then, in the future, a young Jessie has inherited her father’s powers but can’t control them, and she’s on the run while her father has mysteriously vanished.
While there are sci-fi elements at the core of Bloodshot’s comics — Bloodshot gets his superpowers from tiny microscopic computers, called “nanites,” that flow through his blood — they aren’t superfluous. In the new book, they steer Bloodshot in a grounded direction. “I think it’s natural if Magic and Ray were to have a child, the child would be a hybrid,” Lemire explains. “Unlike Ray, who was injected with nanites, Jessie was born into it. Bloodshot becomes a vehicle for some of the fears I or other people may have. With the nanites, it becomes literal.”
The comics veteran has written for all the big publishers including DC, Marvel, and Image (his Image series Descender is in development as a movie from Sony). Lemire joined Valiant in 2014 with a bang, writing the acclaimed crossover book The Valiant, in which all of Valiant’s heroes banded together against a common foe. And it was in The Valiant where Lemire first met Bloodshot. He didn’t love the character at first, and it took a relaunch in Lemire’s own image for him to warm up to Bloodshot.
“Bloodshot has changed a lot as I’ve kind of changed,” he says. “Traditionally, Bloodshot has been a two-dimensional action hero. A throwback to the ‘90s. That didn’t interest me a lot creatively. So for me it was: How do I take that and make it something that does interest me? Make it something I care about?”
Lemire solved this dilemma in two ways. First, he stopped focusing on the cool things about Bloodshot, like his nanites, and focused on his human side. “Quite literally he’s part machine. I thought he was very cold. There was no one for him to latch on to on an emotional level. So that was my first challenge.”
Second, Lemire mellowed out the character’s violent streak. “I thought it would be fun to take this violent hero and subvert it a little, to talk about violence in the media and the world at large,” he says. Although beautifully illustrated, Lemire’s Bloodshot: Reborn never indulged in violence in the fashion of most mainstream comics.
With Bloodshot: Salvation, Lemire is also adding elements to Bloodshot’s world. In one major way, Lemire is giving Bloodshot an actual archnemesis.
“One thing that kind of struck me was that Bloodshot didn’t have a villain,” Lemire says. “The villain was sort of himself in earlier issues, and then we took to Project Rising Spirit which had been done in the past. We didn’t create new villains or an archenemy.” To Lemire, this was “ground” to do something fresh. So Lemire has resurrected Rampage, a rebooted villain from Valiant’s comics dating back to the ‘90s. There’s also a new project: Project Omen, Lemire reassures isn’t rehashing old ground. “It’s not just Project Rising Spirit redone. Their agenda is more subtle. It’s about reshaping the country, working in the shadows to push their own agenda.”
It was also previously announced that Bloodshot: Salvation would pit Ray Garrison against a gang of white supremacists, but Lemire changed his mind, fearing it would overshadow the personal stakes of his story. “I kinda ditched that idea before I really got to the script,” he explains. “That was a throwback to an old idea. I thought it was heavy-handed, so I took the book in a different direction. It’s much more about Bloodshot as a father and the fears of parenthood, using Bloodshot as a metaphor for all that.”
“He’s kind of grown and changed as I did,” adds Lemire, who says he’s “invested a lot of myself’ after four years of writing the character. “Bloodshot is a character who just can’t catch a break, no matter how far he thinks he is from the things that haunt him, these things come back,” he says. “I think this book is an attempt to finally find some freedom for himself and his family.”
Bloodshot: Salvation #1 will be released on September 20.