I never read the infamous "Bloodstrike" #1 with the "Rub the Blood!" cover back in the day, but I did read several issues starting with #4. That's when Keith Giffen briefly took over plotting the book and his ideas for the comic sounded entertaining enough that I gave it a shot. Neither Giffen nor I lasted very long, but if nothing else I got an idea for how extremely violent the comic could get thanks to the constant deaths-and-resurrections of the characters.
Tim Seeley and Franchesco Gaston have taken those ideas to heart in "Bloodstrike" #26, re-introducing the main character Cabbot who is the only current member of the undead Bloodstrike team and is having greater issues with his un-life than his superiors would like. Seeley hauls out the familiar device of intercutting a Bloodstrike mission with flashbacks to Cabbot visiting a therapist; it's simple but effective, letting us know more about the character's past and general state of mind.
Seeley isn't afraid to bring the body count back to "Bloodstrike," something that will be a make-or-break addition to the title for many readers. I can see how the sudden, in-your-face deaths will turn people off; this is a book that in many ways lacks subtlety. In some ways it feels almost like a parody with Cabbot biting the flesh off of an evil cyborg hive lord amidst a sea of broken television sets or the utterly non-subtle "this is how we're going to use this person's death to our advantage" conversation. Then again, there's also a moment in this issue where mummies with ankh-shaped lasers show up; if you had any doubt that Seeley is going for the deliberately ridiculous, that should fix it for you quite nicely. Still, with heads getting blown off and intestines getting yanked out, those who don't want to read a late night horror version of "Youngblood" should probably steer clear.
Gaston's art is, thankfully, more cartoonish than realistic. It results in a slightly sillier, less graphic version of Seeley's script. I like Gaston's original character designs the best; evil mummies with lasers look great, while the Liefeld-designed Cabbot just comes across as garish under Gaston's pencil. Between the relatively clean lines and the soft colors, "Bloodstrike" is reminiscent of animation, although it would admittedly need to be scheduled in the Adult Swim portion of the evening. However, it looks good and I'm pleased to see that more characters with Gaston designs are around the corner; presumably, they'll work better with Gaston's style.
"Bloodstrike" is a middle-of-the-road comic, but with the backstory out of the way I'm hoping that things will pick up a bit more next month. There are just enough hints of craziness here that I'm willing to come back and take a look to see what Seeley and Gaston have up their sleeves. For now, a decent enough debut, but it could use a little more pep in future installments.