If you’re familiar with comic books, you’ll know that Marvel and DC are not the only comic book publishers who do superhero stories well, and Valiant is one of those publishers.
Not in the top echelon at all, Valiant comics fill a specific niche. Their heroes, while having flashy, memorable branding, are often more serious than most DC superheroes, and that’s because they were born from a level of practicality. Late DC had a trend of reimaging its heroes as if they lived in a world closer to ours, albeit it still included colorful heroes created from eras long gone like Superman, Aquaman and Green Lantern. I enjoyed these comics, which took a tone similar to what you’d see in the animated shows “Justice League” and “Young Justice”, although the reappropriations were blatantly obvious. A hero like Martian Manhunter, who was made in the 1950s, was not supposed to be taken dead-seriously when he was created, and that is where DC and Valiant differ.
Valiant comics have a harsh reality unburdened by years of history or the need to include legacy characters to please fans, because Valiant was founded in 1989. Valiant often explores themes of corrupt governments, shady organizations, and barbaric empires through the lense of the superhero comic. It’s where you’ll most likely see superhero horror done well (most likely through its “Shadowman” franchise); it’s where you’ll see a franchise like X-Men, if the X-Men were run by a shady corporation (“Harbinger”); Valiant’s mascot is arguably Conan meets Iron Man (“X-O Manowar”), and their first franchise to get a feature film, “Bloodshot” is basically “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” if Bucky was the main hero of his story, and Captain America didn’t exist.
Valiant has crafted a world of imperfect heroes doing the best they can in a world with many of our problems, amplified by the greater threats associated with superheroes. In a time where Amazon’s “The Boys” has really taken off, 2020 is the time for niche superhero projects, especially if they’re able to strike their own, unique take on the subgenre.
I think “Bloodshot” has a good chance to break the current Marvel/DC dominated mold int he market, and give Valiant a place at the cinematic table. It has a lot of decent things going for it, from its interesting sci-fi plot (the main character, like Bucky in “Winter Soldier” is brought back to life by technology, but has to go on shady missions that involve wiping his memory), to its lead actor, Vin Diesel, who has elevated the “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “The Fast and the Furious” franchises (gone are his days of “The Pacifier”), to the fact that it’s really not competing with anything (Pixar’s “Onward” opens the week before, and “A Quiet Place II” opens the week after, but no major blockbusters are competing with “Bloodshot” when it opens).
Given its subject matter, I predict that “Bloodshot” will draw the same demographics of 2009’s “Watchmen”, albeit the market has grown significantly since that time. In 2009, “Bloodshot” wouldn’t have had a chance to succeed, but I feel like films like “Deadpool” and “Logan” have really paved way for the adult superhero film. I do admit, “Bloodshot”‘s box office performance might have heavy influence on “The New Mutants,” the X-Men horror film that hits theaters less than a month after it, not only because of its proximity, but because “Bloodshot” will be a real test to see if and adult superhero film can do well with general audiences if it doesn’t have the name recognition of a Marvel or DC franchise (I predict in similar fashion to “Birds of Prey”. which later had its name changed to “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey”, “New Mutants” will later be rebranded “X-Men: The New Mutants” at the first sign of box office trouble).
I hope “Bloodshot” does well and is a worthwhile watch. Valiant comics deserve some love, and with Marvel and DC dominating the box office for so long, audiences need a bit of a palette cleanser that tales adapted from other superhero comic publishers might be able to provide.