Youngblood: Bloodsport #1

Written by Mark Millar
Art by Rob Liefeld
32 pages, color
Published by Arcade Comics

Love them or hate them, both Rob Liefeld and Mark Millar understand controversy. Both creators seem to both attract and thrive on it, and Youngblood: Bloodsport is certainly no exception. After having all orders cancelled at Diamond Comics, the book is finally being released outside of the normal comic distribution channels, available at conventions, the company’s webpage, and eventually through stores. With constant claims that Youngblood: Bloodsport will shock and surprise its readers, the most important question seems to have been left out in talk about the book. One you strip away the promised shock treatment, is it actually any good?

The members of Youngblood have fallen on hard times; fights for the spotlight, or even work are dogging most of these former media darlings. Now their old boss has an offer for them—to join an all-star Youngblood composed of the best superhero of each alternate universe across the cosmos. The problem is, there’s only room for one of them. Last one alive wins. Let the games begin.

Once you get past all the window-dressing of Millar’s script—Battlestone and Seahawk getting blowjobs from Cyclops and Wolverine! A secret lair underneath a porno shop! A random member of Youngblood having their head blown off!—there’s very little left. The humor seems really forced, with jokes of avoiding fluids on the floor of the sex shop and waitresses wanting to join Youngblood not only distinctly unfunny, but telegraphed miles away. Occasionally there’s a spark of good humor, like third-rate superheroes leaping into poses behind Shaft when his picture is taken to try and look like they helped out, but on the whole this setup issue fails to deliver the goods in any way. Perhaps the most troubling of all is the end sequence of the book, once the plot’s finally been revealed. Now we’re getting quick two-sentence sound-bites to identify each character, and when one hero is suddenly killed, it’s by another character that is never even identified in the comic. Is this what’s in store for the rest of the mini-series, a stream of one-liners and death to whittle down the 24 characters that were shuffled onto the page earlier? The future certainly doesn’t look promising.

It’s a little disturbing to look at Youngblood: Bloodsport #1 and realize that Liefeld’s art looks almost identical to the work he did on Youngblood #1 over a decade ago. Characters are still impossibly muscled, people’s bodies move in ways they really weren’t meant to, and I can almost hear Sequential Tart columnists rubbing their hands together with new fuel available for their “Bizarre Breasts” column. The storytelling here is painful as well; after hearing Liefeld and Millar talk up the blowjob sequence from the start of this issue for months, one really has to laugh at the fact that Liefeld managed to mess that up… unless these characters have mouths on the back of their heads, of course. No, in the end this is little more than a fresh can of paint (in the form of Matt Yackey and Kevin Senft’s colors) over the same old stuff. Perhaps the worst of all was when Shaft hugs Vogue and says, “You’re looking pretty amazing yourself there, Vogue. So realistically-proportioned.” Except, of course, one look at her on the previous page and one wonders if Millar actually saw the art before writing that line.

In the end, I laughed a lot at Youngblood: Bloodsport #1, but I don’t think it’s for the reasons intended by Arcade Comics. This is a mortifyingly bad book; with nonsensical writing and lackluster art, it’s a fresh reminder of why Image Comics had such a bad reputation back in 1992 when this seemed to be the rule rather than the exception of their publishing schedule. Image Comics has moved on and redefined itself into something much stronger than it was eleven years ago; I honestly wish Liefeld had done the same. Liefeld’s work on Hawk & Dove and even New Mutants (especially when Hilary Barta was inking him) showed glimmers of real promise, but this is certainly not the payoff we’d hoped for. With Youngblood: Bloodsport #1 currently unavailable through stores, making one have to order this sight-unseen, I urge you to really think carefully before purchasing. If you simply cannot live without it, though, you can do so via the Arcade Comics website.

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