Bloodhound: Brass Knuckle Psychology
Bloodhound: Brass Knuckle Psychology reprints an excellent (but flew under the radar) series published by DC Comics in 2004 by Dan Jolley, Leonard Kirk, and Robin Riggs. I talked about the series history a little when the book was announced, since I was a fan during its original release. Kurt Busiek also addresses the topic in his foreword to the book.
But that doesn’t matter, because what we have here isn’t nostalgia — “oh, I’m so glad a favorite is back in print” — but a raw, brutal, smart take on superpowers that reads even better today. Now that I’ve had more time to think about it, anti-hero Travis Clevenger appeals to me because he combines the best of the best-known superheroes. He’s got Superman’s drive for justice, regardless of personal cost; Batman’s detective brains, outwitting most who confront him; and Wolverine’s toughness, determination, and ability to take pain.
Clevenger is a blond bear of an ex-cop, built like a pro wrestler, in prison for killing his partner. Before then, he was tops at apprehending superhumans. FBI Agent Saffron Bell needs his help to capture a serial killer targeting his ex-partner’s daughter, so she gets him out of jail … in the middle of a prison riot aimed at Clevenger. He’s got a talent for annoying almost anyone he comes in contact with. Bell also collars him, with a high-tech tracking and behavior device.
Jolley’s writing is terrific, intelligent and gripping. Although set in a metahuman universe, it’s more a crime story than a superhero book, with a serious look at the motivations of those outside the usual societal rules. (And no costumes, since the Firestorm crossover issue was omitted from this collection.) In that way, this is a throwback to the “last honest man” private eye type. If you like Ed Brubaker’s work like Fatale, you should definitely check this out.
Clevenger’s a fighter, clever (see the name) and willing to go as dirty as needs be, in spite of the effects on himself. He’d rather go through a threat than around. As a result, the book can be violent, but it’s not gratuitous (thanks, Leonard Kirk) and it’s in service of the story. I want to know more about who he was before, since I’m curious about how much of this came about from needing to survive in prison. We know he reshaped himself physically, but there’s a lot of background still to be learned about his mental state before and after. (For similar reasons, I really liked the TV show Life, starring Damien Lewis.) That’s one of the aspects that makes this story so rich and fascinating.
We do learn some of his background during the chapter when he’s being attacked by a telepath, someone who’s manipulating his memories. An additional story has him tackling a demonic firestarter. Kirk’s art is clear and straightforward, well supporting the gut-level stories with plenty of detail.
You can read the first issue of Bloodhound for free from Dark Horse’s digital comic store. There has been an additional Bloodhound story, “Plain Sight”, serialized in Dark Horse Presents #23-25, and Dark Horse has announced the followup Crowbar Medicine, a five-issue miniseries launching in October. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)