Bloodhound: Crowbar Medicine
It is amazing to me that this book even exists. I’ve written about the title’s history before, but in short, Bloodhound ran ten issues from DC Comics in 2004, then disappeared until Dark Horse reprinted the series in one volume as Brass Knuckle Psychology last year.
Then came actual new stories! By the same creative team — writer Dan Jolley, artists Leonard Kirk & Robin Riggs, and covers by Dave Johnson! I can’t even think of another comic series that got the chance to return, a decade later, with the same creators and concept and appeal. (Something managing to get another chance is rare enough, but usually, in those cases, the owners are corporate and they demand changes since clearly the first take must be considered a failure, or it would still be running.) So now I want to tell you all about it for an ulterior motive: I want to see a volume 3 and more.
Bloodhound: Crowbar Medicine contains the five-issue miniseries as well as “Plain Sight”, which was serialized in Dark Horse Presents #23-25. That story reintroduces the characters. Travis Clevenger looks like a pro wrestler, but with more scars and an electronic tracking collar. He’s a former cop serving time for killing his partner, but his skill in reading people and finding superpowered villains means he keeps getting temporarily sprung by Saffron Bell, an FBI agent who partners with him for the really bad cases, the ones where someone with exceptional abilities is doing bad things. There’s also Trish, Clev’s partner’s widow, who was having an affair with him; her younger daughter Michelle is Clev’s.
The case in “Plain Sight” involves people dropping dead of embolisms, which turn out to be caused by an invisible assassin getting revenge. The short length keeps it moving quickly, but it still gives an excellent idea of how Clev cuts to the chase. He’s a modern-day Sam Spade, justifiably jaded by the events of his life, and willing to take whatever punishment is necessary to achieve his goals and apprehend his man. Only he lives in a world with exceptional abilities, combining a very modern take on superheroes with tough-guy crime stories. He also has a real problem with authority, which provides a living-vicariously frisson whenever he tells off an army officer or self-rightous sheriff.
The main story looks more directly at what a world with superpowers would be like. It’s not a pretty picture, with people who think they want abilities not able to handle them, and a lot of innocents getting killed in the crossfire. (The gun analogy is not lost on the perceptive reader.) A Dr. Morgenstern is offering superhuman abilities to the public at large via a power chip, creating a kind of arms race that plays to the paranoia of otherwise civilized people. Clev and Saffron have to find and stop him.
Jolley does an amazing job with character voices and building suspense, and he’s ably backed up by outstanding art by Kirk and Riggs. They build a realistic-feeling world, where the exaggerated characters fit in as though they lived next door to us. The reader never feels talked-down to — the characters are clever, and so is the writing. If I had any complaint, it would be that Jolley puts Trish’s daughters in jeopardy too frequently. The older Rachel was threatened in the first book, while here, Michelle is in danger from a newly powered person who gets carried away with his chance to be a tough guy saving the day.
Bloodhound: Crowbar Medicine is a truly modern take on vigilantism and justice that I’d recommend to anyone who’s looking for a mature read about superpowers. Clev’s a heroic character in the hardest way, making his own choices about what’s right and often paying a high price for it.