From writer Geoffrey Thorne and original series artist ChrisCross comes the return of a DC/Milestone classic favorite with BLOOD SYNDICATE: SEASON ONE #1. With colors by Juan Castro and lettering from Wil Quintana, this issue sees a fair amount of potential that is unfortunately covered up by worn tropes and inconsistent art. Despite these disappointing flaws, there are enough kernels of greatness here that, if given the proper time, could see this series become a serious hit in DC’s lineup.
“Wise Son and Tech-9 have returned from their military tours in Afghanistan—and life in Dakota City could not be more different. While Icon and Rocket have been busy cleaning up the streets, Bang Babies have been forming rival gang factions. With Holocaust’s influence—and super-powered army—growing, who will look out for the people of Paris Island when the capes aren’t watching? What secrets do Wise and Tech hide from their time overseas? As the struggle for power on the chaotic streets spills into war…who will emerge victorious as the new kingpin of Paris Island?”
Writing & Plot
Just like the rest of Milestone’s comics, Blood Syndicate #1 offers a much needed and seldom seen perspective on different walks of life. Writer Geoffrey Thorne takes up the reins of this 90’s favorite and does just that. Thorne brings Wise Son and Tech-9 back home from a stint in Afghanistan to their equally war-torn neighborhood that is, as in our own reality, pretty much ignored by the rest of society. While new superheroes like Icon and Rocket have been keep crime down, problems crop up in the corners major heroes can’t quite see. Hence, where our story begins.
There is a fair amount to like about Thorne’s script in this opening chapter. The cast of characters we get to see here feel like real people, with their dialogue and interactions coming off as wholly believable. The idea that this whole story takes place as a side-effect of what the major heroes can’t (or won’t) deal with is a concept that is always compelling and hasn’t been brought up as much as it should be. Unfortunately, these better aspects are buried by underwhelming tropes. The military sequences in this comic are completely unremarkable and feel exactly like the exact same ground that’s been done to death a million times over. This wouldn’t be a big deal if it weren’t for the fact that this part of the plot takes up so much space in the comic. Another concern is that Rolando (aka Tech-9) is more a vehicle for plot this issue rather than a fleshed out character. So much is unique and engaging about the supporting cast, but the protagonist thus far is just reacting to others. He feels like the protagonist is a standard-fare shooter just in this opening chapter. This will no doubt change as the series continues, but it is something to be aware of. Overall, this first issue is a bit of a disappointment, with its great moments too few and far between while being covered up by uninteresting sequences.
Original series artist ChrisCross has returned to deliver his work for Blood Syndicate: Season One #1. His pencils in this return do offer some very solid character animations and generally well-made compositions. Unfortunately however, his art here is even more inconsistent than the script. Again, while there are some parts that look great, others appear rushed and poorly designed. Accessory details like cars and weapons look almost gummy, and it’s noticeable enough to be genuinely distracting. Facial animations that look fantastic half the time are distractingly lower-quality the other half. There are some action sequences that look stellar and the book’s pacing is mostly solid thanks to ChrisCross’s composition. It’s unfortunate that there aren’t more positive things to say about his return to this comic.
Juan Castro’s colors add a ton of brightness and dimension to this comic’s aesthetic. Every panel is filled with energy thanks to Castro’s vivid color choice. There is a sort of dough-y, heavily digital filter over the whole book that may take some getting used to, but it’s easy to overlook. One major critique however is tied to the Afghanistan sequences. It’s unfortunate to see that stereotypical “the Middle East is brown” filter over every one of these sequences. This is a criticism that has been leveled at films for doing the same thing for years, so it’s disappointing to see a comics creator do the same thing in the year 2022. The lettering from Wil Quintana is overall solid and easily readable, but generally stays out of the way. He utilizes big, loud SFX letters during the action sequences that aren’t super creative, but they certainly get the job done. Overall, this comic has some great aspects that, much like its writing, end up overridden by inconsistency and odd choices.
Blood Syndicate #1 may be the most “I desperately wanted this to be great” comic in recent memory. Thorne’s script has some great dialogue and character interactions, and poses some great concept that will be exciting to see explored further. Unfortunately, it’s bogged down by tropes and too much focus on uninteresting topics. The visuals from ChrisCross and Juan Castro are solidly composed and have some great action sequences, but this too is bogged down by panels and details that feel rushed. These could all just be 1st issue qualms, so hopefully issue 2 is able to be more polished and move onto more compelling topics. If you are a diehard Milestone reader, then be sure to grab this issue when it hits shelves on May 10th!