Bleedout is set in a world where the petroleum has basically run out. Predictably this has caused no end of chaos and danger. As a result of this situation, Sunset City (the main setting of this comic) is controlled by a cadre of criminals whose agreement (The Thumbcuff Accord) is expiring.
Bleedout is moderately successful in what it sets out to do – create a backstory for a video-game world. It gives enough broad strokes plot wise without getting into any depth to give a reader an idea of the universe without having to really analyze or evaluate any characters in a plot sense.
As a comic, Bleedout is quite jumbled. While there seems to be a protagonist named “Pilot” in fact he is a mostly removed observer of what happens. He functions as a readers’ eyes into the story. This is not successful. Part of the issue is that it is really unclear who we are supposed to care about. If it is supposed to be Pilot, he lacks any voice or agency, which makes him a ghost with regards to the story. He doesn’t appear to effect anything, and while there are these cryptic sayings at the beginning of each chapter that hint at a deeper backstory for him nothing is explained in compelling way. The other characters that we are introduced to are either uninteresting, or so little of their story is told that you can’t get a sense of who they are. Fundamentally it creates a flawed and unsatisfying story.
That being said, the art is at times quite good and at other times mediocre. Generally speaking the art is appropriate for the somber and gritty tone of the story. The tone does not reach too far or get incredibly deep. Still, much of the artistic talent is top notch, and some of the stories really shine because of it.
Glenn Fabry in particular does quite impressive work with his piece. Fabry draws the story of a sallow faced mathematician and horticulturalist who is conned by a criminal family and says some things that he wish he hadn’t. Fabry’s waxy style, coupled with those instances of ultra-violence (by the criminal family) create the seed to a story that would be worth following in more depth.
Howard Chaykin is another whose chapter really plays to his strengths. His illustrated piece primarily contends with politics. It concerns a male mayor, a female administrative assistant and sex. It also shows why The Thumbcuff Accord was signed in the first place. Chaykin’s portraits of corruption in elected office are spot on. The Mayor comes off smarmy and incompetent. It allows the small story to stretch to its fullest potential.
Overall Bleedout is a mixed bag. Fans of the game world might be interested in learning more about the world they are playing in. Fans of anthologies might enjoy seeing the myriad styles and well known artists on display. Fans of well written coherent stories should stay away.
by Mike Kennedy
Art by Nathan Fox, Zach Howard, Sanford Greene, David Williams, Ben Templesmith, Gary Erskine, Howard Chaykin, Glenn Fabry, Vince Proce, and Trevor Hairsine
Publisher Age Rating: Mature