Bloodhound was originally published by DC Comics and was set in that universe, but recently Dark Horse has compiled the old issues (omitting some issues that featured DC-owned characters) into this trade – Brass Knuckle Psychology – to coincide with the new batch of Bloodhound stories by Dan Jolley as part of the Dark Horse Presents line of comics.
What if supervillains weren’t advertising themselves by wearing colorful costumes and shouting their overly complicated plans, but instead used their abilities to steal, rape, and commit murder while leaving next to no trace? When the bad guy isn’t so up front, who is going to stop him? Enter Travis Clevenger, a former police officer with the highest superpowered arrest record on file. Oh, and he’s a convicted murderer himself (well, manslaughter really). But, good, old Clev is about to be offered a reduced sentence and some time out of his cell if he helps the FBI catch a superpowered serial killer.
Travis Clevenger or “Clev” as his friends call him, is quite likeable as a protagonist, despite his circumstances. Even though everyone else – the FBI, other prisoners, and people from his past – feel that they can control him, Clev is clearly the smartest guy in the room and the only one who knows what the hell is going on. While the investigative portions are rather light in this book, I was never in doubt of Clev’s ability to unravel a case and the set-ups for each of the criminals he goes after in this first volume are completely different from your usual supervillain flair and, because of that, nothing short of awesome. The circumstances behind Clev’s crime are heartbreaking and disturbing and do a lot to establish an emotional connection with the big lug. His FBI handler, Agent Saffron Bell, plays well off of him, and, though in this first volume their partnership is still in the budding stages, there’s some real chemistry between these characters.
The investigation and character work isn’t all there is to Bloodhound. It’s also quite brutal. Travis Clevenger is a superpowerless being going up against superpowered criminals, and all he has to use against them are his wits and several hundred pounds worth of muscle. Eye gouging, burning alive, and faces being pounded in are par for the course for Clev. The amount of violence works for this book. Clev’s size and demeanor says he’s capable of hurting you and it highly demonstrates both how vulnerable Clev and Saffron are going up against the dangers they face and how vulnerable someone with superpowers is when their powers don’t include a good defense.
To that end, Leonard Kirk, Eddy Barrow, Robin Riggs, and Moose Baumann did a fantastic job on the art in this book. The subtle character work is great, telling a story well beyond the words being spoken, and when the violence breaks out, jeez does it look good in that wincing and turning away from the page kind of way. Seriously, as messed up as Clev looks after a couple of his fights, I believed this man went toe-to-toe with someone with powers and won.
Five Brass Knuckle Sandwiches out of Five