I’m old enough to remember Bloodlines. It was the summer of 1993. The previous year, DC had a big hit with Eclipso: The Darkness Within, a crossover series that ran through its various annuals. Bloodlines was going to be bigger, badder, and better than Eclipso, or so they had us believe, and introduce a host of new and exciting heroes into the DC Universe.
It wasn’t, and it didn’t.
In annual after annual we were presented to quickly sketched out and largely one-dimensional characters who became victims of one of a number of basically identical shape shifting alien invaders. While most of their victims died, a few (usually one per issue) got transformed, gaining somewhat random powers, most often associated with whatever few character traits they had been given before the attack.
I got bored of Bloodlines fairly early, and gave up on the annuals that were not part of series I was already reading. For a major DC geek like me, that was unheard of. Even worse, it took me a few years to finally pick up the concluding chapter of Bloodbath, the concluding story line. I simply didn’t care about the plot, or about most of the new heroes.
I was not alone in this. The one and only character introduced during Bloodlines who went on to have a successful run was Hitman. A few of the others were banded together in a short lived team, the Blood Pack. A handful made later appearances in the books they had debuted in. But as time went by, the various Bloodlines characters usually only were brought back in order to be killed off. Nobody was going to miss them.
So six months ago, when DC began a new Bloodlines miniseries, I wondered what was going on. I thought perhaps they were resurrecting the name with no connection to the previous incarnation. It’s not such a bad name for a miniseries, after all. But then as I started to read it, it became apparent that JT Krul, V Ken Marion and Sean Parsons were giving an infusion of new life into the old concept.
That being said, this is not a case of bringing back the original characters, or even the original concept. There are similarities, to be true. Enough to warrant a re-use of the name. An alien invasion is at the core of the story, and there are heroes created who bear a passing resemblance to Loose Cannon, Razorsharp, Sparx, and others.
But the story we are treated to is a far more interesting one, far more disturbing, far more creepy. We follow a group of teens in a small town as they begin to manifest powers for reasons unknown. Their hunt for answers leads them down dark paths, and a body count mounts with each issue. Curiously, the one thing it is easiest to compare Bloodlines to is not the original series, but the recent tv show Stranger Things. Both see a small town devastated by its own secrets, and both have interesting characters, who provide a real emotional core to the crazed events taking place.
In brief, the teens learn that they have become hosts for alien parasites. The parasites endow them with amazing abilities, but are slowly taking them over. So the gifts they receive are mixed blessings at best. This allows for some great moments, the kind we often get in zombie stories, where lovers and good friends have to turn on each other, to kill the person they care about who has turned into something else.
While I was more than content when the original Bloodlines crossover series ended, the conclusion of the miniseries simply left me wanting more. Fortunately, the end does have a group of the new heroes heading to Metropolis, hoping to get help before they also fall under the control of the parasites inhabiting them. I hope it doesn’t take another 23 years to follow it up this time.