Issue #5 brings to a close the opening arc, with Ray "killing" Bloodsquirt and Kay after they encourage him to kill Magic in cold blood, since she's dead weight. In the end, Ray hypothesizes that they're actually manifestations of the nanites. He thinks that they're trying to find a way to control him because he actually now has better control over them than he previously did. After he "kills" them, he asks Magic to read his "secret origin" file, because he needs to know if he was ever good before the nanites take control of him and he possibly becomes evil again. It's a compellingly sad request, and it also establishes why Magic stays in the picture: she's the only one that really understand him, literally. But, the real stars of the show in issue #5 are Raul Allen and Patricia Martin as they brilliantly juxtapose Ray's growing bloodlust with Bloodsquirt's cartoonish world. (The scene where he kills a cartoon Unity is hilarious and disturbing at the same time, particularly since Ray is beside himself in grief as it happens.)
Freed from his hallucinations (for now), Ray begins to hunt down the four remaining hosts of the nanites. That said, issue #6 is really about Ray and Magic. Ray tries to convince her to leave, but she stresses that she has nowhere else to go. She has no money and the police are also looking for her. (It reminds us that it's a two-way street; she's not just here because Ray needs her, but because she needs him.) Ray initially leaves her, but he returns. Lemire isn't 100 percent clear why he returns, but the kiss that they share outside the motel when he does gives us a hint. They begin driving around Colorado, and Ray eventually finds the next host. However, in a development that actually gave me chills, he discovers that two hosts at the same house: one of the hosts has begun hunting other hosts. This new actor kills the other host and absorbs the nanites, meaning that we essentially have two Bloodshots at this point. Disturbing, no?
Meanwhile, Lemire also develops Mulder and Scully, or Festival and Hoyt. They wind up sleeping together here, because Festival thought that it would spark her powers. It doesn't, in part because Hoyt, um, couldn't actually light the spark. (This entire scene is amazingly funny, with Festival frequently finding euphemisms for Hoyt's inability to perform.) My only question here is how Festival and Hoyt know about Project: Rising Spirit (Hoyt mentions it). I don't remember it from previous issues, so I'll have to check my back issues. Hoyt plans on asking a buddy from the CIA for more details about them, and I'm just as intrigued as they are about the answer.
All in all, both these issues are remarkably solid. I can't believe what a complicated and layered story Lemire is telling after just six issues. I shouldn't be surprised given that he's done something similar on "All-New Hawkeye," but it's worth noting nonetheless. I keep looking for titles to drop, and this title is an easy candidate since it's the only Valiant title that I collect. But, every time I read an issue I remember why it stays securely on my pull list.
**** (four of five stars)