Michel Fiffe loves superhero teams with a high mortality rate. His creator-owned series, Copra, is a love letter to John Ostrander and Kim Yale’s legendary run on DC Comics’ Suicide Squad, and for his latest project, Bloodstrike: Brutalists, he’s reviving a ’90s Rob Liefeld property featuring a team of assassins brought back from the dead by the U.S. government. This three-part miniseries ties up loose ends from the original Bloodstrike series, and it gives Fiffe the opportunity to continue the canonical stories of characters he’s always appreciated, but haven’t gotten much respect from the comics industry and readership.
“Aside from them looking really great when they line up, I like the characters, I sympathize with them,” says Fiffe. “They get beat up so damn much and they don’t even have a choice about it. They’re underdogs, in a way, which is tough to imagine because they’re super-powered government agents who get brought back to life every other week, so how difficult can things really be, y’know? But it can get pretty ugly for them, and that just feeds my morbid fascination.”
Rob Liefeld was one of the superstars of ’90s comics, but despite his popularity, he’s received a lot of criticism over the years for prioritizing energy and attitude above anatomy and characterization. Fiffe doesn’t share those views, and Liefeld’s style brings him great joy. “I can dissect the separate the elements I like, but there’s something in the sum of the parts that I cannot quantify and is still really appealing,” says Fiffe. “I never understood how fans turned on guys like him and McFarlane after liking them so intensely, yet they still like styles that are fundamentally similar. Liefeld drew the coolest stuff with a super-pop aesthetic. Give me that over lifeless ‘realism’ any day. If I wanted to look at movie stills, I’ll just watch a movie.”
Fiffe has a much broader range than Liefeld, and his work on books like Copra and Zegas spotlights his ambition, versatility, and eagerness to experiment with the form. He’s writing, drawing, coloring, and lettering Bloodstrike: Brutalists, and while he has complete control over the storytelling, he still wants to capture the spirit of the original work. “It’s been a natural fit for me because I’ve leaned into that approach more and more over the years, trying to incorporate that kind of verve into my drawings,” says Fiffe. “There’s definitely a philosophy behind it that I embrace, like the advantage of exaggeration, or the value of cranking stuff up. Even superficially, all that ’90s crosshatching is really just a juiced up version of Frank Miller’s Ronin, which itself is a combination of very unique sources. All of these things continue to influence me.”
’90s comics get a bad rap, but Fiffe doesn’t think the art is responsible for that reputation. “We all ate it up and loved it, ‘til we couldn’t love it anymore,” says Fiffe. “We binged, we purged, the industry collapsed. So, while understandable, it’s too easy to pick on the visual flair of the times as a way to talk about the general shittiness back then. Personally, I respond to the sportsmanship, the competitive immediacy of it all; it’s more ESPN than Artforum. It’s a grindhouse aesthetic: bigger, dirtier, irreverent, unashamed.” Readers can check out the conclusion of Bloodstrike: Brutalists in July, but in the meanwhile, here’s an exclusive preview of the third and final chapter, which has the team’s leader retrieving the bodies of his dead companions for one last mission.