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100 BULLETSWriter: Brian Azzarello
Artists: Eduardo Risso et. al.
Publisher: Vertigo (DC)
Synopsis: It's the ultimate revenge fantasy. Somehow, somewhere, SOMEONE is to blame for all the problems with your life. And deep down, we'd all like to know just who that is...and get a chance to take them out. Well, Agent Graves knows. And he's going to offer you that chance, in the form of a suitcase. Inside is all the proof you need that someone ruined your life. A gun, completely untracable. And 100 bullets. Now...what do you do?
How Is It?: I stumbled across this book in my local library (yes, the library) long before I'd heard of it anywhere else, and I was dazzled. Since then Bullets has gone on to join the illustrious likes of Preacher as the "flagship" for the acclaimed Vertigo line of comics. It's an homage to noir and crime fiction, but unlike Frank Miller, Azzarrelo doesn't wallow in nastiness and brutality, concentrating instead on compelling plots and gripping drama to propel the reader from issue to issue. Once you start in with this comic, you'll be unable to stop until the mysteries are revealled--which isn't going to be anytime soon.
First Shot, Last CallSynopsis: Dizzy, a latino girl just out of prison, is the first to receive Grave's special offer, with the targets being a pair of corrupt cops. Then we meet a down-on-his-luck bartender, whose target is a computer hacker with a mysterious link to Graves.
How Is It?: If reading this comic doesn't make you want to rush out and buy the next one, you may be clinically dead. The first story demonstrates a masterful handling of character, social concerns providing a backdrop to an all-too believable tale (but without preachiness). The next is a slightly less plausible but more exciting story, but what really kicks it into gear is that first, ominous, and tantalizing glimpse into what Graves' master plan might be, and who the bad guys...or possibly the good guys...are. This series is a masterful balance between an anthology and a continuing series, with stories in the foreground helping to develop the ongoing plot (which I'm told takes over more in later issues). Special mention must be made of the artwork, reminiscent of Mike Mignola but more realistic, again capturing the feel of noir with a bold and interesting rather than gritty and ugly style. All in all, this is your best bet for entertainment until the next Elmore Leonard book comes out (and possibly even then.)
Split Second ChanceSynopsis: A series of stand-alone 100 Bullets stories with a few interesting angles: we're introduced to the concept of the "Minutemen", a band of Graves' former agents, including one who's had his memory erased but is suddenly back in the game; in the final story, we catch up with Dizzy as she's sent to France on a mission by Graves.
How Is It?: I seem fated to be disappointed in second installments. While the storytelling remains at a high level, the initial "hook" presented in the last volume doesn't go anywhere, and the unfolding plot branches off in a lot of confusing directions. We know a little more about Graves (or his m.o., anyway) but we still have no idea what the heck he thinks he's doing, or why his plan is so convoluted. In the meantime, we get some fairly interesting stand-alone stories, but since most of them end with the protagonists dead (and with Graves being partly to blame) it's hard to get really involved. Combine this with a certain amount of sleaziness (LOTS of sex and violence in these stories...even Risso's art seems to drip with a certain oily, grimy look, which I have to admit makes it very well-suited to the story) and I find myself deciding that I'm not really a huge fan of crime comics, or at least the Tarantino-wannabe genre. I guess this is the make-or-break collection for this series: either it'll stop you cold or you'll be begging for more. In my case, it was the former.
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