Thursday, 20 February 2014

100 Bullets, Volume 1: First Shot, Last Call Review (Brian Azzarello, Eduardo Risso)


If you were offered the chance to the kill the person who murdered your family or destroyed your life, and get away with it no questions asked: would you do it? That’s the offer Agent Graves, a mysterious man with an untraceable gun and 100 bullets, presents to Dizzy, a recently released Latina former gangbanger whose husband and baby were gunned down by corrupt cops, and Lee, a bartender whose happily married and prosperous life was destroyed by false paedophilia allegations. 

Brian Azzarello’s morality story plays out convincingly and not entirely predictably. There is the usual “is this for real?” doubt going back and forth in the story over the odd situation Graves presents her with and, while Dizzy did do what I knew she was going to by the end of her arc, there was a surprise element thrown in that I didn’t see coming. Similarly with Lee’s storyline, you expect it to go one way and then it goes a different way and then ends in another way. 

I don’t know anyone whose life is like Dizzy’s so can’t speak to the authenticity of the dialogue and values – it often felt a lot like parts of The Wire – but it didn’t seem fake. The conversation amongst the Latina characters given their socio-economic backgrounds seemed realistic.

Eduardo Risso’s art is as perfect as ever. There’s great use of shadows to accentuate characters’ entrances, the pages are imaginative with traditional panelling thrown out in favour of more dynamic layouts with backgrounds from one scene bleeding into another. The character designs are cartoonish and angular at times but in a way that’s visually appealing, eye-catching and memorable. 

So why aren’t I raving about this book? It is decently written and well-illustrated. Except it never really drew me in. I read this understanding what was happening but I was detached and unaffected by the characters’ plights. This is probably because of the short-story format where each new 2 or 3 issue arc introduces a new setup and cast with the one constant being Agent Graves and his gun. Azzarello simply doesn’t have the space to build a world or develop a character, he has to jump in with broad strokes and hope it’s enough. It feels like a short story collection rather than a unified series in the same way other titles like Transmetropolitan or The Sandman are. 

The concept itself seems fine but limited, at least based on this first book alone. Wronged person goes after bad guy, one of them dies, repeat. I can understand the potential of this in terms of the kinds of people this involves – gangsters, bankers, politicians, and their opposites, namely the downtrodden masses getting their cathartic comeuppance – but it still seems somewhat repetitive. Though maybe the concept changes and develops over time? I just don’t get the series’ direction (if it has one). 

100 Bullets Volume 1 is a decent crime comic with really good art, and I can certainly appreciate the talent here, but this first book didn’t leave much of an impression. I’m glad I finally read something of this series, but it’s missing heart and a plot which doesn’t make me want to seek out the next volume in a hurry – though I will get to Volume 2 at some point, and that says something.

100 Bullets Vol. 1: First Shot, Last Call

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