100 Bullets

Last week the last collected edition (#13) of 100 Bullets arrived. So I started back at the beginning and read all the way through.

This is not a shiny, happy story. To give you an idea, if you look at the Wikipedia page listing the main characters, there are only three who are not at least presumed deceased, and of the ones who are marked indeterminate, I, personally, would only consider one of those to be truly likely.

Even though stories like that usually aren’t to my taste, I found it a compulsive page-turner. It starts off as if it’s going to be a too-clever sort of a morality play repeated ad-infinitum, and just when you think it’s not worth proceeding, you’re shown that there’s a lot more going on than you realize.

Azarello’s scripting is tight–nothing is wasted, with what seems to be throwaway background action in one arc becoming part of the foreground in another–and his feel for how real people speak never rang false for me. The characters are posessed of their own idiosyncracies, feeling true and in some cases worthy of compassion. And Azarello’s not afraid to surprise you–something that I’m sure was made easier by having a well-defined end-point in mind when he started.

Risso’s art is the bomb. Having the same artist for the entire run is helpful because it gives the characters a sense of more concrete identity–even during flashbacks or after dramatic personal changes, they remain easily recognized. And his economy of line is brilliant–it is as if Frank Miller had taken his best approach to fine line-art (from Elektra Lives Again or thereabouts) and then continued down that path, creating a vocabulary that is expressive, compelling, and versatile.

Definitely worth a read.

100 Bullets

Brian Azarello and Eduardo Risso have created something pretty amazing–a distnictly noir-influenced comic that I like despite the rampant, generally brutal and often graphic violence.

I picked up the first collection about a year ago, and read all the collections to that point over the course of about a month–picking up the next collection or two each week. The twelfth (and, I suspect, given the significance of 13 in the story, penultimate) collection just came out last week, so over the last couple of days I re-read the whole story–I thought about waiting until the last collection was going to be out, when I realized it was going to be another year. I sure wasn’t gonna wait that long.

In my experience, the best serial fiction rewards re-reading because it’s only upon re-reading that you see the careful set-ups that make you realize that the creator(s) knew what they were doing from the very beginning–they telegraph things that are going to happen down the line well in advance, and the second time around (and any subsequent ones) you get to see this a lot better.

100 Bullets definitely has that quality.

Also, Risso seems to have all the best qualities of Frank Miller’s Ronin-era line-work, with a much more expressive palette of facial expressions, and a great feel for when to just leave some lines out, something Miller seems to have forgotten how to do.
And, finally, I just want to know what happens. I’m not sure there’s any better compliment.