Thursday, August 6, 2009

100 Issues of 100 Bullets

Your life is a disaster and somebody comes along with irrefutable proof that there's a specific person whom you can blame for it. Not only that, but the one who provides this evidence also gives you a gun and 100 bullets. You can do whatever you want with them, and any police investigations will immediately cease once the bullets are examined by the authorities. In other words, you have carte blanche. Now what?

That's the premise that begins the first issue of 100 Bullets, a comic series that just wrapped up a few months ago. I've been reading the collected editions, and I just finished the final one, "Wilt" a few moments ago. Since the series has come out somewhat sporadically, and long periods of time went between each collected edition, I was starting to forget a lot of important plot points. In fact, I didn't bother reading the last two volumes, as I planned to read the entire series in one go once the final volume came in. Well, it took about a week, but I finally finished it.

All in all, I think that this has been a great series. It doesn't crack my top ten, but it probably makes the top twenty. I also think that if you want to compare it to the crime comic that has more name recognition - Frank Miller's Sin City, then it's a superior example of the art form. I'd also put Eduardo Risso in my list of favorite comics artists of all time.

Anyway, for those of you who haven't read it but are intrigued by the concept, let me just say that it gets a lot more complex than that. After all, who is this Agent Graves (the man who'll give people the gun and the bullets)? How does he have the connections to make something like this happen? It's all part of a much larger story involving a conspiracy of powerful people called The Trust, and Agent Graves is a member of The Minutemen. His team was tasked with making sure that nobody in The Trust betrayed one another. They were separate from The Trust yet integral to their survival.

I'm a person who gets lost when there are too many different characters and too many different plot twists. I have to admit that even after reading the whole series over the course of a week, there are still bits and pieces I'm not entirely clear about. That said, all of the major characters were engaging enough to keep me interested, and just when I started to feel confused, the story got back on track and I was back on board for the ride. Was the ending satisfying? From what I can tell, everything seems pretty well wrapped up. I don't know if it was as satisfying as my all-time favorite comic series, Preacher, but it certainly didn't disappoint.

Enough can't be said about the artwork of Eduardo Risso though. There are two things that always impress me about him. The first is that his characters all look so completely distinct from one another. There are some artists who only seem to have a few basic face-types that they do with small variations on that. Usually, that's good enough, but I've never confused a headshot of one character with the headshot of another's. Keep in mind too that this comic takes place in a "real" world - there aren't elaborate superhero costumes to tell them apart.

The other thing I like about his work is that his characters are so alive. What I mean by that is he doesn't just fill the backgrounds with random characters to inhabit the space not taken by the main action. There's always something going on with those background characters, and you can even follow little mini-stories with them. Each character seems to have his or her own story going on.

Another highlight of the series was the character called Lono. He has to easily be one of the most vile, horrible characters ever created. Bad guys are a dime a dozen, and it's hard to make one that really makes the reader feel some genuine sort of hatred (for lack of a better word) for the villain. Brian Azarello managed to do just that with this guy. No doubt Eduardo Risso's depiction of the character also added a great deal to the sense of menace and impending danger that always came with that guy.

If you're looking for a good crime comic, check out the first volume of the series. If you like that, then you'll probably like the rest. I look forward to what these characters have in store next. (Currently, they're doing the Batman comic in Wednesday Comics, but I'm sure there's a lot more on the horizon.)

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