Wednesday, April 22, 2009

100 Bullets: R.I.P.

Posted By on Wed, Apr 22, 2009 at 8:33 AM

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It’s a sour-sweet week for me here at Sing All Kinds. Unless you’ve been living under a rock — a very nerdy, unsociable, awkward-around-girls rock — you would have absolutely no idea whatsoever that this week saw the release of the last-ever issue of comic book series 100 Bullets.

For the uninitiated, 100 Bullets is an R-rated crime series of the imprint Vertigo, which publishes "Comics and books for mature readers." 100 Bullets #1 came out in August 1999, a shot across the bow of American sequential art, fired by writer Brian Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso. Ten years and multiple Eisner and Harvey awards later, issue #100 has been released. Its passing marks the end of the defining comics story of the current decade.

Roughly speaking, Bullets is of the hard-boiled school of American crime fiction. Its premise is certainly straight out of the pulps: A stranger gives to seemingly randomly picked individuals a briefcase carrying an untraceable gun and 100 rounds of ammunition and incontrovertible proof that they have been heinously, criminally wronged by another. If they choose to seek retribution, they have a guarantee from the mysterious man that they'll be exempt from the laws of man.

What starts as a dipped-in-blood morality tale soon enough becomes an epic American conspiracy theory. Though of course the stuff of fiction, the places 100 Bullets takes America to are nevertheless as subtextually truthful as anything can be about this post-modern capitalist society in which we live.

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The mysterious stranger offering guns and revenge? Thats Agent Graves, a kind of Uncle Sam 2.0. The cast of characters pulling the strings in the Bullets universe? Those are your power brokers so powerful you don't even know their names. They're giving and getting a trillion dollars of bailout money. Just because they're bored. And the retrofitting of American history expanding from Roanoke Island to present day? Let's just say it's a rare work of fantastical fiction that doesn't besmirch an iota of popularly-held facts.

Issue #100 takes the whole endeavor back to where it started. Morality comes down to personal choice and being able to live with the decisions you make. And like every other issue, it features the brilliant collaboration of Azzarello and Risso, as seamless a marriage of word and art as we've seen since Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The stuff of legend. And covers by Dave Johnson. Oh, those covers.

And, the great thing about comics these days: Like TV series, it's all easily available in condensed packaging. No more need to hunt down every single issue of the Bullets run. Just buy the collected volumes and find a comfy chair. Volume 13, the last collection, will be out this summer.

Not a comics reader? This might be a good place to start, especially for those averse to the superhero vein. 100 Bullets is particularly recommended to fans of Jim Thompson, The Wire, and A People's History of the United States.

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