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100 Bullets Vol. 1: First Shot, Last Call Paperback – February 1, 2000
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The basic premise is that a mysterious man by the name of Mr. Graves arrives in your life and presents you with a briefcase. In the briefcase is a gun, 100 bullets of completely untraceable ammunition and loads of evidence about the person who screwed you over and why. You're given the choice: use the bullets or not. It's up to you what to do from there. You'd think the answer would be obvious and the series would degrade into a Charles Bronsonesque revenge caper. Far from it. The decisions Azzarrello's characters make and how they go about plotting their revenge never fails to surprise.
The opening tale is about Dizzy Cordova, a Hispanic "girl from the hood," whose boyfriend and child were killed by crooked cops. She meets Mr. Graves and makes her decision about what she should do with this opportunity to "make things right."
Eduardo Risso's art is perfect for this series. He uses darkness and light for maximum effect and is excellent at communicating the emotions of the characters through subtle depictions of body language and facial expressions. I don't know who the Vertigo people at DC Comics found him, but this Argentine (I think that's his nationality) is a serious talent.
Having read 100 BULLETS for a year and a half now, I can say that I honestly have no idea where it's headed but that it's a non-stop thrill ride. Great street-level stories with real, in-depth characterization. Gamblers, hoods, assassins, backstabbing business people, bartenders, dirty cops, you name it. They're all in 100 BULLETS and you'll want to read each and every one of their stories.
This series sneeaks up on you, as it initially feels like taking what you think is a shortcut, a road you've never taken before, just to avoid the traffic.
Volume 1 is when you first turn on the road...things look familiar to you and you think have an idea where the road is going, as you see your destination on the horizon. Then you realize (by the end of Volume 1) that this road starts to lead you away from familiar territory...and suddenly you are in dangerous, alien territory. There is no exit in sight, the cell phone don't work, and you can't turn back. Nothing to do but enjoy the ride!
Best series I have read in a long time. Volume 1 is the start of the ultimate mindjob.
If you liked the intricacies of novels like Sleeper or DMZ, you are off to a great start on a fantastic series with Volume 1.
The second storyline is somewhat stronger, as we meet down and out Los Angeles bartender Lee Dolan. The man in black shows up and offers him the chance to get even with the woman who set him up on kiddie porn charges. It's a more far-fetched scenario, but somehow manages to work in a hard-boiled pulp way, as does Lee's character, a loner whose only conversations are with a stripper. Once again, the art is very assured and good, aside from an overabundance of bursting cleavage. The characterization is a little bit stronger, and the storyline just works a little better. There are some oddities here and there, such as the a strange murder and gun battle that takes place behind the characters at one point. A helicopter is blown out of the sky right next to them, but it's not clear why, nor is it clear why they don't notice. This is all perhaps a setup for another story somewhere else in the series, but interrupts the flow of Lee's story. These two stories collect the first five issues of the comic, and an eight-page story from an anthology rounds things off. The lighter side of the man in black's operation is shown in this, as a little old lady comes in to confess her murder, only to be turned away by the cops, who assume she's batty. Overall, it's not pitch perfect, but it definitely established a nice mood and I'm curious to read on to see what the larger motives of the man in black are.