100 Bullets #50

Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Eduardo Risso
40 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

How do you handle an anniversary story? There seems to be two different schools of thought on the matter. The first option is to make it a big payoff for your existing audience, throwing in everything but the kitchen sink that’s lead up until that point, a continuity follower’s delight and incomprehensible to anyone else who stumbles into the adventure. The second option is to go the opposite route, making a story designed to appeal to brand-new readers, even as your established audience quietly yawns and waits for it to be over so the story can start moving forward again. Naturally, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso have decided to take the third option that almost everyone else seems to ignore: make a story that lets new readers jump on board while still greatly advancing the storyline for your existing audience. And trust me when I say that Azzarello and Risso make that look far easier than it really is.

Three criminals wait in a bar for their two fellow thieves. There’s a stolen cache of diamonds to be split up, and as soon as they’re reunited it’s time to split the loot. As one of them explains to the others, this is a principle that the United States were founded on. The thing is, almost no one knows the truth behind the country’s creation, and how thirteen families known as the Trust made sure that absolutely no one else would have a claim to all the riches awaiting them. If you get away with stealing something, be it diamonds or a country, it’s yours. Just make sure no one else tries to take it from you…

Azzarello’s been quietly skirting around the edge of the story of the Trust, the mysterious organization that Agent Graves and his briefcases of 100 untraceable bullets, the deadly Minutemen, and the untrustworthy Agent Shepherd are all connected to. Here, it all begins to pay off as Azzarello explains just how the Trust was formed, the truth behind the lost Roanoke Colony, and why the mysterious word “Croatoa” keeps showing up. What’s great about this story, though, is that you don’t need to know anything that’s happened before to appreciate it. People who have never read 100 Bullets can still appreciate the Trust’s draconian actions and the connection to historical events, getting a pleasurable experience in its own right. Azzarello’s story is full of tension to grip just about anyone reading it, and he’s wisely using brand-new characters in “Pray for Reign” so new readers don’t have to worry about any sort of backstory. Victor in particular makes a striking first appearance, with his solution to the missing partner in crime’s predicament as well as how far he’s willing to stoop in order to survive. It’s a great initial impression, and Azzarello’s clearly having fun writing him. For those who have read the rest of the series, though, “Pray for Reign” has a lot of payoffs as well as additional clues awaiting them. They’re able to get added understanding to “Croatoa”, as well as getting an additional insight into the mind of Victor. Are they necessary to enjoy the story? Nope, but it’s a nice bonus.

Risso’s art looks fantastic as it always does. He draws the cast of 100 Bullets in a beautifully stripped down style, placing smooth inks (with gorgeous colors by Patricia Mulvihill) into the seediest locations imaginable. He’s got a wonderful understanding of body language; as Sheila leans on the bar and rolls her eyes while Bass lectures her and Victor seems supremely uninterested in them both, it’s perfect in that you can understand exactly what they’re thinking and even saying to each other through the art. Risso draws the little details just as well as his characters, too. From curls of smoke to the blaze of guns, everything moves across the page so gracefully it’s like you’re watching a movie instead of reading a comic.

If you’ve fallen away from 100 Bullets (which could’ve quite easily happened when the book briefly slowed down production to allow Azzarello and Risso to work on Batman for six months), this is a great way to reacquaint yourself with the series. If this is your first taste of 100 Bullets, well, you’ll be delighted to know that the first 42 issues are already collected into six books, with a seventh volume containing #43-49 due at the end of July. So go on, try 100 Bullets #50. Just know that when you’re done, 100 Bullets Vol. 1: First Shot, Last Call will be waiting for you. You’ll be back for more with a smile on your face and an open wallet.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

2 comments to 100 Bullets #50

  • manjisan

    100 Bullets is one of the reasons why I love Vertigo. Great review by the way. When I read my first TPB of 100, I ran out and bought the next three that were out at the time and am pacing as I wait for the next TPB. Perfect description of the series thus far:

    “…From curls of smoke to the blaze of guns, everything moves across the page so gracefully itís like youíre watching a movie instead of reading a comic…..”

  • I agree 100% with Manjisan. 100 Bullets was a fantastic creation and it sucks it has ended, but Azzarello is a writer to keep an eye on in my books.