Wednesday, November 12, 2014

100 Bullets Reread, Vol 6: Six Feet Under the Gun

            Volume 6...

Issue #37 “On Accidental Purpose”

            You can’t go home again… a lesson Dizzy learns in this, the first chapter in a collection of issues which place the focus on the various characters of the series. You may think that makes these single issue “character pieces” something of a breather after all the bluster of the last few issues, but that’s not entirely the case. For this issue, Shepherd brings Dizzy Cordova back to her Chicago barrio after a year of being away, and Dizzy finds out just how much she’s changed since leaving. All her old friends are either on welfare or working multiple shit part-time jobs to barely scrape out a living, while Dizzy herself has been travelling the world and eating fine food and drinking expensive wine. Of course, there is the little matter of her being thrown about like a pawn on a chess-board by some of the nastiest, most devious people on the planet, but you take what you can get. While Dizzy revisits old haunts, Shepherd meets up with Graves, and the two continue their uneasy alliance… or do they? It’s another elliptical conversation between characters who don’t trust anyone, and thus anything is up for interpretation in where the chips will fall within their relationship. One thing is for certain, however: they both have major plans for Dizzy, and they don’t seem to lead anywhere good.

Issue #38 “Cole Burns, Slow Hand”

            This second standalone is a breather from the main story, as there’s virtually no talk of the Trust or the Minutemen. Rather, we get a split story that details a bar robbery gone wrong and Cole Burns’ attempt to win back his girlfriend Sasha, who we last saw him leave behind in his debut story almost twenty issues ago. It’s a minor character piece, but it gives us a nice excuse to get a bit more Cole in our lives. Also, after “The Counterfifth Detective” and its vast array of women all but dropping their pants at the sight of Milo Garrett, it’s nice to see a female character who is not going to put up with any more of this macho bullshit, as Sasha closes the door on Cole permanently. Of course, the two stories eventually collide (violently, natch), and we end with the smooth-talking Cole for once left without much to say. 

Issue #39 “Ambition’s Audition”

            Apathetic heir-apparent Benito Medici is the focus of this story, whom by issue’s end featuring an attempt on his life, is decidedly less apathetic, and more willing to get involved with the family business. It’s a nice way to progress Benito’s character, who can only do the burn-out thing for so long before he starts to get annoying, and also a nice insight into his relationship with his father. Despite his day job, Augustus Medici is certainly not a man without empathy: he loves his son, and wants nothing more than for him to reach his full potential - the fact that reaching that full potential means heading up the largest crime syndicate in the world is almost beside the point. Once more, it is the characters that shine through and make 100 Bullets as engaging as it is.

            Risso also deserves special mention, as the shootout that concludes this issue is a master-class in how to layout a tense scene for the comic page.  

Issue #40 “Night of the Payday”

            There’s something about Lono. He’s easily the most despicable character of the entire series, perpetrating some of the most horrible shit ever committed to a comic page, with a big grin plastered to his face all the while. And yet, for all of Lono’s sociopathy, there’s still something that keeps you from taking your eyes away from him. It certainly has something to do with his “no apologies” attitude: no matter how vile they are, we’re almost instinctually attracted to people who say and do what’s on their minds without fear of consequence. Lono’s a wild card, and he remains interesting precisely because you don’t know what he’s going to do next. In a series of shifting allegiances and underground wars, Lono stands for nothing but himself - and remains almost impossible to kill, in spite of what happens at the end of this issue, in which Lono's many sins start to catch up with him

            It’s also interesting to note Lono’s changing appearance throughout the series. When he first appeared, Risso drew him more or less like a normal person, but now Lono is starting to take on the more monstrous look we know and love - a brawnier, almost wolf-like look, not unlike Marvel Comics' Wolverine.

Issue #41 “A Crash”

            Azzarello and Risso certainly have developed a template for how your typical 100 Bullets story arc will play out: there’s the main story, usually involving one or more of the series’ regulars, and then another, smaller crime story - usually not connected in any way with the story of the Trust and the Minutemen, but often thematically similar. Such is the case for this outing, which sees Graves meeting with three families of the Trust who aren’t so keen on Augustus Medici’s strong-arming the organization into a forced peace, and would be willing to reinstate Graves and his Minutemen to their former status if Augustus were to suddenly be put out of the picture. All of this plays out as a young couple rushes to the scene of a car accident, only to find a corpse with a winning lottery ticket in hand. The writing in this issue proves to be some of Azzarello’s most polished yet, as the two otherwise-unrelated stories intersect and complement each other in increasingly clever ways. Much like the couple deciding what the “right” thing to do with the lottery ticket is, Graves finds himself at a crossroads, where he must choose to align with the (still small) contingent of the Trust who want him back, or to continue on with his business as planned. And much like the couple this issue, he’ll have to make his decision fast if he wants to get out of this story alive.

Issue #42 “Point Off The Edge”

                We close out the volume by catching up with professional slacker Wylie Times, who this issue gets the dubious honor of Graves’ attaché. Wylie is loathe to accept it, but after a robbery gone wrong at the gas station Wylie works at, he finds himself a little more agreeable to Graves’ offer. The meat of the story is about as straightforward as it gets, and Azzarello gets to sum up Wylie’s whole arc over the course of the series with expertly written lines of dialogue such as, “Assholes are meant to give a shit, not eat it.” It may not seem like a big moment in the series, but the ramifications of Wylie accepting Graves’ offer will be felt for the rest of 100 Bullets’ run. Not to mention that this issue acts as something of a prelude for Wylie’s big story coming up in Vol. 8, which also happens to be my favorite story arc of the whole series.

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