Wednesday, December 10, 2014

100 Bullets Reread, Vol. 10: Decayed

            Vol 10…

Issues #68-69 “Sleep, Walker”

            This arc sees the story flash back in time to the moment a young Phil Graves was elected leader of the Minutemen, and we get to see a little bit of the history of Graves’ and Augustus Medici’s relationship. Once the closest of partners, and now sworn enemies… or are they? For most of the series, we’ve been led to believe that Graves has been waging a secret war on the Trust precisely because of Augustus’ power manipulations, but every move he’s made thus far has only helped his old friend secure a better position within the Trust - something that becomes even more of a reality in this arc, where yet another head of family bites it; knocking the thirteen families of the Trust down to nine. Is it possible that Graves and Augustus could have been in league with each other all along? Well, it’s 100 Bullets, so anything’s possible… but just when you think Azzarello is taking the story one way, it usually veers off onto a side road that you never see coming until it happens.

            In the present day, we learn that Megan is still alive after being shot by Victor Ray the last time we saw her, although far more bitter and not nearly as confident as we’re used to seeing. The cleavage she’s so fond of flaunting to any and everybody who cares to look now bares a scar, a nice touch on Azzarello and Risso’s part to visualize the change in her character. Megan meets with Augustus to once again solidify the union of their houses… this time quite literally, as the two take their relationship to a whole ‘nother level here.

            And we also catch up once more with Jack Daw, who finds himself reactivated during a brutal back-alley fight with none other than Lono, who secures yet another Minuteman for his merry little band. Lono is the wild card who must be paid close attention to as the series now enters its final stretch: a big, dumb brute who winds up probably being smarter and far more devious than anyone is willing to give him credit. At this point, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to see Lono himself in a position to head up the Trust - if he can keep up the current lucky streak he’s on, anyway.        

Issues #70-74 “A Wake”                  

            How late into a series is too late to introduce new characters? I don’t know for sure, but three-quarters of the way into a story seems well past that point, which is really the biggest problem I have with the Rome bros., Ronnie and Remi. Call it the mother/duckling syndrome: we get attached to the first characters we meet, and have spent the bulk of the story watching them develop. With roughly twenty-five issues to go, it’s hard to see how we can get the same level of attachment to Remi and Ronnie as we do to say, Dizzy or Wylie, and although Azzarello takes some interesting turns with the characters, the Rome bros. will remain something of a square peg for the rest of the series - never quite fitting in wherever they get placed.

            That said, their debut story is the most successful half of this arc, in which Graves gives Ronnie the attaché and a picture of the person who ruined Ronnie’s life: his own brother. It’s clear early on that one of the brothers will wind up being the seventh and final Minuteman in hiding, but Azzarello pulls a clever bait-and-switch: judging on the way the past stories have shaken out, it would appear that the stoic Ronnie is Minuteman #7, but it turns out to be his shrimpy, asshole brother. Remi is an annoying character, but that’s not really his fault: he’s written to be that way, kind of like the kid who flicks paper-clips at you in study hall, grinning like a five-year-old pulling the wings off of flies all the while. But even though he’s a shit, he still remembers his mom’s birthday, so he can’t be all bad, right?

            The other half concerns the heirs to the throne of the House Nagel, the twins Lars and Anna. The Trust has voted not to absorb their house like they did with the previous two recently departed heads of family, but has decreed that Lars and Anna must decide for themselves which of them should take the lead. Through a series of manipulations, Lars and Anna wind up pulling a Romeo and Juliet and offing themselves, after which the Trust decides to absorb their house after all. It’s a nice showing for Lono acting as the new warlord (side note: is it a requirement for all of the Trust’s warlords to wear brown overcoats?), and how he and Augustus keep manipulating events to play out in their favor, but Lars and Anna are kind of a bore: their tragic story here feels more like pantomime - cold and mechanical and going through the motions to achieve the objectives the story needs to continue. It provides a nice counterpoint to Remi and Ronnie’s story, however, and the manipulations and double-crossings continue to surprise, such as the revelation that Victor Ray is now working for Graves. But the dominoes have been set, and continue to be set, so it’s time to start seeing how they’re going to fall.

Issue #75 “Amorality Play”

            The previous quarter-marks for the series involved huge reveals for 100 Bullets’ overarching mythology of the Trust, but for their seventy-fifth issue, Azzarello and Risso decide to scale the story back to the basics: namely, Graves and that little attaché he’s so fond of handing out. At this point in the series, the untraceable gun and its titular one-hundred rounds of ammunition have become something of an afterthought, so it’s nice to get back to the type of story that hooked us all in the first place. This one comes with a twist however, as after Graves approaches with his pitch, we get another from none other than Lono. The absolute king of fucking with people gets to fuck with the latest player Graves’ game, and Lono remains one of the series’ most fascinating characters, whilst still being its most repellant.

            All that said, the story is very light. We get another side story of a couple of young “panhandlers” who panhandle the wrong person, but it doesn’t really do much other than remind us that the world is a shitty place. Something which 100 Bullets has been doing for the last seventy-four issues.

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