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A Vertigo imprint comic, published by DC Comics. Written by Brian Azzarello and pencilled by Eduardo Risso, it's probably the best piece of of graphic literature that i've read since The Sandman, one of those where the world seems different after closing the book.

The basic premise is that there's this guy called Agent Graves, who finds people with a reason to get back at somebody and gives them incontrovertible evidence of the wrong that's been done them and the identity of the perpetrator of that wrong, and a gun with 100 untraceable bullets in an attache case.

After that, what happens is up to them. The story now grows more complex with the addition of Mr. Shepherd and the Minutemen but nothing has yet equalled the pure storytelling skill of the first arc, in which Isabella "Dizzy" Cordova finds out who it was that ruined her life.

I can't recommend this strongly enough - if you read comics or if you don't, get this one. It's fabulous.

"--Agent Graves. And you listen.
Your ex-wife was murdered.
All the proof you need is in this attache...
Along with a hundred rounds of untraceable ammunition, which is yours to use--
with complete immunity if you choose--
to go after her killer.
"
-Agent Graves, A Foregone Tomorrow

100 Bullets is a crime/conspiracy comic book series written by Brian Azzarello, illustrated by Eduardo Risso, and cover illustrations by Dave Johnson. Its first issue was released by Vertigo (a part of DC Comics) in August 1999 and continues to be published on a strained monthly schedule. The series is slated to run for 100 issues before its conclusion.

The Story:

Isabella “Dizzy” Cordova is an ex-gang banger that has just been released from prison. During her time in prison, things had happened to her life. Her loving husband, who had gone straight once she was convicted, and her young son were killed. She believes that this can only be blamed upon one person: herself. It’s her payment for living her life the way she did; it was God’s punishment.

However, on the day that she gets out an old, slightly balding, white-haired man in an expensive black suit visits her. His name is Agent Graves and he brings opportunity. He gives her a briefcase. Within the briefcase is a photo and irrefutable evidence of the two cops that killed her husband and child. Also contained in the briefcase are a gun and one hundred bullets. The bullets are untraceable; not as in they’re not registered but that they will grant “carte blanche”, complete immunity, to the person that uses them. She has the ability to take revenge without being punished for it. That’s where Agent Graves leaves it completely up to her.

The next person that Agent Graves visits is a bartender named Lou. Lou used to have it all: a family, money, fame. Then one day the FBI bust down his door find childporn pictures on his computer and his entire life is gone. Graves gives the same deal to Lou. He gives a picture of a woman that he’s never seen, the evidence, and the weapon.

So what are you about, then, ‘Agent Graves?’
-Loop Hughes, Hang Up on the Hang Low

This is how 100 Bullets begins with Agent Graves and his opportunity. However, the entire story grows as we get more information on what Agent Graves is. In Split Second Chance, the Trust and the Minutemen are brought in. The Trust is an ancient group of thirteen families that have a strong grip on America. They are powerful enough not to ever be observed, and can ruin people’s lives with a single word. Once they also had a group of seven soldiers, named the Minutemen. The Minutemen were to be judge, jury, and executioner against any family member of the Trust that overstepped their territory. However, the Minutemen were betrayed by the Trust and all of the Minutemen were believed to be dead.

That’s when Graves resurfaced. And more of the Minutemen were believed to not actually be dead. For Graves also seems to be reassembling the Minutemen without the leadership of the Trust.

Review:

The beginning idea of this series is what got me first interested in it. You give a person evidence of the person that destroyed their lives and an untraceable gun. Brian Azzarello also doesn’t take the easy door out on this situation, these people don’t run off and go bang! All of them think about it, and read the evidence that’s in the briefcase. Some of them never use the gun, and some have other plans for the information that’s given to them. It’s all about the person that’s being driven.

With the inclusion of the Trust and the Minutemen, it begins to also have a bigger story connected to it. It includes an aspect of the conspiracy genre. We have a group of people that have true control over America. Also, we have the Minutemen, which not all of agree with Graves. All this makes the story very tense, but Azzarello still includes short stories that break up the arcs about people being approached by Graves.

The art is a bit odd, and nearly every reviewer says the same thing: “I didn’t like it at first, but it’s grown on me.” I was no different. Being a reader of lots of different styles, it takes a lot for a style to completely repulse me. Eduardo Risso’s style certainly didn’t repulse me, but it did take time to get used to. His style is very lightly inked, with realistic drawings, and a great amount of shading. Many times throughout the series are characters that have their entire face shaded except for their eyes and grin. The cover art by Dave Johnson is also wonderful, with his pieces depicting the characters within the issue well.

There's also something that this series made me think of with the inclusion of the Minutemen and the Trust. It reminded me of the anime series Noir. I never thought that Noir was properly done, and halfway through the series the only reason that I was watching it was because I had easy access to the series. Something just didn't seem to work in it. The animation was great, but the story seemed to be strained. 100 Bullets seems to pull off similar ideas in Noir in a much more convincing fashion. So, if you're a fan(or not a fan like me) of Noir, you might want to try this series as well.

Also one other strong buying point for 100 Bullets is that the first volume retails for ten dollars. In the current comics economy, that is what is called a good deal. The first volume contains four issues and a short special, and with almost any other series would be sold for fifteen dollars.

Awards:
Sasha: How much was he gonna pay you?
Cole: Nothin’! There was no fuckin’ money involved! Wait a minute… Maybe there is…
-Sasha and Cole Burns, Split Second Chance

2002 Harvey Award for Best Writer: Brian Azzarello
2002 Harvey Award for Best Artist: Eduardo Risso
2002 Harvey Award for Best Continuing or Limited Series
2002 Eisner Award for Best Continuing Series
2002 Eisner Award for Best Penciller/Inker: Eduardo Risso
2002 Eisner Award for Best Cover Artist: Dave Johnson
2001 Eisner Award for Best Serialized Story: Issues #15-18: “Hang Up on the Hang Low”

Graphic Novels:
  • Characters/Terms introduced in that volume
  1. First Shot, Last Call
  2. Split Second Chance
  3. Hang Up on the Hang Low
  4. A Foregone Tomorrow
  5. The Counterfifth Detective
  6. Six Feet Under the Gun
  7. Samurai
  8. The Hard Way
  9. Strychnine Lives
  10. Decayed
  11. Once Upon a Crime
  12. Dirty
  13. Wilt

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