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One of Saint's cooler ideas is his blog replays where he
revisits an old piece. I always thought those were pretty neat. I'm just going
to go ahead and partially rip that idea off for this blog. It's not intended to
be a series, just a revisiting of a
topic I really like and feel didn't get its fair share of attention.
Back in 2010, I posted my glowing impressions of a certain
comic, 100 Bullets. I had just
finished the series and thought it was great. Unfortunately, the blog got
around 400 views and one comment... its only real use was as the answer to the that contest I did (congrats to the winners).
To be honest, the low interest in that blog was partially due to my lackluster writing skills. The blog itself wasn't great. The topic, though... that's still
interesting, especially since I just finished re-reading 100 Bullets again.
The story of how I originally started reading it isn't a
real inspiring one.
Some previous readers
(yes, both of you) may remember that I posted my impressions of Watchmen a
couple months ago. I had never read a comic book before that, but Alan Moore
had me hooked. So I figured that I should start reading something else, but I
wasn't sure where to start. When I saw a blurb in GI about some series called
100 Bullets, I thought, hey, why not. If nothing else, it has a cool name.
That was basically it. I started reading it on a whim and
found that I really enjoyed the comic. Now, "What is this 100 Bullets," you ask. Ever see Sin
City? It's like that, but with fewer yellow people. 100 Bullets
is a noir comic. If you don't know the genre, our good friend Wikipedia has got
Noir is a cinematic
term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly
those that emphasize cynical motivations or messages... Film noir is associated
with black-and-white visual style. Many of the prototypical stories and much of
the attitude of classic noir derive from the hardboiled school of crime
Anything that's dark, gritty, or depressing is probably some
form of noir. Being the fan that I am of all things dark and dreary (sorry,
Oni), noir is like my intellectual junk food. Watching gritty detectives simulatneously battle criminals and their own personal flaws is great stuff. It's not to everyone's tastes, but I have always enjoyed noir. Sin City was an awesome movie.
occupies the unique position of being a noir comic. Everything is depressing or
beaten down. The writers don't sugarcoat reality. If anything, they apply
varnish to darken life. All of the characters have some sort of personal flaw.
There are no heroes in this world.
Oh, and something I almost forgot. Some of you are probably
wondering what the name refers to. 100
Bullets is an odd title, after all. Here's how the concept goes. The story
starts by following some everyday, average person. Well, not entirely average.
All the subjects of 100 Bullets are
unique in that they have all been wronged in some way. Somebody at some point
screwed them over for life.
That's where Agent Graves comes in. He's a mysterious man
with a briefcase who looks old as dirt but is easily the most intimidating
person I've ever seen. Even when he's staring down the barrel of a gun, you get
the sense that Graves is always in charge. He himself carries no weapon except
a single aluminum briefcase.
That briefcase is the center of the entire comic series.
Agent Graves approaches the subject, the average person who's been wronged
somehow. He then gives them the briefcase. It contains a single unused pistol
and 100 rounds of ammunition for said weapon. Also included in the briefcase is
a picture of the culprit who screwed over the subject's life and absolute proof that
the culprit is guilty.
Essentially, the average subject who was wronged is given
the identity of the person who wronged them. They are also given the means to
exact revenge- the bullets and gun in the briefcase are completely untraceable.
Anyone who uses them cannot be prosecuted or jailed. The briefcase offers total
legal immunity from all consequences. The subject is given the freedom to
literally do anything.
That's the premise behind each episode of 100 Bullets. It's an awesome idea for a
comic, and watching the writers play it out is like watching Picasso paint-
masterful. At the core, 100 Bullets
asks the question: "What would you do if you could get away with it?"
There's no easy answer. Every subject who receives a
briefcase from Agent Graves has to decide for himself or herself. Some of them
take the chance and kill whoever screwed up their lives. Others don't. Watching
the subjects decide is what makes 100
Bullets such a brilliant series. The writing is stellar, and the story
offers no black and white morals or easy solution. Like any good noir story,
every action is written in shades of grey.
But... that's not the only reason to read 100 Bullets. The more you read, the more subtle clues you notice.
Over time, certain characters keep showing up. Certain themes and secrets are
hinted at. After a while, the subjects stop appearing so disconnected from each
other. Each hint dropped gives you a slightly larger view of the overarching secret
plot driving the story.
What makes 100
Bullets so great (and addictive to read)
is the slow onion peel of the plot. The writers are rather fond of shrouding
everything in mystery. They do answer your questions, but those answers only
yield more questions, similar to Lost.
The effect is simultaneously maddening and compelling. You hate that the
writers leave you hanging, but at the same time you keep reading because you
have to know what happens. As a Lost
junkie looking for something to fill the post-show void, 100 Bullets does a hell of a job.
The plot is secretive like that. Each answer only leaves you
with more questions. There is a bigger picture, but you only get to see one bit
at a time. It certainly makes for interesting reading. 100 Bullets is many things, but boring is not one of them. Every
comic has something going on, whether that's action or character development.
That's another thing I nearly forgot, the action. In my
original post about 100 Bullets, I
compared it to Quentin Tarantino because sweet glasses of molasses this comic
is bloody. Not just "occasional stab wound" bloody but "oh god he just got his face cut off" bloody. Like its noir counterpart Sin City, this is a story that takes gore to a horrifying new
level. The ultraviolence in 100 Bullets
is absurdly overblown, but there's a sense of purpose in it. The writers don't
have violence for its own sake; it exists to serve the plot.
But that won't be much consolation to weak-stomached
readers. Even if you can sit through a hard R-rated movie, 100 Bullets will still shock and disgust you. It certainly
disgusted me. However, it's worth wading through the waist-high pools of blood
to experience the fantastic plot.
There's lots of eye candy two. 100 Bullets is written in an dramatic tone as benefits a
noir comic. The art matches the writing in that both are fairly overblown. The
world of Agent Graves and his briefcases is drawn in dramatic shadows that
emphasize light and dark. The comic won a bunch of awards, and I'm pretty sure
some of those were for the art. Everything looks exactly like a good noir story
should: slick, stylized, and dramatic.
So, where does this leave us...
If you're a fan of comics or noir stuff in general, I highly
recommend hunting down a copy of the series. It recently finished, so you can
read the entire thing, start to finish, without those irritating month long
pauses. The comics are compiled into sets you can get off eBay or from a local
comics shop. 100 Bullets isn't the
most well-known series in the world, so it's probably online-only. Speaking of
online, there's always the option to pirate the comics. Not that you should do
that... support the artists. They deserve it.
In the end, all I can
say is go read it.
That's about it for me... Do you read comics? If so, did you
read 100 Bullets? If not, what comics
do you read?