20 (Or So) Best Comics of the Decade: 5. 100 Bullets
Posted March 8, 2010on:
The best comics start with a great premise. Brian Azzarello’s 100 Bullets starts with two. The initial hook is all about revenge: Agent Graves can offer you an attaché case containing a gun with one hundred untraceable rounds of ammunition, indisputable proof implicating the person responsible for ruining your life, and the guarantee that you’ll get away with murder should you choose to do something about it. The moral implications are already riveting enough, what would you do, how far would you go for a grudge? And could you ever really find peace of mind in violence? But the pulp stories eventually give way to a broader tale, and the epic scope of the 100 Bullets’ narrative (told across the span of- you guessed it- one hundred issues) is a crime saga larger and more complicated than any ever committed to page or screen.
Most of the credit goes to 100 Bullets’ creators, writer Brian Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso develop a fully-realized world of people who occupy a world that’s highly-stylized, yet unmistakably authentic to our sense of both the highest heights and the farthest margins of society. Azzarello is, without a doubt, the best writer of dialogue in all of comics (and no, it’s not even close). No other scribe in the decade ever attempted to work across such a fearlessly broad spectrum of humanity, nor did any succeed so consummately in capturing the depth and variety of dialects plumbed from all walks of American life. Risso’s art is equal parts glitz and grit, the perfect complement to the “realness” of Azzarello’s writing for figures who emerge from- and retreat back into- shadows both figurative and literal, all blood sparkling on gold jewelry and sharpened teeth.
While 100 Bullets’ early arcs are fodder for some meaty noir tales of dirty deeds and payback, it’s only a matter of time before members of the huge cast of seemingly unrelated characters realize the underlying truth behind Graves’ labyrinthine “game”: Everybody is connected, and if you’re not playing an angle, somebody else is probably playing you as part of theirs. Along the way we uncover the sprawling, mysterious world of the Minutemen, the Trust, and the Greatest Crime in the History of Man. Knowing the long and torturous path ahead for so many of these characters it makes me really wonder- if you knew what was coming at the end of it all, would you have ever opened up that briefcase?