Tuesday, July 26, 2011

100 Bullets: First Shot, Last Call

Cover by Dave Johnson
100 Bullets: First Shot, Last Call (2000)
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Penciller: Eduardo Risso
Colorist: Grant Goleash
Letterer: Clem Robins

This was lent to me by a co-worker. After I finished it, I told him I had two questions:

1)       Was I supposed to understand what was going on?
2)       Was I supposed to like this?

Those questions have still been unanswered. Supposedly, 100 Bullets in a masterpiece in the comic world. Maybe it is and maybe I don’t get it. The idea itself is interesting enough: you are given 100 untraceable bullets and a gun and the ability to right whatever personal wrong you have experience with absolutely no legal consequences. What would you do?

I would like to think that I would immediately run away, call the police and inform them that a crazy person is going around giving away bullets and guns for free but I suppose that wouldn’t make for an exciting graphic novel. Though to be honest, I didn’t really find First Shot, Last Call all that exciting either.

Here’s the thing with Brian Azzarello: he LOVES gritty stuff. If you’re ever reading a comic and thinking, “Damn, this is dark and miserable and overtly noirish,” there’s a pretty good chance you’re reading an Azzarello work. I don’t mind the guy, though. I enjoyed Batman: Broken City and was just sort of ok with Joker so I didn’t go into First Shot, Last Call with an agenda of automatically disliking it. I was more resigned to the fact that I was going to read something quite over the top in its grittiness. This far surpassed any inkling of just how dark and dank Azzarello likes to go.

For one thing, the whole thing takes place in a nameless city’s ghetto and therefore, there is an abundance of slang and attempts to really show the reader the “real” way of life for gang members and the crooked cops in these areas. This may just be a personal issue, but I really had trouble deciphering how much of the comic was Azzarello trying to be accurate and how much was just racist. It felt kind of racist to me at times and let’s be honest, if comics love anything, it’s stereotypes. They are just so easy for comics.

Aside from all this, nothing about the comic really pulled me in. Like I said, the concept was interesting enough but I didn’t care for the way it was executed. I cared about none of the characters, mostly because they felt more like caricatures than dynamic, engaging characters. The plot of First Shot, Last Call mostly felt like a group of stereotypes talking about living in the ghetto and than an anti-climatic ending. Seriously, when I finished it I said, “That’s it? What was the point of all of that?”

I know there’s a lot more of 100 Bullets than just First Shot, Last Call but I am really not interested in reading more. I’m sure a lot would be explained to me if I continued with the series but there is absolutely nothing, from the plot to the art, that compels me to keep reading. If anything, it made me worry a bit more over the fact that Azzarello is slated to write the first issue of the Wonder Woman re-launch in September.

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