100 Bullets Vol. 11: Once Upon a Crime TPB
Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Eduardo Risso
Cover by Dave Johnson
Cover Price $12.99; On sale: Aug 2007
100 Bullets remains one of the most intriguing and thought provoking series being published today. The series started as a simple morality play, but has transformed itself into a deep mystery series, with a heavy film noir feel. As new characters have been introduced the mystery of the series has gotten deeper and more intricate. The only problem is that the mystery has gone on for maybe too long, and the series may have gotten too far away from its initial premise. The newest trade doesn’t help much, as one of the big plot points of the whole series is examined and explained, but the plot mostly just turns its wheels, and a big character death is made less important by the surrounding events.
You’ve probably heard of the high concept of the series before: a mysterious stranger finds people and offers them the chance for revenge by presenting them with a briefcase holding evidence against the object of their revenge, and a gun with 100 untraceable bullets. The series has grown so far beyond that however, that the briefcase is only given very short mentions in this volume. As the series has gone one, it’s become more involved with a dangerous group known as the Minutemen, and their masters the Trust. This volume finally explains the big secret of why the Trust tried to get rid of the Minutemen, and what they did in retaliation. It brings to light some of the biggest mysteries from the beginning of the series.
Problem is, that’s about all that happens in this volume. The plot is advanced slightly, and some big answers are given, but it’s definitely a deck clearing arc before the book goes into its finale. This is definitely NOT the place to jump onto this series. If you’ve thought about trying this series, start at the beginning.
The thing that’s always good about this series is Azzarello’s dialog. Ever the strength of the series, the dialog pops off every page, bringing his tough guy characters to life and setting the mood. It’s got a rhythm to it, almost like poetry, with characters finishing each other sentences with snappy lines and comebacks. However, the plot of the whole series has gone a bit off the rails. There are too many characters, too many double and triple crosses, and just too much going on. It’s gotten a bit too thick for itself, and it’s hard to keep track of everything. Hopefully, with the series set to wrap up next year, everything will get resolved, and the story will read well once completed.
The art from Eduardo Risso is solid as always, and is unlike anyone else’s art. His use of shadows and the coloring of the book really create that dark, noir atmosphere that the story needs. With all the characters running around, it’s good that Risso keeps of them distinct. Every one has a unique look to them or a visual tell that sets apart one from the other. If the story is ever too complicated, Risso’s art is enough to keep one interested in this book. I’m curious to see what he does after this series is over.
100 Bullets is still an important and well done book. The story is complex and very literary, with multiple running themes and repeated symbols and all that stuff we were taught in 10th grade English. If there’s any problems it’s that maybe I wish there were only 80 bullets in that case or that Azzarello had just decided to not be clever and fill 100 issues. Risso makes it look good though, and I’m invested in the story too much to not see how it ends. Two more trades I figure, and then we hopefully see how every thing goes together and get one of the greatest series of the modern age. I’m not sure what to think about Azzarello mentioning that he may have more stories after the 100th issue. One side wants the big mystery to be revealed, the other side wants to see Azzarello do more stories like those at the beginning of the series. Simple morality plays where we see the case come into someone’s life and how it affects them. That’s what I enjoyed best. Hopefully that’s what we’ll get. Until then, I’ll wait for the next collection and maybe read the whole thing from the start again.