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Brian Azzarello

100 Bullets: Volumes 1 & 2

I’ve heard of this older noir series that ran from 1999- 2009 with 100 issues, but never checked it out until now, which is surprising as I like darker stories. And it certainly lived up to the hype I had heard about it…

First Shot, Last Call

Dizzy Cordova is a young Latina recently released from jail who is mourning the death of her husband and infant son who were gunned down while she was away. While on the bus home Agent Graves sits next to her and gives her a briefcase with an unmarked gun and 100 bullets to exact revenge on those that killed her family. We get a lengthy look at her gang-infested neighborhood and the hard life she and other women are living, showing how few possibilities await Dizzy. She finds out who betrayed her while she was in jail and exacts her revenge. We also get a shorter story about a bartender who was ruined by fake child-porn accusations, and Graves also gives him supplies to kill and tells him who is to blame.

The art by Eduardo Risso is very unique- characters at first seem like caricatures and the illustrations are very angular and dark-hued. But the urban decay is actually captured realistically and this art technique pays off in helping set the style for the entire series.

Split Second Chance

At first, I was under the impression the series would be short stories, only linked by the mysterious Graves, but author Brian Azzarello has a longer more ambitious story in mind. While some of these vignettes might prove to be stand-alones, readers begin to get a backstory on Graves and his shady connections. A character from volume one shows up and we are pulled into a conspiracy that runs deep. The central question is who is Graves and why does he pick the people he does to become vigilantes? Not all are successful for various reasons, but truth be told, I found some of the shorter stories more interesting than some of the longer linked stories. That one about the waitress was heartbreaking and unexpected.

The stylized art keeps you riveted, and while not everyone might like the look, it matches the stories and helps the series stand out. I’m unsure if I will continue reading further into the series, as it is a big commitment with 13 volumes, and conspiracy storylines are prone to becoming too convoluted. So while I plan to set the rest of the series aside for now, I have a feeling the story will pull me back in eventually.

Faithless (Vol. 1)

Faith, an artist and amateur magic user, wants to make the world a little bit of a better place. When she accidentally spills her coffee on a woman named Poppy and helps her avoid a persistent ex-boyfriend, they go on an adventure that quickly turns romantic. Poppy is well-connected in the art world and invites Faith to a party. There, she meets Louis Thorn, a world-famous artist – and Poppy’s father. When Poppy leaves on a trip, Faith and Louis start to create art together, and become romantically involved. Is it grief? Faith has had two friends pass away recently under mysterious circumstances. Is it a search for something more? Enigmatic Louis offers Faith a choice: to become an artist, or to become forgotten.

… I forgot why I picked this up, sometimes I look up an author to find a title and end up finding an additional book that sounds interesting, I think that was the case here. I’m glad I stumbled upon this graphic novel, because I really enjoyed it. It’s an adult graphic novel: there are explicit love scenes, strong language, and drug usage. None was gratuitous in my opinion. At it’s core, this is a story about looking for connections with others, and trying to find meaning within those connections. Faith being both an artist and novice magic user serve the story well, as she tries to connect through her art and manifestations. There are hints of supernatural elements, which I’m looking forward to learning more about.

Flat, 2D colors and shading fill the book. Details of city life, art studios, coffee shops, bars, parties, small apartments and huge lofts, flood the panels and ground us in reality even if it’s hinted that something more is going on. Thin, wavery lineart ties everything together and blurs the line between real and magical.

As we closed the book we got a glimpse of Faith’s decision; I am eager to see how it plays out in the next volume.

– Kathleen

Azzarello, Brian, and Maria Llovet. Faithless (Vol. 1). 2019.

Noir: A Collection of Crime Comics

Noir is a “genre of crime fiction that is characterized by cynicism, fatalism, and moral ambiguity” and these black and white short stories definitely fit that definition. Chosen as this month’s pick from the Goodreads group, I Read Comic Books, I was intrigued and looked forward to reading the thirteen stories. However, the graphic novel got off to a very rough start and I almost put it down. 

Stray Bullets: Open The Goddamn Box by David Lapham and Clem Robins

WTF- why is the first story? A teen girl is kidnapped by two males who plan to rape her. She manages to escape but not before another rape occurs, and she seems to perceive it as retribution, and in a joking manner. I’ve noticed trigger warnings in more stories nowadays, and this story needs one as the story is bleak and wildly inappropriate. I’m sure as a woman this story affected me more than it would a male, but I’ve heard newer editions omit this story and for good reason. 

The Old Silo by Jeff Lemire

Luckily the second story in this collection was among my favorites, and let me continue with this book. A farmer about to lose his farm finds a bank robber who was hurt in the getaway on his property. He makes a choice that enables him to pay off his mortgage. A perfect noir story by the esteemed Lemire. 

Mister X: Yacht On The Styx by Dean Motter

The mysterious Mister X explains to a femme fatale what happened on a yacht when a tycoon went missing and whose body was later found hidden in his building’s cornerstone. There was a weird dystopian/sci-fi aspect to this story and it didn’t appeal to me. 

The Last Hit by Chriss Offutt, Kano and Stefano Gaudiano

An older hitman is given one last job, but then discovers a younger hitman is after him. He thinks they have come to an understanding, but he underestimated his opponent. 

Fracture by Alex De Campi and Hugo Petrus

I didn’t understand this almost wordless story. A woman on the subway witnesses an accident, or did she cause it? The story fractures with possible alternate realities.

The Albanian by M.K. Perker

An Albanian janitor witnesses a bloodbath in the office building he cleans, but he escapes unscathed. Why he gave his son the murder’s puppet escapes me. I actually wondered if the puppet was evil and would hurt the child later. 

Kane: the Card Player by Paul Grist

A burglar leaves numbered playing cards behind and a crime lord seems to be mad about it. A cop is on the take and the burglar is killed. At the end, I felt a pivotal scene had been left out to explain things. 

Blood on my Hands by Paul Geary

A husband who loses his job is worried about his wife cheating on him. He wants his wife and lover killed, but accidentally sends a hitman against the wrong couple. Whoops. This twisted confessional was strangely effective, and dare I say, sweet.

Tru$tworthy by Ken Lizzi and Joelle Jones

This story was mostly text, with only a few illustrations, so it was kind of jarring to include in this graphic novel, although it actually was one of my favorite stories. A woman tries to con her way out of a bad situation, by sleeping with a man she intends to make a patsy.  But he turns the tables on her at the end.

The New Me by Garry Phillips and Eduardo Barreto

An out-of-shape woman goes to the gym whose trainer is known for getting results but also for sleeping with all his clients. Over the course of a few months, she becomes a hottie and she seduces him. But the whole time she had an ulterior reason, and in an out-of-nowhere sci-fi twist, she uses him to help her invalid husband. I liked this one, although the premise was kind of ridiculous. 

Lady’s Choice by Matthew and Shawn Fillbach

A gangster’s moll is tired of her current asshole and wants to move on to a new shady character. 

21st Century Noir by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

A woman seduces a younger man and reveals she is abused by her husband, and this man says he will help her. The lover goes to confront the husband, but there is a dark and perverted twist you won’t expect. 

The Bad Night by Brian Azzarello, Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba

The story begins blandly with a man being sent out to commit a robbery against a rich couple, but the last page takes the story in a whole new direction, once you realize who the couple and their little boy are. Bravo for that last little twist that most people familiar with DC should recognize.

All in all, an adequate anthology of stories, for as with any collection there are bound to be some strong entries but then some clunkers. I absolutely hated Stray Bullets, but Old Silo, The New Me and 21st Century Noir were excellent. My recommendation is to pick up a newer edition without the first story and I wish dearly that my Goodreads group had suggested that. 

-Nancy

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