Written By Cadeem Lalor
I did an earlier article after reading the first volume of 100 Bullets. 80 issues later, the series is completed and I want to share my thoughts on it.
As The Commander said in his last article, the artwork can either elevate the story, or the story can elevate the art. In the case of 100 Bullets, the story definitely elevates the art. Making the switch from superhero comics to others can be jarring, mostly in terms of the artwork. However, the artwork for 100 Bullets still pales in comparison to ones like The Walking Dead and Y: The Last Man or Preacher. The covers are well done, as well as some panels, but overall the illustrations made it difficult to get into the first issue since their quality actually became distracting. Once I got through more of the story, I was able to tune out the artwork and appreciate the comics more.
The story starts off with separate subplots, all featuring the enigmatic Agent Graves, who offers people an attaché containing a gun with 100 bullets of untraceable ammunition. The gun is meant to be their weapon of choice against the people who ruined their lives, and the attaché also includes proof of their enemies’ wrongdoing.
The various storylines and figures eventually mesh into a single story about an organization known as The Trust. Graves is a former agent of The Minutemen, a group of enforcers that the Trust disbanded, and he seeks to reinstate the Minutemen by eliminating their former bosses. For the most part, Brian Azzarello does a great job of linking each character and subplot to the main one. However, I could not help but notice that there were some storylines that were never mentioned again. It is implied that all the attaches were given with the purpose of reactivating the minutemen, who were basically brainwashed to forget their past lives. Yet there are some characters that are given attaches and never seen or referenced again.
I previously mentioned the issue of the dialogue overusing slang at times. This issue continues throughout all 100 issues and did drag the experience down a bit. Just about every minority character talks like their words were put through an Ebonics translator and it goes past being immersive or reflective of a certain area, and becomes completely distracting.
100 Bullets features very few “heroes”. For the most part, the character’s morals are different shades of grey. It takes a great writer to make us care about any of them, let alone to make a reader root for most of the characters. Issue by issue, I find myself supporting one character’s actions, and then supporting another character’s actions that could undo theirs… This cycle continues and culminates in an action-packed and bloody finale. One of my biggest gripes was that this action packed finale ends rather abruptly. We go from a violent bloodbath to a few lines of dialogue that are meant to reveal more about a character’s motives, before ending with a cliffhanger.
At the end of it all, Graves’s backstory is still shrouded in mystery. I don’t need everything spelled out but this was a case where just a few more lines sprinkled across a few issues could have led to a more fulfilling end. Since Graves plays such a central role in the story, the lack of more backstory for him makes the entire series somewhat hollow. One figure has played a huge role in leading to all of these events, but we don’t get a proper look at what truly drives him.
Overall, 100 Bullets was a great read and I will likely be going back to re-read certain issues. I knew it was an Eisner winner before I started reading and perhaps that got my hopes too high. I know there are many Azzarello fans that would heartily disagree with me.