January 8, 2009

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100 Bullets Volume 1

Written by Brian Azzarello
Illustrated by Eduardo Risso
Vertigo

I'd heard so many good things about this one, I was really unhappy with myself for not reading it sooner.

Then I started reading it.

As long-time readers of my reviews know I am very skeptical of Vertigo these days. The label, once a haven for good, dark comics that took the idea of a horror comic and left out the worry of Comics Code censorship, has become a place where authors can be vulgar and writers draw breasts with an "adult" label slapped on it to draw interest. While there may be more to it as the story progresses, Volume 1 of 100 Bullets is a poster child for my problems with Vertigo lately.

The stories contained in this collection are foul, violence-laden, and feel like they're written by a person who's never been in the "hood" trying to write a gang-banger story. The dialog feels stereotypical and the revenge plots so thinly pieced together that they don't draw me in the deeper plot at all. I'd even go so far as to say the dialog in the book is racist. [Later books tone this down a bit, but it's still a huge problem.]

About the only thing I enjoyed was Risso's shadowy art, which is wasted on the writing here.

The main story is about a women who went to prison and now has a chance to pay back those who have wronged her. I'd have cared a lot more about whether or not she does the deed had I not been mired in a lot of needless street scenes that didn't feel real to me at all. Things are a bit better in the second arc, a wronged man who hangs out in bars. It's probably because this story hangs more on the man and a destructive woman than it does an inner-city backdrop. Sadly, though, we're right back there for the final story, a 1-shot tale that features the same faux gang-banging that just doesn't play out as realistic for me.

I'm willing to give one more volume of this a try but my expectations are much lower now. If you're on the fence about this one, I'd give it a pass.