Tuesday, October 15, 2013

100 Bullets Vol. 13 Wilt Trade Paperback Review + Final Series Thoughts

100 Bullets Vol. 13 Wilt
DC Comics - Vertigo
304 pages
$19.99 (2009) Trade Paperback
$49.99 (2013) Deluxe Hardcover Vol. 5
ISBN 9781401222871

Contributors: Brian Azzarello, Eduardo Risso, Patricia Mulvihill, Clem Robins, and covers by Dave Johnson

Reprints: 100 Bullets #89-100 (of 100)

Synopsis: A secret group made up of thirteen crime families has ruled from the shadows for centuries.  They call themselves The Trust and they employed a special team, called the Minutemen, to maintain order among the families.  This form of check and balance kept The Trust's partnership intact and ensured their success all those many years.  Any family members who got out of line were summarily dealt with by the Minutemen, but eventually The Trust decided they could police themselves and the Minutemen were disbanded.  They disappeared along with their leader, Agent Graves.

Graves returned with a relentless agenda to restore the Minutemen and take revenge on The Trust.  He's known for testing people by providing them with the means to enact revenge on the person who is responsible for ruining their lives.  The means are a briefcase containing one hundred untraceable bullets, an untraceable gun, and damning evidence of the person responsible.  The rest is up to them!

Graves bares his teeth and shows an old
dog is still dangerous
100 Bullets - Graves has tried to restore the Minutemen, but was unsuccessful in bringing all of them back under his influence.  Lono is working for The Trust as their new warlord answering to Augustus Medici.  Several Minutemen joined him and stand opposite of Graves.  More than a few have died along the way.  Cole Burns is Grave's right hand, but he's having doubts about the mission.  What is Grave's true agenda?  Burns meets up with Jack Daw and Loop, but they've been running with Lono - will they shoot first and ask questions later?

Meanwhile Benito Medici feels like he's being left out by his father, Augustus.  He makes a deal with Lono, but can he trust the loose cannon, former Minuteman?  Megan Dietrich is involved with Augustus and seemingly agrees with his plan to unify The Trust under one house.  Rumors are flying that she'll marry him and the remaining families are agitated.  Graves has been cutting off heads left and right, but the remaining houses won't go down without a fight.  Their hired assassin, Slaughter, closes in on the Minutemen working both sides.  Who is his target and what is his relationship to one of the Minutemen in the line of fire?

Remi Rome tried to kill the head of the D'Arcy family and failed.  Now he gets a second chance to bring his own personal style of carnage to bear.  It's a total bloodbath as he takes on an army all by himself.  Will he succeed or die trying?  A meeting between The Trust and Graves is planned.  We finally learn the truth of his plans and just how far he's gone to get them accomplished.  Lono and Dizzy meet for the first time with sparks and kicks flying.  The final confrontation is upon us.  All the players are at the table and the cards being swiftly dealt are death sentences.  The fate of The Trust hangs in the balance.  Who makes it out alive!?

Pros: Azzarello ends the series with a 'bang' (literally) and all of the various plot threads are resolved, Risso's art is perfectly suited for this series, Johnson's covers continue to be solid, plenty of plot twists to keep the reader guessing, truly epic conclusion with almost non-stop action and lots of nasty surprises!
Jack Daw rarely loses his temper, but watch out when he does
Cons: Some of the plot resolutions weren't entirely satisfying, things happen fast and it can be a little hard to keep up (definitely gives the series opportunity for repeat readings), side stories detract from the main event - namely the final reckoning of The Trust and Agent Graves!, the series finally ends *sniff*

Mike Tells It Straight: Brian Azzarello's crime epic 100 Bullets finally reaches its fateful conclusion.  This final volume was an intense page-turner filled with tons of violence and resolution of all the various plot threads.  We learn Graves' true agenda, where he gets his attaches, and each character is put to the test before it all ends.  Things aren't going according to plan for any of the players and everyone is just trying to save themselves from the inevitable fallout.  This series has been an excellent read and I wasn't disappointed with the finale.  

Remi catches up with his Ma while getting
some downtime between jobs
I particularly liked seeing Lono put through his paces and being on the receiving end of a whole lot of punishment.  Cole Burns served as a conscience to Graves' atrocities over the years.  Dizzy was a treat and she played a truly special role in the ending.  I disliked Remi and Ronnie Rome, but their part in the ending was hilarious.  A few parts of the ending felt rushed and the side story was a distraction, but quite a worthy ending.  Azzarello finished everything up in grand fashion with a striking final scene.

Final thoughts on the series: Wow! What a roller coaster ride this 100 issues have been. It took me almost two years to finish the whole series (review for Vol. 1 First Shot, Last Call was in February 2012) and I'd say it was worth it. My first impression was lackluster as I couldn't stand Azzarello's attempts to write street vernacular and Graves' repetitive modus operandi with the attache.  The emerging story of The Trust grew on me and I'm really glad to have stuck it out to the bitter end.  The writing improved and the street vernacular did too.

I'm amazed at how much Risso's artwork fit this series and how it evolved over the years.  He's a fantastic artist and his style just crystallized to sleek perfection.  I looked at the earlier issues compared to this final volume and just get blown away at the improvements.  I'm really looking forward to seeing his work on other characters.  I can't believe he put out 100 consecutive issues too!  That's a major accomplishment in this day and age.  He inked his own work which must have saved him time penciling, but it's still time-consuming stuff.  Johnson's covers were always pretty interesting and had a lot of range.

Alternate trade paperback cover
Azzarello's story works as a commentary on America as criminal paradise.  Founded by criminals for criminals (i.e. The Trust) just makes sense.  The Minutemen and new recruits are the hapless bystanders caught in the middle of the cycle of violence with no way out.  They're powerless like you and me, but doomed to repeat the endless loop with a new generation.  Azzarello and Risso created characters which captivated the reader.  I felt attached to my 'favorites' and would have liked to see some of them have different endings, but respect the need for drama and surprises in the story.

I highly recommend this series if you're looking for something relatively mature and far away from the standard crowded-universe superhero fare.  This series ran for 10 years (1999-2009) and became the successor flagship title for Vertigo (along with Fables 2002-current) after Preacher (1995-2000) ended (which in turn succeeded The Sandman running from 1989-1996).  I highly recommend reading all of those titles.  I'm looking forward to checking out the sequel mini-series 100 Bullets: Brother Lono out this year!

TO BUY and Recommendations: