Review by: ichthyophobic

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Avg Rating: 5.0
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Size: pages
Price: 19.99

It seems like it’s a cliched story at this point, but after growing up with comics I thought I was done with them by high school. Then in 2000, as I was getting ready to start art school, I became obsessed with Dave McKean’s art, and through that I started reading Sandman, and before I knew it I had discovered this medium all over again. This time it wasn’t about the imagination fodder I got from them as a kid or building a collection that would pay for college, but it was the potential of telling a story with illustrations and dialogue within a graphic design delivery system. I was hooked, and the second series I started reading was 100 Bullets.

When I started looking around for more books that were really taking advantage of this medium, volumes 1 and 2 were already out, and the buzz I’d heard about this series piqued my interest. I finished First Shot, Last Call the same day I bought it, and went back for Split-Second Chance that weekend. I was made a lifer on reading these books, since there was no convincing me that the potential was unobtainable.

The power of this series is mainly two elements: Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. The talents of these two men and how they apply them to comics are simply astounding. The characters Azzarello created here are brutally human and disturbingly relatable. They speak in a way that at first glance it’s almost off-putting to read, but it becomes obvious that the dialects translated into a broken-looking English are incredibly realistic. They speak in accents that are rarely displayed in pop culture, and are almost never seen in comics. Risso’s dreams must be a series of still images because it’s hard to think of many regularly working artists who have such a seemingly natural sense of telling a story on a static page. His stunning chiaroscuro depictions of the characters, showing complex emotions with a efficiency of lines and shapes, carry a weight and personality that fully matches their actions and motivations. These two creators came together on this in a way that perfectly exemplifies what words and pictures can do when juxtaposed, and what a distinctive voice can look like in a collaborative medium. And it’d be impossible to imagine this series without the rest of the crew: Dave Johnson’s covers offering a stylish and idiosyncratic entry point, Patricia Mulvihill’s colors reinforcing every emotional punch, and Clem Robins’ lettering as a perfect compliment to the pacing of the layouts with each breath between lines made clear. It’s amazing how consistent the team has been over such a long run, and is really something that deserves recognition.

I hear a lot of criticism that this series went off the rails too early from being an anthology about revenge killing to being about a massive criminal conspiracy, but the thing is it ended how it began: a story about crime and America, and how deep it is in our roots. There are always the smaller stories, dealing with the damage of crime on a personal level, but that does not exist without the larger story, of control and back-stabbing high above the street. No matter the scale, they all come down to facing the choices that come out of the horrible actions of others, and understanding the consequences that can exist beyond your point of view. The attachés of evidence and the titular means of revenge were just our entry point to this world, just as they were the start of the focal character’s war on the people of power that wronged him.

I won’t talk about the specifics of this volume considering it’s the last, and if you’ve made it this far in you deserve to read it without having any of it ruined for you. Just be glad to know that this is a very satisfying conclusion. This was really just me feeling the need to commemorate a book that has been a large part of my love of what graphic storytelling could be. Sadly I doubt we’ll get the opportunities to see many more distinctive books of anywhere near this length considering the current attitude of the market towards indie-leaning titles. Even though that’s its own tragedy, it’s not the worse thing in the world because there are a couple thousand pages of this amazingly dense book that exist that readers can go back, rediscover and be awed by all over again.

Erik Leffingwell

Story: 5 - Excellent
Art: 5 - Excellent


  1. weird…none of the paragraph breaks are showing up.  i would’ve been pithier if i knew it’d be a massive block of text.

  2. Try inserting html tags – P and /P or try editing using a different browser.

  3. @chlop

    ah, thanks 

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