100 Bullets Vol. 10: Decayed (DC Comics/Vertigo)

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It's the beginning of the end for the hard-boiled pulp ficiton/neo-noir epic from writer Brian Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso.

 

 

192 pgs. FC; $14.95

(W: Brian Azzarello; A: Eduardo Risso)

 

AXEL NAGEL: So this is how it ends...

AGENT GRAVES: Begins, Axel...this is how the end begins.

AXEL NAGEL: Please...I think we both know the end began a long time ago.

 

With those fateful words, Axel Nagel informs the reader what's in store for100 Bullets, as Brian Azzarello and illustrator Eduardo Risso bring all the main players onto the chess board and prepare for the endgame of their ground breaking Vertigo series. Decayed is the 10th collected volume of 100 Bullets, spanning issues 68-75 of the series. Azzarello has stated numerous times that the series will conclude its run with issue #100, so Decayed lays the groundwork for that fateful end, but with so many twists and turns on that road, what that end will be is anybody's guess.

 

The cover to 100 Bullets: Decayed. Click thumbnail for a larger image.If you haven't read any 100 Bullets yet, you should stop reading, run to your local comic book shop, and pick up the first few trades. Nobody does pure pulp fiction/neo-noir like Azzarello and Risso. 100 Bullets is a place where the action is hard-boiled, the women are as curvaceous as they are fatal, and the name of the game is running game.

 

It's hard to trust someone when everyone talks out of the side of their neck.

 

At the center of all the madness is writer Brian Azzarello, the croupier of this card game who deals in dialogue. No other writer working in comics today can quite turn a line like he can. At first glance the characters simply seem to be speaking to one another, but they aren't just speaking: they are talking. In 100 Bullets the characters insult one another. They tell dirty jokes. They brag and boast and threaten and cajole and, eventually, they turn their tales onto someone or something else. Usually, that someone or something has everything to do with the contents of a briefcase containing a gun and 100 untraceable bullets given to the luckless winner by the mysterious Agent Graves. And so it goes...

 

Eduardo Risso is, quite simply, one of the best illustrators working in comics today. Each and every page that Risso designs is a work of minimalist beauty. The night scenes are all high contrast, dimly lit and heavily shadowed scenes of classic noir, while the day scenes are Technicolor trophies of simple line art. 100 Bullets is packed with so much detail in the background but is rendered in a way that is sparse and evocative, yet straight to the point. When first looking at 100 Bullets, Frank Miller and Sin City come to mind because Eduardo Risso was obviously influenced by him -- who wasn't? -- but Risso's art has a very feminine nature as well, which Frank Miller's art doesn't have. Risso's art is hard and cool yet is sexy and has heart, an influence that can be seen in illustrators like Adrian Alphona (Runaways) and Gabriel Ba (Casanova).

 

Indeed, the end of the Trust, the secret society to end all secret societies at the heart of 100 Bullets, has been in the making since the series made its debut. The shadowy Agent Graves launched his one man war against the Trust, and slowly we have been given clues as to why Graves hates the Trust so much. In a flashback we see a young Graves being voted to lead the Minutemen and a young Augustus Medici, the unofficial head of the Trust, begin his behind the scenes effort to take control of the Trust.

 

But where did it go wrong for Augustus Medici and Agent Graves? Decayed begins to make inroads into their eventual falling out: Atlantic City. That moment was the beginning of the end-of the Minutemen, of the Trust, of Agent Graves and Augustus Medici.

 

However it ends, one thing is certain: one way or another, the Trust will eventually pay. | Carlos Ruiz

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