100 Bullets: The Saint

April 25th, 2009 by | Tags: , , ,

The more I think about it, the less I have to say.

100 Bullets is really a series that speaks for itself. The craft and love that went into it shows on every page. You’ve got a ton of fully-realized characters, a mega-arc that gives up amazing chances for discussion and speculation, and a concept that could go on forever.

The main reason why I just did five days straight of images is because I know that fans of the series, those who stuck with it and came out on top, are gonna get it. You see “Jungle or zoo?” and know what it says about Jack’s life. You can look at a single panel of Remi Rome and see his try-hard swagger. You see “Pun. First syllable a PUN-ish-ment,” and think back to how Loop went from a boy to a man, and ended up smarter than anyone else expected.

The thing about being a comics reader is that you come to expect a certain kind of storytelling. X-Men, Superman, Green Lantern, Spider-Man, all of those feature characters, but aren’t really about the characters. They are corporate icons, mascots, and on some kid’s underwear. They can’t change too much, so all of the bang of the characters has to come from action. It’s Frank Castle putting on some superhero gear, holding a gun, and saying something out of an action movie. It’s Hal Jordan once again proving that he’s the prettiest princess on the block by overcoming everything and everyone. And, at the end of the issue, everything is back to normal.

100 Bullets is a story about the characters. It’s money shots aren’t all tied up in explosions, headshots, and fist fights. Those are there, of course, and they are good, but the real bang comes from the characters. It’s Wylie and Dizzy reminiscing over lost loves together, the look in a man’s eyes as he sees his brother for the last time, or the quiet respect that everyone has for Mr. Hughes. It’s the quiet goodbye a man gives to his family before he goes off to do some dirty work, and a peck on the forehead that tells you all you need to know about him and his viewpoint on life.

The Trust, the attache, the mega-arc, all of that is wonderful, but for me, the real joy in 100 Bullets is about the characters. It’s about how they bounce off one another and figuring out what they’re thinking. It’s about who, not what.

I discovered 100 Bullets shortly after I got back into comics, and month-in, month-out, it has been heads and shoulders above every other comic that I’ve read. The weakest issues or arcs are only weak by the high standard set by the others. Risso, Azz, and Mulvihill blew me away for six years straight, and have me looking at other comics now with a jaded eye.

Blackest Night and Dark Reign are boring to me. After the deep-seated menace of Lono and his inability to tell right from wrong, Norman Osborn’s Snidely Whiplash antics are cheap and hollow. After reading about Remi Rome being the most cocksure, try-hard, desperate to please young kid on the block, Hal Jordan is a caricature of somebody’s grandpa’s idea of a superhero.

I can’t take all these stories about how Soandso Lass and Generigal are strong female characters and wonderful and et cetera, because they aren’t. They’re stupid, hollow, and empty. The black characters, too. Luke Cage leads the Avengers now? De-evolve, thug, crawl back in the ocean. Loop and Curtis Hughes, Dizzy Cordova, and Megan Dietrich are characters that you can appreciate without having to go, “Well, they’re great, except for…”

You want your strong, fully realized, and respectful characters of whatever race, creed, or sexuality? 100 Bullets has your black dudes, latinas, old white dudes, Russians, whatever.

That’s where 100 Bullets wins. Even with all of the insane acrobatics, intrigues, and unkillable villains, 100 Bullets is real. It gives you characters who you can believe in, characters who seem like people you could actually know, and put them into situations that only make them more interesting. It’s a book that challenges you with its story and forces you to care about the people you’re reading about.

I had six years of glimpses in on these characters that I’ve grown to love. Its quiet moments are just as loud as the bits where someone is being murdered. I’m going to miss it.

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4 comments to “100 Bullets: The Saint”

  1. This is a series with illustrated nuance and acrobatic wordplay that will have me re-reading it for years. It actually upset me to read some parts, because I realize if I write crime fiction, then it may get compared to this. It’s a series that made no apologies for it’s character development and plot progression. Not everything was spelled out. In fact, much exposition had to be teased out through the repartee, but that just made my re-reads more rewarding.

    I really don’t have a problem with Dark Reign or Blackest Night, but I never really have to exert any part of my mind to appreciate what’s going on. There’s nothing to think about or appreciate on any significant level about them. They are “popcorn comics” on the same carousel.

    If there’s anything I gained from 100 Bullets, it was the willingness to widen the genres I’m accustomed to reading, because I feel like I’m cheating myself right now. It’s not all beauty and revelation — I read that Fall of the Cthulu comic and it sucked — but I’m glad to be more comfortable experimenting outside the comfort zone of comics.

  2. Goddamn are you ever right, David. What a great description of the series. I can’t wait to read the last volume.

  3. Yeah, that’s the biggest problem – once you read something like 100 Bullets, it’s kind of hard to say “well yeah this is a great character in this month’s Justice League”. Because it never is. Exactly, man. You nailed it.

  4. In regards to Blackest Night and Dark Reign, I kinda agree with you due to how Norman Osborn is portrayed for one. While I respect Norman as a character, he feels like Canon Villain Sue to me much like Red Hulk and Superboy Prime. He went from being a tragic antagonist into Dick Dastardley-the only thing they need to do with him at this point is to give him a handle-bar moustache and have him tie a helpless damsel to a train-track now.
    The only gripe I have so far about Blackest Night is that they made the original Azrael a Black Lantern zombie when he was never confirmed as being dead up to that point. WTF?