100 Bullets #68


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100 Bullets #68


  • Words: Brian Azzarello
  • Art: Eduardo Risso
  • Inks: Eduardo Risso
  • Colors: Patricia Mulvihill
  • Story Title: Sleep, Walker
  • Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
  • Price: $2.75
  • Release Date: Jan 11, 2006

What was once 13 had been reduced down to 9, and as the remaining members of The Trust meet to discuss their future, one more piece in Agent Graves’ shadow war against them is moved into place.

Atlantic City. Axel Nagel and Javier Vasco are on their way to a meeting with Augustus Medici. Not far away, Jack, once "The Monster," then a junkie, and now undefeated street boxer, gets the word from his manager that he has to take a dive. Meanwhile, as Jack’s next opponent visits a tattoo parlor, Victor tries to impart a little lesson on Loop Hughes about Lady Luck. But not long before the fight, Jack’s manager changes his tune and tells him to turn it loose, which may not be easy given who the opponent is.

We rarely say what we mean. Anyone who knows this also knows that to hear what someone is really saying means listening to what they’re not saying. And while there are several writers of great comics dialogue, Brian Azzarello is the medium’s one true master of subtext. Reading 100 Bullets #68 once left me somewhat bewildered—and I’m a fan of both his writing and this series. With head-scratching done, however, another read through brought Glengarry Glen Ross to mind, Allan Arkin saying, "Are we speaking, or are we talking?" to Ed Harris. There’s very little "talking" in "Sleep, Walker," and what little there is—in scenes that set up the next big step in Jack’s arc—function also as metaphor backdrop, with the phrase, "players never put bank ‘gainst a sure thing" encapsulating the nefarious moves and counter-moves made as Graves’ war against The Trust rages on and Augustus Medici continues his consolidation of the families within The Trust. Everything else is "speaking"—implication and innuendo, grave meanings and treacherous agendas buried beneath layers of small talk and banter.

Were it all performance—Azzarello showing off his chops for making music out of vernacular, slang, and expletives—the writing would get high marks, but only for showmanship. However, "Sleep, Walker" rewards those who listen to what’s not said with more revelations than we’ve seen for a while. Out of Azzarello’s finely tuned scene structure, with flashbacks seamlessly woven in, we learn about the rise of Augustus Medici, how Graves became what he is, the true fate of a major character once thought dead, and the end of any speculation about what Jack once was. Everything that happens in this issue happens between the lines, in that space between what a character speaks and what is actually said. And in this issue, that gulf is wide enough to plow an Escalade through.

As for Eduardo Risso, well, Risso is Risso, meaning that with each issue of 100 Bullets he puts a lock on his place as the best neo-noir artist in comics. It begins with the frame—how he lays out a page of free-form panels like a cinematographer, each shot captured at that point where there’s the most meaning. Then the lighting effects—his palette of stark light and pitch black showing everything by keeping so much hidden. Finally, there’s the deft economy of the linework—not a stroke wasted, the minimalism of his backgrounds and longshots focusing all our attention on what’s happening, or, more importantly, not happening in the foreground. The work of colorist Patricia Mulvihill is also worth mentioning, as her subdued tones and hues play a huge role in orienting the reader through the story.

It’s easy to take 100 Bullets for granted. Though it’s been so good for almost 70 issues now, it still has a long way to go; and wherever it’s going, Azzarello and Risso still have some new tricks to show us on the way there.

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