Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

I was reading through Wizard the other day and I noticed something cool. Showtime is going to make a live-action 100 Bullets primetime television show. I am so psyched (not that I can afford Showtime). I haven’t heard any buzz about this on the internet- have no idea who’s playing who. Just an ad that says the show is due out winter 2010. I’ve been a fan of this comic and it’s co-creator- Brian Azzarello (Superman: For Tomorrow, Batman: Broken City)- for a while. I’d like to think that 100 Bullets does for action-crime story fans what Tales From the Crypt does for horror fans. Initially, it was just the gimmick that got me hooked. Every arc involves the arrival of the series’ flagship (yet, usually least seen) character Agent Graves. Generally, 100 Bullets stories revolve around the life of various and disparate characters- so you get the Tales’ comparison: every story arc has a completely different feel and cast (usually). While I hate to explain media with allusions to other media, if you’re a fan of movies/shows/videogames like The Usual Suspects, Scarface, The Sopranos, and Grand Theft Auto- than 100 Bullets is probably the comic book for you. Usually, the set up goes something like this- we, the readers, are introduced to a protagonist whose life is pretty bleak. Usually, said protagonists’ life veered miserably off-course following a specific event. They got framed and were sent to jail, maybe someone killed someone they loved...maybe they got wronged by someone, somewhere, and they don’t even know what happened to their life. Enter Graves. Graves arrives, usually encountered by our ‘hero’ in a public, but discrete place (a coffee shop, the subway, etc.) and is well-armed with information concerning said individual’s life circumstances. After mystifying/terrifying the person in question with the intricate detail about his or her life that he has accumulated, Graves points out the specific person, or persons, that are responsible for that individual’s current (or past) plight. In fact, he even hands them a dossier filled with all sorts of intimate information about the person, or people, that hurt the story’s ‘hero’- where they live, where they work, their personality, life history, etc. Graves also hands our main character a black briefcase, filled with a gun and- wait for it- one hundred, unmarked bullets. Graves goes on to explain that these bullets are completely untraceable and that no police force- in any country in the world- will investigate their use. That is, police investigations surrounding incidents involving the bullets will come to a screeching halt. That’s it. Then he leaves. No instructions, no explanation. You can imagine the tension here- different characters handle the power their given in very different ways. Some thirst for revenge, others have to embrace the horror of realizing that someone they knew had betrayed them and they hadn’t realized. Some end up filling their enemies full of lead- some just walk away from the whole thing. And some use every bullet Graves gave them. So, you know- it’s a gimmick. But it’s a cool one and it makes for some great storytelling. No one arc is really the same. Of course, over time the comic has evolved. Fans of the series have been given some “metaplot” to work with. There’s something called the Trust, a group of shadowy, wealthy business investors. And Graves himself is a former member of an organization of hitmen called the Minutemen. Previously employed by the trust as personal bodyguards, the Minutemen are now scattered and brainwashed- that is, they’ve had their memories erased and are living their lives as nobodies, unaware of their past lives. I think the Minutemen have a strange connection to the actual Minutemen of the Revolutionary War (not sure on this bit- weird). Anyway, you can see the kinds of questions this raises. Who is Graves, really? Why is he doing what he’s doing? Is he really some vengeful and benevolent benefactor, determined to give people a second chance? Is the whole thing just some big power play- does Graves wield the people he contacts, as weapons from a distance to get at the trust? Are the people Graves contacts even who they think they are? Is Graves the ultimate hero- or the villain? Or, like most crime-dramas, neither? The series is set for 100 issues (appropriately), and the last issue is actually due out this April. HIGHLY RECOMMEND you don’t read it unless you’ve taken the time to read the rest of the series. Could spoil quite a bit. Actually, there was some video game buzz about 100 Bullets a year or so ago. Didn’t pan out, although I hear someone else has bought the license. So between that and the show, I’m sure issue 100 won’t mark the death of this series. I highly recommend this book, complete with moody, evocative art by Eduardo Risso. Great read.