What Would You Do? A Celebration of ‘100 Bullets’
Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s stylish noir revenge fantasy 100 Bullets first debuted on this day in 1999, and in many ways signaled the beginning of a new golden era at Vertigo that led to series such as Fables and The Losers. 100 Bullets' themes of corporate irresponsibility and empowerment of the common man are as relevant today as they were in the late '90s, and the series holds up in a way not many of its peers can claim.
The basic premise of 100 Bullets followed the mysterious Agent Graves, who gives people the chance to get revenge on another person who has wronged them. He provides them with documentation about the other party, a handgun, and one hundred bullets that are untraceable and will cause any investigation to immediately close upon their discovery.
The comic poses a simple morality question: If you knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that you’d get away with it, could you kill someone who has wronged you? In its early days, the series followed Graves as he went from person to person, and followed their struggles with the huge responsibility foisted on them by the stranger. Some would accept in a heartbeat, while some could not bring themselves to commit the act. But every tale was building to a bigger story.
While 100 Bullets first appeared to be slice-of-life one-shots as Agent Graves drops in on people at seemingly random, it soon unraveled into a sprawling worldwide conspiracy story that stretches back centuries. Agent Graves was once affiliated with The Minutemen, the clandestine police for a shadowy, Illuminati-style group of power brokers called The Trust who are in turn descended from powerful European families.
The series is a sexy and stylish noir mystery that manages to update the familiar trappings of the classic genre in a way that’s both timeless and relevant. 100 Bullets is packed with femme fatales, mysterious loners, and powerful crime families, but ultimately portrays a very real struggle between everyday people and those whose positions of power are so lofty, it never occurs to them who they might be hurting.
The shining star of 100 Bullets is without a doubt Eduardo Risso’s art, which is steeped in deep blacks and creates a world where everything feels well worn. Risso brings the noir world of 100 Bullets to life in a way no other artist would, and his character acting remains some of the best in the business. His approach to violence shows an inate understanding of pacing and drama, and how sometimes readers need to see the whole thing, but sometimes the suggestion of violence is ever scarier.
Azzarello and Risso would go on to collaborate further on the likes of Spaceman, Flashpoint: Knight of Vengeance, and even a sequel to 100 Bullets following the life of Brother Lono. But 100 Bullets remains the most vital work by either creator, and stands the test of time to this day.