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100 BULLETS — Brian Azzarello, Eduardo Risso & Dave Johnson Reuniting @ Chicago Comic Con!
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100 BULLETS — Brian Azzarello, Eduardo Risso & Dave Johnson Reuniting @ Chicago Comic Con!100 Bullets is an Eisner and Harvey Award-winning comic book written by Brian Azzarello and illustrated by Eduardo Risso. It was published in the USA by DC Comics under its Vertigo imprint and initially ran for one hundred issues.

Both the writing and artwork in 100 Bullets exemplifies the noir and pulp genres of popular modern fiction. It presents morally ambiguous stories with dark realism. Consistent with noir convention, most of the characters are deeply flawed. As is also quite common in such genres, 100 Bullets frequently portrays stylized and graphic violence.

100 Bullets is notable for creator/writer Brian Azzarello’s realistic use of regional and local dialects/accents, as well as the frequent, sometimes dense use of slang and oblique, metaphorical language in his characters’ dialogue.

While initially presented as an episodic series of self-contained storylines, 100 Bullets eventually becomes a sprawling crime saga that embraces a sense that everything—and everyone—is connected.

The initial plot of 100 Bullets hinges on the question of whether people would take the chance to get away with revenge. The mysterious Agent Graves approaches someone who has been the victim of a terrible wrong. Graves gives them the chance to set things right by providing them a handgun, the eponymous 100 bullets, and documentation of the person primarily and personally responsible for the recipient’s woes. He informs the candidate that the bullets are completely untraceable, and any law enforcement investigation that uncovers one of these bullets will immediately stop.

Though all of the murders enabled by Agent Graves are presented as justifiable, the candidates are neither rewarded nor punished for taking up the offer, and appear to receive nothing other than personal satisfaction for their actions. Several people have declined the offer, while others accept. Those that accept see their actions unfold with varying levels of success or failure. The attaché and Graves’ “game” is later revealed to be only a minor part of a much broader story.

Agent Graves was the leader of a group known as “The Minutemen,” a group of seven men (plus one “Agent”) who serve as the enforcers and police of a clandestine organization known as “The Trust”. The Trust was originally formed by the heads of 13 powerful European families that controlled much of the Old World’s combined wealth and industry. The Trust made an offer to the kings of Europe to leave the continent and their considerable influence and holdings, in exchange for complete autonomy in the still unclaimed portion of the “New World”. When England ignored this proposition and colonized the Roanoke Island late in the 16th century, the Minutemen were formed. The original Minutemen, seven vicious killers, eradicated the colony and all of its inhabitants, leaving behind only a cryptic message “Croatoa” as a warning, reclaiming the land for the Trust. Since this time, the Minutemen’s charge has been to protect the 13 Houses of the trust, serving as their force against outside threats and (more frequently) as police of the internal conflicts between the Trust families themselves. The groups’ interactions are often facilitated by a person holding the title “Warlord” for the Trust, who serves as the Houses’ liaison to the Minutemen.

Sometime in the late 20th/early 21st century, the Minutemen were betrayed by the Trust and disbanded after Agent Graves refused to re-enact “The Greatest Crime in the History of Mankind” (i.e. something akin to the slaughter of Roanoke, and a re-expansion of the borders of the Trust). The Minutemen retaliate with the assassination of a hooded figure in Atlantic City, and are then sent into hiding. Most of the Minutemen of that time were “deactivated” by Graves. These former Minutemen have their memories repressed for their own protection and returned to “normal” lives. This occurs prior (presumably some years) to the beginning of the 100 Bullets.

As the story plays out, many of those who are offered the chance for vengeance by Graves are revealed to have been people wronged by the Trust or its agents, and some are actually revealed to have been Minutemen at the time of the events of Atlantic City. Trusting to his planning, some luck, and the importance of his “game,” Agent Graves seeks to reactivate several of his Minutemen and recruit potential new members during the course of the series. With the “aid” at times of the Trust’s current Warlord, the charismatic and secretive Mr. Shepherd, Graves sets into motion a complicated and deadly plot of revenge against the Trust.

There are thirteen trade paperbacks in publication for this series. The titles of the trade paperbacks all seem to be somehow related with their volume number ( First Shot, Last Call; Split Second Chance; A Foregone Tomorrow; The Counterfifth Detective; Six Feet Under the Gun; Strychnine Lives; Decayed (a pun on ‘decade’; this is the tenth volume)), with four being indirect references (book 7 titled Samurai, for Seven Samurai; book 8 titled The Hard Way, a reference to a roll in craps; book 12 titled Dirty, as in The Dirty Dozen; book 13 titled Wilt, for basketball player Wilt Chamberlain, who wore the number 13 and was famous for scoring 100 points in a single game). Book 11 Once Upon a Crime is also a reference as “once” is Spanish for eleven. The exception to the rule is book 3, which was originally to be called The Charm — as in “third time’s the charm” — but was given the title of the collection’s largest plot arc, Hang Up on the Hang Low, when it won the Eisner Award. Another interpretation of this seemingly odd exception is that ‘Hang Up on the Hang Low’ is a coded allusion to Masonic symbology, the upwards triangle placed over the downward triangle, where the number 3 is indicated among other things through this code. As The Trust can also be seen to be a Masonic type allusion, one should also look for other Masonic symbols through the books.
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