Posted - October 10, 2015
100 Bullets 1 to 3
In a ploy to instantly grab our interest, 100 bullets begins with this shock panel:
It's an unsuccessful ploy, but a few panels later we are given this.
Now this panel grabs me right in the - well, you know, this is interesting.
So the smallest of the girls - leftmost in the panel above - is the central character in this story arc. As you'll see later, Dizzy Cordova is characterized by a stylized tear drop tattooed underneath her eye - one of those gang things. We come upon her in prison, on the last day of doing time for a case of gang-related violence.
Here's Dizzy, packing her stuff before leaving prison.
The cross, a rosary, a silhouette of the statue of Mary in the background. Symbols of the Roman Catholic Church. You'll find the same symbols when Dizzy gets home. These symbols aren't just decorations. They point to the state of a person's mind. Religion dictates how a person thinks. Dizzy isn't required to have these symbols in her cell, she made the decision to have them there, because that's how she thinks - like a Catholic. We'll find out as the story progresses that she thinks like a traditional Catholic. Lots of guilt, lot's of "God is punishing me because I'm evil". If God really did punish evil we wouldn't be living in the world we are currently living in. But people like Dizzy Cordova still go around believing this and it colors their mood, affects their decisions. This story will unfold under the patina of Dizzy's belief system.
So Dizzy's on her way home and we get this twin panels.
To this day I have no idea what the heck these two panels mean.
And now, introducing: Agent Graves:
This is so amusing
Here Graves is sitting with Dizzy. How do you like it if this strange fellow came in to a mostly empty train and excuses himself to sit beside you instead of in the other totally free seats? You'd be a bit on the defensive, I would think, as Dizzy obviously is in the panel above.
While all this is happening, 100 Bullets gives us some interesting goings on. Here's a shot just outside the moving train.
These panels are sprinkled around the main story - jumping out at us at odd corners - and boy, are they effective. I love it when the creative team don't tell us we are in a dangerous part of town, they show us we're in a dangerous part of town.
So going back to the main story we are shown a cornerstone of the 100 bullets series.
The briefcase with the info, gun and ammo.
It's amazingly effective isn't it? Everybody who reads 100 Bullets thinks. "What if I had that? What if I had that?". The ongoing story will reveal that "the package" is much better than that. It includes blanket protection from arrest and detainment from law enforcement. Suddenly Agent Graves is a very interesting character and the fact we'll know nothing more about it throughout the whole story arc, well, it's just a very powerful "hook" for this series. It's like they asked this huge question and we are compelled to keep reading the series to find out the answer. 'Compelled' in a good way, that is. In the meantime, to keep frustration in check, we get clever dialogue and very nice art.
Here's a fine example:
I don't know which I like better "Gimme a hit off that phatty" or "Huep, huep, huep". I think I like "Huep, huep, huep" better. It's dead-on and very creative.
From Dizzy's time at home, I'm particularly taken with this panel.
I like it because it's my favorite time of day: Twilight. All the work of the day is behind us, dinner is about to be served. Night is about to drop and that means rest, relax and all the good things. Sunset and twilight - it can't get any better than that.
Then there's the morbidly clever dialog balloon - and in this case, dead accurate. The guys working on the car in the garage are gangbangers - working at getting dead indeed.
Here's an overhead shot of the garage.
I love the level of detail. Notice the couch and tv setup in the corner? When I first learned how to drive I bought a ton of car magazines and spent a lot of time in my family's garage. I'm no longer as crazy for cars but this would have been heaven then. Tools, a car to work with, a couch to kick back in - heaven.
By this part of the story, we get more details about Dizzy's family situation. Her husband used to belong to a gang but went legit. Dizzy got involved in a shootout and went to jail. Then her husband and baby get killed in a drive-by shooting. This picture still has some glaringly big holes in it but the story is going to be steadily filled-in as we go along. Dizzy - almost certainly because of her classic Catholic mindset - blames herself for everything.
Now we get to meet the bad cops.
We get a sexual harrassment scene.
I love the "munching carpet" reference, and, on a related note, how many good comics did we miss because of the utter stupidity of the Comics Code Authority?
Dizzy's smart. Somebody gives you an untraceable gun with ammo, you pack it in this neighborhood, and she does. The cops find it and they go ballistic. She's on parole, normally this is big trouble, but this happens:
Dizzy, and we, are beginning to realize that Agent Graves was not joking. Being able to give an untraceable gun is one thing but being able to control law enforcement? 100 Bullets is shaping up very nicely. By the way, those two crooked cops? They're the ones that Grave's information is pointing to as the real killers of Dizzy's family - not the gangbanger fall guys that she initially thought.
Now for some family time as we meet Dizzy's mother.
Before that, look at this:
I just want to note that Dizzy wears no bra throughout this story arc. It's important. Comicbook sales are important. Moving on . . .
Dizzy's Mom is Godzilla:
Just as Mrs. Cordova is about to fall into some stereoptypical hole made for lazy writers we get this:
This story is first class. Panels like this convince me that Azzarello is pulling this out from an honest core. He knows what he's talking about. From being a stereotype, and in just a few panels, Azzarello manages to flesh out a supporting character and give her layers and depth and she just comes alive for us. Good comics.
More of that? How about this: A neighborhood basketball game. I've never played those pickup games but I see them, they're even in movies. Here, 100 Bullets brings us nice and close. This scene is about the kind of trash talking that goes on.
The creative team really makes it come alive don't they? How personal it can get and why this game is played. The "rush" the players feel during the moment - the kind of "king of the hill" situation that happens when you win - and what you feel when you don't win. It's just all wonderfully captured.
That scene was with the boys. Next we join Dizzy as she hangs around at the playground with the young mothers and their kids. Here's the panel I like best.
"Look were it got us". Then at the foreground, kids that need a lot of attention. Once again simple panel, but deep - young mothers a bit in over their heads.
The attention to detail is astounding. I mean, look at this:
It's simply the dashboard of a car. I've seen it done in other comics and its usually just "meh". But not here. Look at the stuff hanging from the rear view mirror. The details on the display gauges - its just fantastic attention to detail and it happens in panel after panel after panel and the effect is: 100 Bullets is well-crafted comics.
Going back to the main storyline. Dizzy finds herself on the scene of a massacre - people from the gangs, people she knows. Since she's snooping around while the cops are there, she winds up in jail once again, and once again they can't hold on to her - it's the seeming magical aura of protection that Agent Graves gave her together with the briefcase. In this specific situation somebody bails her out and we get our first glimpse of Mr. Shepherd.
We get a glimpse, but Dizzy has yet to meet the man. She gets to meet Mr. Shepherd in Church, we get a panel with a great point-of-view layout:
Not a lot of information in this meeting - just a little more "push" to use that gun. By this time the question is really out: Who are Graves and Shepherd? And what are they up to with that "briefcase" thing?
Dizzy runs into the bad cops again and they take him to a meeting with her younger brother, Emilio.
Don't be fooled at the gun-pointing-to-the-head shenanigan. Emilio isn't going to shoot Dizzy, he isn't even angry at her. He's just one of those idiots that we occasionally hear about in the news getting involved with accidental shootings. Everytime I come across one of those stories it just occurs to me that the shooters, even if they kill somebody, what they really shot was there own lives - they shot it and they messed it up. The other person is just dead but the person with the trigger - he's worse than dead. That's why I disagree with Dizzy's statement here.
Wrong Dizzy. There are so many things that can happen to you in life that is much worse than being dead. I will not give examples, I don't want to depress myself.
At this point, the incomplete story we've been reading is coming into greater focus. It turns out that Dizzy's husband Hector was approached by the crooked cops for what Emilio says was an opportunity for a truce with a rival gang. When you read this story you'll quickly come to the conclusion that Emilio is a lying piece of shit and it is more likely that Hector was approached by the cops for a piece of the drug action. Yes, Hector didn't go legit after hall, he was still very much into the gang. Anyway, he turned down the cops and they gunned him down. Emilio took over and he's in this crooked deal with the cops. Almost a complete picture but not yet, as the story is rudely interruped by this.
Look at this. The cops come in and they've shot Emilio in several places in the leg. This is the most brutal panel in this story arc and we haven't been telling the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears here. So now, more things are being explained. First, Emilio betrayed his own family, he give the cops information that led to Hector's and his own niece's death. Then he's about to be killed together with Dizzy because he's implicated in a hit that occurred, and if he's caught, he could rat out the cops. So both Emilio and Dizzy are about to get killed and this is when, at long last, Dizzy uses Agent Grave's "little gift".
At this point, the question is: Is Dizzy going to kill Emilio for his betrayal? I wouldn't blame her if she did but nope, he'll go to prison instead.
As for Dizzy, she gets an "invite".
An invite to what? And what is this all about anyway? The introductory arc of 100 Bullets gives us a lot of unanswered questions and it certainly leaves me hankering for more.