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Sunday, April 26, 2020

Batman: Earth One Vol. 1

Title: Batman: Earth One Vol. 1







ISBN: 9781401232085

Price: $22.99

Publisher/Year: DC, 2012

Artist: Gary Frank

Writer: Geoff Johns



Rating: 3.5/5



This retelling of the Batman mythos shows a universe where the Wayne family enters into the seedy world of Gotham politics, and when the opponent is Oswald Cobblepot, nothing is off limits, including murder, and that’s where this story gets really interesting.



Each version of the death of Bruce’s parents shows a child that is genuinely traumatized by the event, and this one is no different. Except in some portions of the story, he comes off as bratty, thinking he’s above everything, and that’s probably not the best thing to do when you’re rich and about to be robbed and/or your family is about to be murdered by a mugger.



The story shows Batgirl in her formative years, and I thought it was interesting how the writers portrayed her character. She’s definitely a free spirit, and it would have been nice to see her character progress beyond the two books. The character that probably intrigued me the most was the serial killer Birthday Boy. The character itself resembles probably one of the creepier elements that Gotham has to offer, and I was most fascinated by his appearance as he looked like a mashup of Bane and Scarecrow with a party hat with the modus operandi of Mad Hatter.



The story was an interesting retelling of the original Batman mythos. I was surprised how Alfred was depicted as a grizzled, ex British soldier. Aside from Sean Pertwee’s performance as Alfred in Gotham, the character has generally been depicted as more reserved and far from being physically imposing, so that was refreshing. The story was good, the artwork was impressive, and the flow was good as well. The only thing I did not like was how Harvey Bullock was depicted. Every depiction of Bullock was one of a cop that was down on his luck, and while this was no different, the writers could have done a better job of depicting a character who actually looks like he’s been around the block a few times. Bullock looked too much like how Hollywood would depict a police detective, and that turned me off to that particular character. He looked too much like an actor and less like a cop, which are not Harvey Bullock characteristics. Overall, a good story, and a must-have for any Batman fan.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

100 Bullets: The Hard Way

Title: 100 Bullets: The Hard Way







ISBN: 9781401204907

Price: $14.99

Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 2005

Artist: Eduardo Risso

Writer: Brian Azzarello

Collects: 100 Bullets #50-58



Rating: 4/5



To this point Wylie Times has been a pretty likable guy. There’s not much ambition to him, and he may drink a little too much, but he has a conscience and a sense of what’s wrong and what’s not. Despite Shepherd’s best efforts, though, Wylie is one former Minuteman who’s not yet fully thrown off his constructed life, and Dizzy, accompanying them since the excellent Mexico trip detailed in A Foregone Tomorrow, is finding it difficult to believe he was ever capable.



This is set in New Orelans, lovingly rendered by Eduardo Risso, even the sleazier parts of town, and much of the conversation occurs in a bar, lovingly rendered by Risso as he has every bar so far featured in the series.



The Hard Way opens by introducing a member of the Minutemen not previously seen, who delivers the origins of the Trust amid a heist gone seriously wrong. It’s slim, but more than balanced by the title story, the longest yet run in 100 Bullets. It’s an exceptional piece. Wylie and Dizzy are making some connection when they witness a gruesome murder across the bay, too far away to intervene. Wylie has friends in New Orleans, one of whom owes him in major fashion.



In the course of working out his present day problems, Wylie also considers his past. He loved a woman in New Orleans, and she died. This was in circumstances involving Shepherd, someone else stripped back a little here, and it’s still raw. This isn’t a linear narrative, even in the present day, so there may be some initial confusion, but that rapidly evaporates as Brian Azzarello delivers another crime noir masterpiece. There are several candidates to fill the role of the tragic victim, one excellent plot revelation, one even better bombshell, and the desperate tension is maintained from start to finish when a mantle is inherited. All in all it’s the finest story to date in an exceptional series, which continues with Strychnine Lives.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

100 Bullets: Samurai

Title: 100 Bullets: Samurai





ISBN: 9781401201890

Price: $12.99

Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 2004

Artist: Eduardo Risso

Writer: Brian Azzarello

Collects: 100 Bullets #43-49



Rating: 4/5



Samurai looks in on a couple of folk we’ve seen before. Hang Up on the Hang Low, was the best of 100 Bullets to that point, spotlighting Loop Hughes, the guy you’re pulling for who almost pulled it off. A Foregone Tomorrow was where we first met Jack Daw, a giant brute of a man with a seeming death wish who salves his sorrows with the needle.



The opening sequence is every episode of Oz that Brian Azzarello ever watched dropped into four gut-stabbing chapters of tension and brutality, with a very slight, but pivotal, element of The Shawshank Redemption thrown in. There’s no sentimentality here, though, and as with almost any 100 Bullets graphic novel, it’s magnificent. Loop’s now been imprisoned for a while, finding his place, his easy going character for the most part keeping him safe, but as Samurai opens he’s just back from solitary after putting someone extremely dangerous in the infirmary. The consensus is that Loop’s days are numbered.



A plot used more than once in The Punisher, is Frank Castle deliberately letting himself be caught into order to be jailed alongside plenty of his targets. He’ll then proceed to intimidate the intimidators and kill the killers. Azzarello works a variation on that plot here with someone presumed to be dead when last seen.



That was also the case for a component of the second story here, which further shares the thematic link of cages. Jack and friend turn up at a remote small zoo in New Jersey where there’s a lucrative sideline going on. Jack still can’t bring himself to use one of his hundred bullets on himself, but sure isn’t keen on seeing a drugged tiger becoming a status symbol for some minor league Philly gangsters. The sequence in which we first saw Jack was the only time the quality of 100 Bullets dipped slightly, but he makes a lot more sense here, and his final destination ensures we’ll be seeing him again.



Every successive volume has stunning artwork from Eduardo Risso, but in the jail sequences some of his characters cross the line from caricatured into not quite credible, particularly a postulating weapons dealer. This, though, is minor nitpicking in the face of near perfection in consistently creating credible environments for Azzarello’s compelling character studies. As good as the scripts are, Azzarello presumably thanked his lucky stars for Risso as there are plenty of artists with Vertigo pedigree who’d never have been able to interpret his cast as convincingly.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

100 Bullets: Six Feet Under the Gun

Title: 100 Bullets: Six Feet Under the Gun







ISBN: 1563899965

Price: $14.99

Publisher/Year: Vertigo, 2003

Artist: Eduardo Risso

Writer: Brian Azzarello

Collects: 100 Bullets #37-42



Rating: 4/5



This is very much a transitional volume. Each of the six chapters takes a look at someone we’ve met before, and by the end of the book pretty well all the cards are on the table. In parsing out his information Brian Azzarello constructs six wonderful crime stories, but the bigger picture will elude anyone who’s not been reading the series to this point. Why should they care about Dizzy heading back home to her Chicago neighborhood, or Cole Burns visiting the girlfriend he deserted a year previously?



We also drop in on Wylie Times, Auguste Medici and Lono, the latter somewhat the mysterious presence to date with only one side to his character displayed. He’s like the cartoon Tasmanian Devil with the ultra-violence button permanently on; the man who’ll throw the grenade into the room and sort out the mess later. We also learn more about Shepherd. He’s been around since the beginning of the series, his capabilities never in doubt (and laid out here), but his motives and allegiances never completely clear. A lot more is revealed, as it is about Graves. The Trust fear him, but can also dangle something over his head, so this book is very much the calm before the storm.



In between all the plotting and counter-plotting, we look in on what are specifically referred to as “the little people”. In a particularly fine chapter a couple see an accident outside their house, and the mood switches from seedy to shock, ecstasy and woe. It’s like an extended version of the mini-masterpiece morality plays Will Eisner produced for The Spirit.



Azzarello’s dialogue is continually impressive, and the manner in which he uses captions to reflect the deeper levels of his story is awe-inspiring. The chapter spotlighting Auguste Medici, an increasingly important character, opens with him in Florida feeding the alligators, yet the implication generated refers to his leading position within the Trust.



How many times can one comment on the sheer excellence of Eduardo Risso? On the one hand there’s a minimalism to his art, yet the depth he provides the cast is astounding. You can hear the faulty beer taps dripping in the bars he creates, and those old cars pop. Perhaps it’s also time to remind regarding the wonderful contribution of colorist Patricia Mulvihill. She didn’t set the tone from the start, but has taken on the difficult task of creating color moods from an artist who slathers on the black ink. Her task is subtlety, exceptionally well carried out.

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