That is the precise premise presented in Brian Azzarello’s highly acclaimed “100 Bullets.” Following exactly 100 issues, the crime comic began in 1999 and lasted a decade, during which time it acquired such prestigious prizes as Eisner and Harvey awards.
The offer is generally sweetened in Azzarello’s fictional world however, with with a suitcase containing indisputable evidence of the guilt of the one party responsible for all of the recipient’s wanton woes.
Not even the Kingpin could offer that kind of legal protection and in this universe, it seems that happiness truly is a warm gun.
Beginning in an undisclosed city, “First Shot, Last Call” covers the series’ first five issues, which initially follow the story of Dizzy Cordova immediately after her release from prison. She is given 100 untraceable bullets by a mysterious stranger, only identifiable as “Agent Graves” as well as the requisite briefcase containing evidence that two specific cops are directly responsible for the murder of her husband and child.
A former gang-banger, Cordova has since learned the error of her ways and originally planned to reform and lead an honest life.
But the memory of seemingly everlasting happiness is simply too fresh and the evidence is just too conclusive.
What follows is a cerebral exercise in the best pulp and noir that the world of graphic literature has seen in years. Azzarello’s masterful storytelling is a heart-pounding thrill ride from the very first page.
After all, what else does one expect with the words “Bang. You’re dead” as the first foray into this sinfully decadent, though intriguing world.
Unfortunately, what began as a literary bulls-eye soon scampers into the realm of a nearby clock – effectively slowing the tale’s pace, as the second story in this intricately-formed trade paperback follows nearly the same premise as the first, dulling the impact considerably. In spite of this, there is indication of movement toward a favorable position – Azzarello’s fictional gambit allows him to build toward something big, raising more questions than answering, while deftly untying a rather nasty plot-thread knot – as any good first trade should.
Azzarello’s darkly engaging venture is matched only by the grim, bland colors of Grant Goleash, though hardly rivaled by the art of Eduardo Risso. Although impressive, it lacks any distinct realism and often comes off as cartoony, with many faces looking nearly identical. They do convey expression well though and serve their purpose well in a book so dedicated to emotional dominance.
A riveting homage to noir past, “First Shot, Last Call” prevails as an initial lesson in marksmanship, though may just be beginner’s luck.