Welcome to Recall Reviews, the column that features a selection of last week’s comics and yesteryear’s classic series!
First up, I’ll be talking about one of my favorite series of all time, 100 Bullets
. This article will focus on issues #15-30, with the rest of the series to follow in future articles. And down below, we’ll be taking a look at Archie
#1, Star Wars: Lando
#1, Star Trek/Green Lantern
#1, and Saga
While I tried to avoid any major spoilers in my last review, we’re getting to a point in the series where that may become near impossible. I’ll try to avoid spoilers for the issues talked about below, but I may not be able to avoid talking about events from previous issues. So, if you haven’t read the series yet but did read my review of issues #1-14 and want to remain un-spoiled, now is a good time to go buy those books, scroll to the bottom of the page, and read what I have to say about some of last week’s great titles.
For those of you still here, let’s begin…
100 BULLETS Pt. 2 of 7, issues #15-30
Written by Brian Azzarello; Art by Eduardo Risso; Colors by Patricia Mulvihill; Covers by Dave Johnson
My fiancé recently finished 100 Bullets for the first time and pointed out something that speaks to the greatness of this creative team. Azzarello and Risso have worked on many series together, like Jonny Double, Spaceman, and Flashpoint: Batman Knight of Vengeance. Like many other creative teams, sometimes an artist or writer can be switched out and the story is relatively the same, or at least as effective. She thought, for example, Spaceman could have had a different artist and still be a great story. But 100 Bullets is different. The story would not be nearly as powerful without Eduardo Risso. His use of shadows and facial expression really sell how dark and shocking this series can be. Azzarello/Risso, for my money, really is the definition of a dream team.
I’d like to take that theory a bit further and say that the series really stepped into a different dimension with the addition of colorist Patricia Mulvihill. The art was great before, but Mulvihill brought brightness and an intriguing atmosphere to a dark story without missing a beat.
When we last saw our heroes, Dizzy and Mr. Branch were in Paris, Graves was still handing out magic attachés, and Lono was walking down the street with 2 million dollars…
Issues #15-18, “Hang Up on The Hang Low” & #19 “Epilogue for A Road Dog”
100 Bullets is one of those series you will probably need to read multiple times to understand everything that’s been told. Even in subtle ways, Azzarello and Risso connect storylines you wouldn’t imagine are related, but without drawing so much attention to it to suggest it’s an integral part of the story. This particular arc begins and near-concludes with two separate references that seemingly have no relation, and we soon realize that whether through “divine will” or Graves’ endless game, Azzarello has connected all the dots.
Travelling to Philadelphia, we meet Curtis and Louis “Loop” Hughes, father and son, respectively. Curtis is a debt collector for the mob, and Loop is a gangster who just drove up on a crime scene. Looks like another gangster, Li’l Moe, and his dad, Big Moe, were just shot, allegedly by a police officer. Sound familiar? See the short story, Silencer Night, in back of Vol. 1 First Shot, Last Call. See? Connections.
At this point, Curtis and Loop have never met, but that’s about to change thanks to Agent Graves. Handed an attache case, Loop, like countless others, receives an opportunity. What he’ll do with it is his choice, but at the very least, he’ll get to know his father. When they do meet, it’s not exactly the tender reunion most of us would hope for, but it’s a start.
Soon, the Hughes boys are rolling and working together and all seems dandy until a job goes wrong and they’re faced with another kind of opportunity: finish this job and transfer the money, or take the money for themselves and start anew. They make their decision, and while it plays out, Graves visits the other Hughes: their meeting is a bit more…familiar. Clearly they know each other, but to what extent? I’ll let you read the arc to find out what happens, especially in “Epilogue For A Road Dog.” Just remember: connections.
Issues #20, “The Mimic” & #21-22 “Sell Fish & Out To Sea”
“The Mimic” is another one of those issues I mentioned in my last review where Azzarello and Risso can tell multiple stories without distracting from the main plot. In the foreground, we see Mr. Shepherd talking with a young man named Benito. They’re discussing exactly why it is that Graves, among others, is still alive and what he’s been up to. Meanwhile, a drug dealer in the park is not happy about competition moving in and his inability to do anything about it. This another story I don’t feel I can do justice explaining here, so I’ll let you read it for yourself.
Now we meet Jack, a drug addict who has wasted his life, resources, and relationships away. Graves gives him the opportunity to turn his life around, but he’ll have to face one demon he can’t run away from. Another dark storyline, this arc serves to introduce us to another character with seemingly no benefit to Graves. Little does Jack know, though, their paths will cross again. Stay tuned.
Issues #23-25 “Red Prince Blues” & #26 “Mr. Branch & The Family Tree”
A relatively non-violent arc (more plot than action), we finally get a closer look at the people Graves is really after: the Trust! Though this story centers around Benito Medici, we learn that the Trust is meeting together for the first time in who-knows-how-long, in Atlantic City of all places, and that even the families can’t be trusted. It turns out Graves and his people are in Atlantic City, too, looking to strike when the Trust is most vulnerable.
While “Red Prince Blues” gives us a look at the Trust, “Mr. Branch & The Family Tree” gives us the scoop on Graves and his Minutemen, as told by Mr. Branch. This is another very special issue in both writing and art.
The script is almost entirely exposition, which with the wrong writers can quickly become a bore. But as we are learning new things about these characters, Mr. Branch is putting together the pieces himself and beginning to see the bigger picture. Once again, Azzarello has us twitching to flip the page.
The art is in a league all its own. In addition to Risso and Mulvihill’s work, we’re treated to a lineup of guest artists that can knock just about any comic fans socks off. Paul Pope. Jim Lee. Dave Gibbons. Lee Bermejo. J.G. Jones. Frank Miller. And more! Each present a pin-up style full page spread featuring a different character as Branch is telling his story. It’s really something you need to see to believe. Even if you weren’t reading the series, this is an issue to check out by itself. I can’t think of any other recent books that have pulled together a line up like this, outside of Walking Dead 100-type projects.
Issues #27 “Idol Chatter” & #28-30 “¡Contrabandalero!”
Another one-and-done type story, “Idol Chatter” focuses on different sides of Graves we’ve yet to see: a young Graves, and a man who looks up to someone. Though it’s never said directly, there are some fascinating parallels between the story of Graves’ hero and Joe DiMaggio. He was a baseball player when the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn and he was married to the most beautiful woman on Earth. After that, Azzarello takes a few liberties with history, and not for the last time.
In fact, what follows connects with the Comedian series he later wrote for Before Watchmen. In both cases, Marilyn Monroe was assassinated by members of the U.S. Government. I found it fascinasting for Azzarello to follow his own canon years later and across franchises. In addition to that, here in 100 Bullets, there were potentially three shooters at the assassination of J.F.K. This is another issue that’s best understood if you read it yourself and assess it on your own, so I’ll leave you with that. Enjoy!
In “¡Contrabandalero!” we meet Wylie Times, but this introduction is a bit different than previous folks. He encounters Mr. Shepherd and Dizzy while working at a gas station, and thinks nothing of them until they return to the town that night. Wylie has an eventful night, ending with running into Dizzy at a motel. We soon learn that their encounters are not by accident, but again, this is different. Wylie isn’t being approached with an opportunity from Graves, in fact Shepherd and Dizzy are keeping their distance until necessary. The two follow Wylie down to Juarez, where he’s working a job, but not everything goes according to plan. The group parts company, but not before Shepherd leaves Wylie a message. More on that later.
At this point, you might be wondering “Why is Dizzy with Mr. Shepherd when she was “recruited” by Agent Graves? What is Shepherd preparing her for?” Worry not, all will be made clear down the road…
That’s it for now, but 100 Bullets issues #31-42 will be up next week.
Now up from last week’s offerings…
Written by Mark Waid; Art and Regular Cover by Fiona Staples; Coloring by Andre Szymanowicz; Several Variant Covers by Various
I’ll admit that while Archie is one of the longest-running and most beloved franchises in comics, I have read very little. While other kids picked up Jughead Double-Digests at the grocery store, I picked up skateboard magazines. Other than Golden Age Collectibles in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, where I mostly looked at posters and action figures, I didn’t step into a comic shop until I was 18 and all I wanted was Batman. A high school kid whose biggest problem seemed to be which girl to take out on Saturday was of no interest to me. Until they brought the zombie apocalypse to Riverdale in Afterlife With Archie. Then came The Death of Archie. Then Archie vs. Predator. Now I’m in.
Being one of the longest-running and most beloved franchises in comics, and with all these other new series popping up, a reboot seemed unlikely and unnecessary. But now that it’s here, it makes perfect sense. With the revitalization in the franchise that’s been taking place over the last couple of years, it makes sense to give your core series a modern spin. And Waid and Staples nail it. What better way to start a reboot than to put the reader into the shoes like a new student, have the title character introduce himself, and show us around school? We quickly get a feel for where Archie’s relationships are at: where things stand with Betty, and why Jughead really is the best of friends.
One of my favorite aspects of Staples’ art is her facial expressions. You can see it throughout her career, whether it’s in Saga, North 40, Mystery Society, and most recently here. The elation in student’s faces when Archie plays guitar, the awkward terror Betty feels when Reggie grabs her shoulders, and Jughead just being his cool self. Very well done, everyone, I look forward to revisiting Riverdale on a regular basis.
STAR WARS: LANDO #1
Written by Charles Soule; Art and Regular Cover by Alex Maleev; Colors by Paul Mounts; Several Variant Covers by Various
Lando Calrissian is here, and he’s pissing off the wrong people. After pulling what he thought would be a successful heist, Lando and Lobot are sent on another high-risk/high-reward job. But who is he stealing from this time? As a gambler, doesn’t he know the danger of doubling down?
I’m glad to have more Lando to read, but everyone knows he’s a smooth talking swindler. What I was most excited for was learning more about Lobot. I haven’t read many Star Wars comics before the move back to Marvel, so maybe I missed a few things, but it was great getting more backstory on this otherwise silent character. I’ll be honest though, I kept turning the page expecting to see a certain ship which may soon belong to a buddy of his. Maybe that’s down the road? Either way, a good start to this 5-issue mini-series.
STAR TREK/GREEN LANTERN #1 (SLIGHT SPOILERS)
Written by Mike Johnson; Art by Angel Hernandez; Several Covers by Various
As I’ve said before, this is a crossover event I did not see coming but am very excited for! DC announced a couple other impending crossovers at San Diego ComiCon, so these may be just the first wave of many to come! I certainly hope so, I’m a sucker for Elseworld-type stories.
We’re dropped into what appears to be the end of a devastating battle between potentially all Lanterns and Guardians against an unknown Black Lantern assailant. After discovering a Guardian’s body, Captain Kirk and crew are targeted by a Klingon ship, when an unknown entity provides shielding for the Enterprise. But this entity isn’t here just to help, it wants answers. Meanwhile, several Lantern rings, previously in the Guardian’s possession fly off to find new bearers.
While the idea of several members of Starfleet receiving Lantern rings is enticing, I felt the scene was rushed to get the reveal of Hal Jordan. The pacing was off in a couple other places, but overall this was a good first issue. I’m certainly wondering where this series will go, and who else will show up.
SAGA #30 (SPOILERS)
Written by Brian K. Vaughan; Art and Cover by Fiona Staples
If you’ve read even just a few issues, you know this series can be a tearjerker. Lately though, Vaughan has been applying more subtle heartbreak in foreshadowing narration by our dear Hazel. The family has been mostly separated in this arc, and she keeps eluding that it won’t change anytime soon. Why, BKV, WHY?!
Anyway. Though plenty eventful, I didn’t find any devastating *GASP* moments this series has come to be known for. For that, see issue #29. I was bummed that Dengo was killed, but after meeting Prince Robot IV face to face, what else can you expect? Dengo’s character had the potential to fall into the cliché “misunderstood bad-guy” category, but Vaughan cleverly avoided that and I bought into every panel. A very solid ending to an arc that’s taken “family drama” to new distances and given us a brief, and painful, glimpse at what’s to come. No word on a release date for issue #31 yet, but thankfully the team also included a list at the end of this issue on how to get through the hiatus, including rereading the series and taking the Buzzfeed “Which Character From Saga Are You?” quiz. (I got Marko!) Enjoy the hiatus!
Looking for more recommendations? Find me on Twitter @4ColorPhil
That’s it for now, see you next week!
Tags: Recall Reviews