#21 - 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello

We’ve all got enemies in our lives. If not you must at least have someone you really dislike, that one person that irritates the hell out of you. What would you do if a member of a shadowy organisation offered you a gun, a hundred bullets and a license to shoot that person down? Would you take it?

Course not; we live in the real world. That would be a choice that only the most morally-starved person could take. In 100 bullets though, morals don’t come into it. The characters just accept the proposition in the interests of moving the story forward and get on with reaping their revenge. It's a good thing too - this could have been a philiosophical look at the nature of revenge and the trappings of the human conscience, but instead it is one of the most thrillingly plotted comics of all time.

The propositions themselves are given by Agent Graves, one of the best graphic novel characters ever and a man who is an enigma even to himself. He leads the Minutemen, a group of people who act as the strong arm for an organisation known as the Trust. The Trust are a powerful organisation that pull the strings of the leaders of the free world, much in the way that many shadowy organistions do in Hollywood conspiracy flicks.

100 Bullet’s biggest strength isn't in its use of freemason-like power brokers trying to rule the world, it is in its characterisation. Brian Azzarello writes the comic in an episodic style, focusing on one character for a few issues before moving on to another. He lets us get to know and love a character, and then before we are ready to say goodbye he plants us in the world of another. This happens so often that a lesser comic would struggle to keep its readers following along; after all, a fundamental element in a work of fiction is that there are one or two protagonists that the reader can get behind. But 100 Bullets doesn't just have a couple - it has several. Normally this would be tough for a writer to handle, but Azzarello is so skilled at making you love a character within five pages that you don’t mind when the story skips along because you know you'll like where it's going.

Besides, 100 Bullets always returns to its old characters to let you know how they're getting on. Due to the over-arching narrative of the story many of the character’s plots end up weaving together, and as the comic goes on we get to see our favourites interact with each other - often with spectacular results.

If you love a plot that sizzles, is clever, and is full of twists then you will love 100 Bullets. And considering that the comic has won masses of critical acclaim and handfuls of awards, you won’t be alone.

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