You get a choice, he says.
Such is the basic premise of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso's 100 Bullets, of which I just finished reading the final collection of. After the high concept, the main narrative of the story revolved around a group of killers, called the Minutemen, who are led by Agent Graves, and who are responsible for keeping the peace in a collection of rich families with a lot of pull. The kind of pull that changes the world. After a bad job in Atlantic City before the series begins, the seven members of the Minutemen were hidden, and said to be dead, but now, years later, Agent Graves and Mr. Shepard have a plan to enact their revenge, and are reactivating them, one by one. They are, also, slowly turning the Trust, the aforementioned families, against each other, and slowly killing them, too. Over the one hundred issues of the series, the storyline of this reveneg twists and turns and takes its time to settle into cohesive whole, but it's a fine journey, with Azzarello's script working nicely from page to page, and often weaving two narratives together for juxtaposition, while Risso's art provides the moody, multi layered noir sensibility that defines the entire run. It is a shame, then, a true shame, that when it comes to the climax, that Azzarello's script, having juggled his many plot lines for so long, has no idea how to bring it together.
Wilt, the final book in the series, exists to show the failure in Azzarello's narrative. Until this point, the reader believes that everything will come together. The late introduction of the final Minuteman, Remi, is still hoped to work, though his narrative feels to have no true cohesive element, much like the character does in the series. Dizzy, the very first character we meet, suffers in the final book from not having enough space for her final characterisation to be completed--much, sadly, as Victor Ray, Cole, Loop, and Jack similarly suffer. It is perhaps most telling with Jack and Victor Ray, who, in the final chapter, are given exits that are so below par with their place in the entire series that you can only feel that Azzarello, in laying it out, believed he had to end it after 100 issues, to somehow connect to the title and high concept of the series. Indeed, you would be forgiven for thinking that another ten or so issues were truly needed for Azzarello's script to be given enough breath to take his characters to their ends, and to tie up his narrative.
But, that said, it is nearly impossible for me to no recommend the series as a whole to you. The ride to the last collection is nothing but groovy. The storyline of Loop, who is given an attaché case with his father's photo in it, only to be reunited with him before his death, and Loop's later imprisonment, is worth the series alone. The emergence of Wylie, lost in Mexico as a drunk gas station attendant, and feeling the remorse for a killing he cannot remember, is probably my favourite, to be followed by Milo's awakening, and Lono's rise as the warlord for the Trust. Indeed, Victor Ray's short treatment in the final volume is particularly sad, given how his slow drift from loyal soldier to someone who is losing faith and the combination of his violent, almost unstoppable nature is set up. His introduction, in the middle of the series--but actually the first of the Minutemen to be reactivated--is one of my favourite chapters, and one of the best examples of Azzarello and Riso juxtaposing two separate narratives against each other.
So, indeed, while I am disappointed in this final volume, I have to be honest and say that I rather view the series as a whole as a success, and an excellent one at that.