These days, graphic novels have become so mainstream that it sometimes seems everyone is getting involved, from Stephen King (The Stand, etc.) and Dean Koontz (Frankenstein, etc.), to Ian Rankin (Dark Entries). But the 100 Bullets series, first introduced a decade ago, remains a classic of this ever-expanding genre.
Summing up the labyrinthine plot developed through 100 issues (now bound into a magnificent 13-volume collection) is nigh to impossible, but for those unfamiliar with 100 Bullets, here's the main story arc. In an area of what would later become Virginia, someone--or some thing--wipes out the Elizabethan colony of Roanoke, thus setting up a mystery that 400 years later remains unsolved. 100 Bullets tells us that this Colonial wipe-out was set in motion by The Trust, a shadowy consortium of European do-badders which still exists in the present day. Over the years, assassinations have decimated the inheritors of The Trust, partially because of a man called Agent Graves.
In previous volumes, Graves, a mysterious figure himself, handed out 100 untraceable bullets to unlikely recipients. Many of these folks have wreaked vengeance on The Trust and their henchmen, the Minutemen. Now The Trust has dwindled down to Augustus, Benito, Megan, Tibo, and Joan. None are averse to killing their enemies, but as the 100 Bullets saga steamrolls towards its end, they may be about to get their comeuppance.
100 Bullets Vol. 13: Wilt opens in 1963 with a Trust-orchestrated killing in Las Vegas, then flash-forwards to the present day and present woes where The Trust's machinations have come to fruition. No one--neither the elderly nor the very, very young--is safe from their violence. Goodness doesn't exist in these pages, only dark shades of gray on a character landscape where righteous avengers have morphed into ice-hearted killers. Beauteous Latina ex-con Dizzy Cordova valiantly attempts to remain above the slaughter, but eventually she, too, is swept into the maelstrom of evil as Trust members turn against each other and friend kills friend. Almost as an aside to this large-scale slaughterhouse--albeit a tragic one--we watch the fate of tiny drug-runner Pip, a child who's been ordered to assassinate another child. Pip's home life is disastrous, a rat-infested walk-up inhabited by a slovenly mother who would sell her own baby for more drugs.
100 Bullets' brilliantly addictive story line is brought to lush life by artist Eduardo Risso, whose tilt-a-whirl angles and gasp-worthy foreshortening perfectly illustrate the mayhem throughout its pages. Explosions tear hands away from hit men in an orgy of crimson and gold (coloring by Patricia Mulvihill); the dank streets of an inner-city slum are shrouded in umber; the groomed symmetry of a Hawaiian plantation sparkles in crisp blue and green. And, oh, the stunning portraiture of the cast of characters: Agent Graves, stern and chiseled; Abe Rothstein, smug and fat; Dizzy Cordova, determined and gorgeous; Loop Hughes, menacing and slick. As the final volume ends, so do lives. The only consolation left for us is to begin reading the series all over again, starting with First Shot, Last Call. I've already started. Warning: Graphic (pun unavoidable) sex and violence.