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100 BULLETS #51
Story: Brian Azzarello
Art: Eduardo Risso

After reading issue #50, I went back to buy the first few trades of this series to see where it all started, an exercise I highly recommend. What you'll find, however, is that you know more or less what you need to know already; it turns out #50 was more of a recap than a revelation.

Issue #51 takes us to New Orleans, lending the story a motif which in lesser hands would come off as cheap simile. The first read through, you might see the references to jazz improvisation as mere local color. The second, they begin to harmonize with the "directionless" worldview passively embraced by Wylie, this arc's protagonist.

Wylie starts the second half of this series off by declaring his hatred of guns. Everyone who has so far accepted the attache from Agent Graves, loaded the gun with untraceable bullets and changed their lives, has struggled with temptation and trepidation, but Wylie's cool consideration seems more knowing, more self-possessed. You realize, as he calmly debates with Graves and Shepherd, what a black and white world the conspiracy represents, how driven it is by absolutes: untraceable bullets, incontrovertible evidence, absolute power, total corruption. The series has always been about the underdog weighing moral choices and taking risks to come out on top, but it's been according to a melody carefully composed by the auteurs in charge.

Maybe this second half is about how quickly a little improvisation can change the best-laid plan into something entirely different. Or maybe not: jazz wanders, it experiments, it makes its own rules, but it comes back to the same tune. As Wylie says, "It's one man and his instrument changing reality," and that's as apt a description of the series so far as any.

The issue is chock full of tension between those with clout and those without, starting with the gold-chain-draped white club owner's friction with his gnomish black trumpet-prodigy drudge, and culminating in the second-to-last guy you'd expect to see tied up and helpless in Wylie's hotel room. Hard to believe the victim won't make it by arc's end, but it's not looking good right now.

As always, the highfalutin' themes are just the asphalt and yellow lines you're inclined to miss on account of the sleek curves and sharp bodywork of the story, characters, and dialogue tearing up the road like an impossibly stylish, perfectly engineered luxury coupe. The writing is as tight as Wylie's garotte and the art is so bright it almost hurts.


Andrew Simchik


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