100 Bullets: Split Second Chance – Brian Azzerello

100 Bullets 02The man with the attaché case returns. We get some more stories of revenge but we also delve deeper into the conspiracy. We learn nothing, or if it is possible, less than nothing. Nothing that we can rely on. You get to see more of Graves in action and thanks to Azzerello’s wonderful character building it is terrifying.

Azzerello is like a watchmaker. Dozens of tiny details are pressed intimately together to make a spinning, dancing whole. He is a wonderful storyteller and you just sit there open mouthed, reading as fast as you can to try and keep up and desperately find out more.

The art is superb and Risso puts so much more into every frame than anyone else would. You can see the stories of everyone in a bar just by peering into the background as the foreground action unfolds. What would be dressing for most artists comes alive and sucks you in.

With several pages of dialogue in French and no translation it is clear Azzerello is one to take risks. From the complexity of his story and lack of pandering to the lazy reader we also see he isn’t going to compromise on what promises to be an amazing vision.

Thumbs Up!

328/37

Tomorrow: 100 Bullets: Hang Up on the Hang Low – Brian Azzerello

100 Bullets: First Shot, Last Call – Brian Azzerello

100 Bullets 01This is very good stuff. Modern crime drama with a noirish twist. Reminiscent of Ed Brubaker’s Criminal series but with a grungier, baser feel to it.

There are three stories that get progressively shorter. Each is a mini masterpiece until you realise the connection and then you are hooked. The secret of the 100 Bullets is deftly handled and definitely leaves you wanting more. Azzerello builds real suspense and tangible menace too.

The dialogue and setting tastes authentic and whilst all the gangsta speak can make your head hurt it is worth persevering with to immerse yourself in the situation. The twists come out of leftfield but you never feel cheated. Although short stories there is a huge anchor to what will be a massive bigger picture.

The art is excellent and spot on for the feel of the story. It has that classic Vertigo newsprint feel to it. The soft matt paper yields deep colours, the panels are very informal and there is a lot of shadow. The silhouette is king and the darkness shows you more than the light.

There is no way I can wait till the next volume so it has to be the Double Thumbs Up!

327/38

Tomorrow: 100 Bullets: Split Second Chance – Brian Azzerello

Cowboy Ninja Viking – A J Lieberman

Cowboy Ninja Viking 01This has to be pretty much the most bizarre thing I have read. How this got published I will never know. Imagine how cool it would be to have a Cowboy, a Ninja and a Viking team up and take on bad guys. Now make them into a single person with multiple personality disorder. I know, right?

This starts slap bang in the action with no explanation and then the timeline starts jumping about like a Space Hopper in an earthquake. Eventually you have enough information to figure out a starting point and make you go cross eyed.

The art is bizarre to say the least. Truly unique. Black and white pencil/ pen sketching with 70’s era pop art computer shading and block highlighting in a single colour. And that single colour will change each issue. So issue one is black and blue; issue two is black and pink; issue three black and green, etc. It is a garish nightmare. One that you quickly accept. Imagine Andy Warhol painting on a ZX Spectrum. The whole thing is very 8 bit.

One character with three personalities all talking at once is potentially horrendous. Imagine if he isn’t the only one like that? Cleverly the art will change showing our hero in a different outfit depicting his present personality. The genius part is the speech bubbles. Each personality has their own shape of bubble. The cowboy has a gun shape, the ninja a sword, the Viking an axe. Genius!

This will drive you mad initially. For a book dealing with mental illness that is quite an appropriate thing. It is nice to leave your comfort zone and if you haven’t thrown the book out of the window by the time it settles down you really click with it as the story is really well plotted and revealed.

For originality in concept, art and execution it gets the Double Thumbs Up!

326/39

Tomorrow: 100 Bullets: First Shot, Last Call – Brian Azzerello

BONE – Book Nine: Crown of Horns – Jeff Smith

Bone 09This is the last volume – the bitter end. Actually it is not that bitter at all. There is a little bit of Magical McGuffin and waiting for the cavalry aspect to it. But it is well paced, dramatic, has a few surprises and a real laugh out loud moment. It feels good to reach the end of the line.

The art is excellent as always with some nice touches worth remembering. There isn’t a lot you can do to shake things up at this stage but there are some well thought out scenes.

A highly worthy Thumbs Up!

325/40

Tomorrow: Cowboy Ninja Viking – A J Lieberman

BONE – Book Eight: Treasure Hunters – Jeff Smith

Bone 08This is another solid volume of the mighty Bone epic. Things trundle along nicely but there is little high drama and few moments of excitement. Things are drawing to an end but are doing so slowly. New characters, and the odd mystery, are introduced late in the day and you get the feeling that things are getting a little flat. There is a dramatic ending however and you know the final book with be an exciting end.

The art is neither better nor worse but lacks the flair of some of the previous books.

A Thumbs Up!

324/41

Tomorrow: BONE – Book Nine: Crown of Horns – Jeff Smith

BONE – Book Seven: Ghost Circles – Jeff Smith

Bone 07Things really kick off now with mountains exploding and instant invisible death, and sometimes highly visible death, all around. The humour has run for cover but the drama has been turned up to eleven. This is definitely in road movie territory but it is a fast and engaging read.

The art is good and we have a lot more double page spreads showing you the scale of what our heroes are up against.

A Thumbs Up!

323/42

Tomorrow: BONE – Book Eight: Treasure Hunters – Jeff Smith

BONE – Book Six: Old Man’s Cave – Jeff Smith

Bone 06This is another mythos heavy episode with an extra layer of backstory being added. Unfortunately this exposition is all talking heads which is a real let down. That said there is a wonderful laugh out loud moment and an epic reveal that you would never see coming. It has a great ending that leaves you wanting more.

The art is good and although it struggles during the weary dialogue there are some nice compositions, great silhouettes and a fantastic Roque Ja pose where he looks directly out of the page right at you.

Thumbs Up!

322/43

Tomorrow: BONE – Book Seven: Ghost Circles – Jeff Smith

BONE – Book Five: Rock Jaw, Master of the Eastern Border – Jeff Smith

Bone 05“Do something quick small mammal, before we are all killed to death!” It is lines like these that assure you that you are in safe hands with Smith. This volume is essentially an extended chase scene on a cliff but we still get time to learn more about the plot, have a few laughs, get our heart-strings tugged and even philosophise on the nature of good and evil.

The art is the same good stuff and manages to impart a tangible sense of danger. Crumbling ledges, rockfalls, and giant snapping beasties are all rendered with dynamic excellence and really brought to life.

Smiley and Fone are the only main characters in this volume and it feels lighter than some of the previous books but still a Thumbs Up!

321/44

Tomorrow: BONE – Book Six: Old Man’s Cave – Jeff Smith

BONE – Book Four: The Dragonslayer – Jeff Smith

Bone 04This is where it all kicks off and epic fantasy overtakes the cute and humorous. Princesses, dragons, ancient prophecies, the whole nine yards. It is a bit of a jarring transition but the characters we love are still there, if a little shaken.

The book has become slightly wordier but we have our first double page spread, some wonderful nocturnal vistas and some highly unusual panel work. There are lots of nice artistic touches here.

A Thumbs Up!

320/45

Tomorrow: BONE – Book Five: Rock Jaw, Master of the Eastern Border – Jeff Smith

BONE – Book Three: Eyes of the Storm – Jeff Smith

Bone 03Bone has a very old soul. Its familiar tale harkens back to medieval and even Greek myth. Personally it reminds me of Peanuts whose comic characters are the perfect vehicle for imparting a great deal of wisdom about our own lives.

Despite the humorous aspects of this story it now takes a turn into darker territory. Smith does a profound job of creating a looming, brooding darkness that builds at the corner of your mind and makes us fear for our beloved new world. Secrets are revealed and events are set in motion on a larger scale than just our heroes alone. Contrasting this dramatic narrative with almost Laurel and Hardy type gags is a superb choice that works wonderfully.

The art is terrific and really shows off what simplicity can do. White on black night scenes which are flipped when lightning flashes are incredibly atmospheric. He also tackles a tricky extended rain scene with aplomb.

Absolutely spot on. A huge Thumbs Up!

319/46

Tomorrow: BONE – Book Four: The Dragonslayer – Jeff Smith