Review by Frank Plowright
So here we reach the final curtain for what in terms of sheer consistent quality over a vast amount of pages (around 2200) must surely make it the greatest English language crime graphic novels. Criminal challenges for that position, and Parker falls short only by virtue of fewer books. For the sheer variety of approaches taken by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, and the bulk of the work, if you only read one series of crime graphic novels make it 100 Bullets.
It’s fitting that we have an extended conclusion in the longest of the 100 Bullets collections, and there’s a substantial amount of ground covered. Around the midway point there’s a sequence where Ronnie Rome gets into a taxi, and the way that scene plays out is Wilt in microcosm. It starts relatively slowly with an innocent involved and seemingly doomed, coasts along a while, then ramps up the speed until there’s an inevitable almighty pile-up. The coda is one further death.
The innocent in the opening chapters is another child, a theme Azzarello played on in the preceding Dirty, and is another of his fine meditations on concession leading to irrevocable consequences. In one of Dirty‘s lesser chapters a man was hired by one of the Trust for a specific task. He carries it out to perfection, and Azzarello then reveals the logic behind what’s occurred. Again, few people knew the role the victim played, but that one of them broke ranks sets off an inevitable chain. A little later the same character re-appears a couple of times, once with pivotal effect, and the second time for a neat little throwaway.
From around two-thirds of the way through Wilt you won’t be able to turn those pages fast enough. Azzarello has dropped enough people in enough locations, each of them involved in something compelling. When the scene changes you’ll howl in frustration, yet immediately be sucked into the next. It’s a masterclass. As is every page drawn by Eduardo Risso.
As for the finale, you’ve surely known for a while that the alligator pool had a part to play, and a recurring incident from the past first depicted in the second volume (Split Second Chance) is finally revealed in full, twisting much of what’s so far been known. 100 bullets? Hell, there’s more than that in some single panels here. Reservoir Dogs has been a huge and obvious influence, so you’ve also known that not many people are going to walk away. Place your bets on the survivors before you start the book.
For those unable to bear the thought of no more 100 Bullets, there is a brief reprise as Azzarello and Risso reunite for Brother Lono.
If you’ve got the money, don’t bother with Wilt, just head for book five of the oversize hardback series 100 Bullets Deluxe Edition, which also features Dirty and the closing portions of the previous volume, Once Upon a Crime.