Way back when I wrote a post about my disappointment with 100 Bullets. There was a small internet brouhaha. Tucker Stone pitched in with some thoughts on the series in general and the Dave Johnson cover I criticized in particular. Here’s what he said.
You know something? I don’t really like that drawing of Megan on the cover. But I do like the red boxes. They look like something out of Mannix, or a movie poster of the Rat Pack, and considering that I read a good portion of the crew of 100 as a mix of Rat Pack hard men as well as being indebted to the overall weirdness of the Mannix backstory, I think it works within the confines of what the story is. I know you probably saw the cover to the first issue, which I always thought looked like some combination of a Conan movie poster, or the National Lampoon’s Family Vacation poster, where it’s basically a pyramid with Graves ugly mug at the top. Or if you want something more up your alley, it’s looks like a cheap 70′s road flick. Mean guys! Hot ladies shooting stuff! Fuzzy soft focus painting!
Another part of your argument I like–that it’s not good enough that something look better then Ryan Benjamin’s work on Batman & The Outsiders, it should look good independently on its own, and there’s definitely some merit to that idea. At the same time, there’s a limit somewhere in that for me, because it’s easy enough to say “Hey, is this pulp noir is good as Rififi?” and then say “of course not”, but for christsakes, I don’t just want to keep watching Rififi every day anytime I want some pulp noir. Some people might be slow readers or not care, but fuck it: i’ve read all of Jim Thompson’s books, even the terrible ones, and I’ve read as many EC crime comics as I can find, and you know what? I still want some more pulp noir. I want some more that isn’t like something I’ve seen before, and 100 Bullets fills that gap. Hell, some of the complaints I see leveled at the book–like Johanna Draper Carlson’s recent comment about Azzarello’s “love of the metaphor tortured beyond its weight to bear.”–that’s part of what makes the book a fun piece of entertainment. That it does go to these weird dialog extremes, these points where you can’t help but say “god, that doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense.” Although I don’t think 100 Bullets (really, anything in Azzarello’s catalog) goes a far as his goofy Deathblow series, a comic I’m an unashamed fan of, I think it definitely does more to expand and experiment with that standard “pulp noir” language then anything else I’ve seen recently. There’s plenty of films that take the appearance, and the structure, of pulp noir, but when it comes time to put words in people’s mouths, it’s either the exactly the same as Double Indemnity or they dump the entire conceit of a false language entirely and everybody talks like–well, like any standard cops and robbers movie. 100 Bullets doesn’t. It doesn’t sound like Jim Thompson, like Ed Brubaker’s Criminal, none of that stuff. That doesn’t make it “The Greatest Comic Book Ever Made,” it doesn’t make it “The Most Mature Tale of Guns and Shit”, it just makes it fucking pulp noir, and it makes for pulp noir that isn’t exactly the same as the stories it’s in love with.
In regards to Risso–you know, I’m not really sure there’s anything to be said about that. A lot of people have said “risso gets better” and that the change in coloring makes the book stronger, and that’s all true, but really: if you didn’t like Risso before, you’re not going to like Risso later. You know what though? Thats. Fucking. Great. The idea that we’re all supposed to get off on the same comic book art is just–it’s fucking tragic and stupid. The idea that we’re all even supposed to RESPECT the same comic art is just as bad.