Sunday, 20 July 2014

Book #33

Back to the Suture by Douglas Shepherd

Dr Stringer Christian is a down on his luck medical professional who accidentally travels back in time to the 1970s. He finds himself fourteen years old again, and is allowed to live his life again in the 'simpler' days - trying to make a few life-saving changes along the way.

I really enjoy a good time travel story. There's just something so fascinating about the concept - the possibilities of changing the course of time are endless, and the chances you could have to stop tragedies would be too huge to give up. Stringer has these choices as he's launched back in time, and he makes his attempts to alter the course of history for many in his life - whether it's a boy from school he barely knew who dies from skin cancer, or the deaths of his mother and brother. In a true to life manner, he's unable to succeed for everyone, however he does manage to go back to a better present day life than he had left.

The novel is steeped in nostalgia.  We're taken back to a time where not everyone had a landline telephone, never mind a mobile. We're treated to in depth commentaries of the different brands people bought in the 70s, the music, the television programmes, and best of all, the way people were. Stringer makes sound comments on the differences between that time and ours, never once suggesting that the present day, despite our technologies, is in any way superior.

All of the characters in the novel were entirely loveable, even the alcoholic doctor who is Stringer's father's medical partner. They have a very real feel to them, and they show a real sense of family and community values, which seems to be a hint to relationships in the 1970s.

A quaint journey down memory lane, with a good few twists, turns, and surprises, this is a good one for astute time travellers and anyone who was young in the 70s.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Book #32

100 Bullets: Hang Up on the Hang Low by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso

Mysterious Agent Graves hands a young man named Loop one of his "special" briefcases. Taking the information, handgun, and 100 rounds of ammunition contained in the case, Loop tracks down his father who deserted him. Loop, through his father, is introduced to the world of mob enforcement. In the violence that inevitably follows Agent Graves's generosity, more of the Trust's conspiracy is revealed while even more questions are raised.
Third volume done! It's far more brutal and grimy than the first two, and we're shown a bit more of Agent Graves, alongside his colleagues and enemies. Again, more questions arise than are answered and the plot twists almost irrevocably.

Unlike previous volumes, only one character is presented with the gun in this installment. Loop finds a picture of his absentee father, and the plot weaves around this point. Azzarello manages to keep up the potency of the plot without giving too much away.

Graves layers are slowly building and becoming impossible to grasp. His motives are becoming clearer, but still remain behind a thick haze. He is one unpredictable motherfucker. He raises a good deal of moral questions in the reader's mind, the main one being - how important is revenge? And is the importance the same for everyone?

The artwork remains gorgeous to look at, and the violence (totally ramped up from previous issues) was portrayed gloriously and disgustingly.  

This is an interesting series, and it's a shame I only had the first three volumes to plough through. I'll definitely try to source the rest; the prospect of working out Graves has too strong a pull.

Book #31

100 Bullets: Split Second Chance by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso

The tale resumes of the mysterious Agent Graves, who offers ordinary wronged people the opportunity to kill with impunity using 100 bullets that he supplies them with. But even as Agent Graves continues to approach and manipulate his "clients," questions about the ghoulish agent start to arise as people from his past begin to appear, revealing interesting information about their former acquaintance. In the end though, these facts only lead to different questions as the mystery behind Agent Graves' motives deepens.
The second volume continues with Graves giving more wronged characters the Faustian choice of a lifetime. The first arc was done really well, with developed backstory, and a vague outcome, which I really liked. Another of the character's stories (Heartbreak Sunnyside Up) was particularly disturbin and raw. Her decision was the quickest and most volatile of all, and raised a good few questions with me. Why believe a stranger? Is revenge so desperately sought by the human mind that we will believe anything just to get to it? This issue was by far the best within this collection.

As I'd hoped in my review of volume one, we spend a bit more time here exploring Agent Graves; his past, his colleagues/friends, and mostly his motive. As expected, however, this exploration raises more questions than answers surrounding this impenetrable character. Why does he give people these opportunities? What is the purpose of the secret, above the law, organisation some of the dialogue is alluding to?

Dizzy, a character from volume one, appears again in Paris to track down a new character. Her return was a welcome piece of continuity, and it was great to see the Parisian streets and landmarks portrayed in an incredible dark setting by Risso.

Things are getting complicated, and even darker than expected. Volume two has definitely piqued my interest in the story even further, so volume three is on its way.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Book #30

100 Bullets: First Shot, Last Call by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso

The mysterious Agent Graves approaches ordinary citizens and gives them an opportunity to exact revenge on a person that has wronged them. Offering his clients an attaché case containing proof of the deed and a gun, he guarantees his "clients" full immunity for all of their actions, including murder. 

This is a morality piece - if you could kill the person who destroyed your life, no strings attached, would you? We are presented here with two entirely flawed characters who are given this choice, and we watch them struggle with their decision before they finally come to it. We then see the consequences of their actions unfold.

The premise of the plot is good, and it's pretty interesting. This volume read like two short stories rolled up together, and although the assumption is that the second story will play out similar to the first, this isn't quite the case. It's difficult to understand the direction the story is taking, however. Going through an identity parade of characters in this way will become totally repetitive, so I'm excited to see what the next volumes bring.

Characterisation was sparse, simply because Azzarello had limited time to explore the lives of the two characters. Agent Graves seems to be the only static character so far, and it'll be interesting to see if he is explored in any real depth going forwards.

I'm really starting to appreciate these tough, noir-like comics. The art here is good, and although pretty cartoon-like in places, does a good job to portray the bleak lives of the pair who are offered the gun. The scenes were dynamic, merging into one another, and not strictly following traditional panelling rules. This added suspense in the right places, and helped a great deal with pace and tone.

Volume one didn't make as big an impression on me than I'd be expecting, so my hopes are entirely and irrevocably pinned on volume two.