Tucker spoke highly of 100 Bullets in this interview, and I’ve heard good things about it in other places, so I thought I’d give it a, er, shot.

I was pretty disappointed, though. In the first place, Eduardo Risso’s art is lousy. The figures are stiff, the anatomy is shaky, the layouts are cluttered and confusing, and the coloring (by Grant Goleash) is more muddy than moody. If you’re going for stylish noir, it’s really important that the art be…well, stylish. You want Alex Toth or Howard Chaykin; bold blacks and whites, dramatic page design — the art should scream sex and danger and class. Risso just doesn’t have the chops. I mean, look at that page below. [Update: Johnny B in comments notes that the cover below is not by Risso (who I still don’t like), but rather by Dave Johnson (who,apparently, I like even less.)]

What is wrong with that woman’s neck? Is this supposed to be a Parmigianino tribute or something? And the proportions are all completely off; her legs are lengthened to make her look sexier, I guess, but it ends up looking like she’s been assembled from mis-matched doll parts. And the ugly red insets segmented up almost at random…what the hell? That’s not dramatic: it just looks dumb. (I’d apologize for the book code stuck in there by my bookseller, but it actually seems like a reasonable aesthetic choice, given the context. Certainly it doesn’t drag the image down in any way.)

I wish I could say I liked Brian Azzarello’s writing better. Some of the dialogue is okay (the yuppie bar-crawler who smugly boasts about his trust-fund-greased-life is pretty funny.) But the plot is lame. For those not in the know, each story is sparked by a guy named Graves, who gives some lucky hard-luck case a gun and 100 untraceable bullets with which he/she can get revenge on some evildoer in his/her past. So Graves is like Michael Landon’s cranky cousin, basically. The whole thing seems like some gimmicky sit-com, and the episodic nature makes it hard to create the slow build of inevitable doom and corruption which haunts the best noir.

I don’t know…maybe things improve later in the series, but after one volume this really seems sub-Sin City as far as comic pulp goes. And that’s not a good thing.

Update: I force Newsarama [Update: not newsarama; but Heidi at the Beat; see comments for suitable snark from Heidi) to eat their words re:not whining about criticism. They’re especially dismissive because I didn’t instantly see the difference between Risso and Johnson. Fair enough, I guess…though the funny thing is that I did see the difference — I knew the cover was an especially poor effort, even though I didn’t instantly identify it as by a different artist. So is it really a failure of connoisseurship? Or is it a failure of geek knowledge? You make the call….

Incidentally, the page of Risso art Newsarama the Beat uses seems definitely better than the stuff in the first 100 bullets trade.

Using a simple grid is a big help — not that I”m a huge fan of grids, but when you can’t lay out a page to save your life, simple is often better. Black and white helps too, given the indifferent coloring in 100 bullets. The page doesn’t make my heart sing, exactly — I’ve been looking at Arthur Rackham silhouette work recently, which has maybe spoiled me for Risso’s take on black outlines. But, in any case, if 100 bullets looked like this page, I’d be much more inclined to buy the next couple of trades.

Update: A follow up post is here.

Update: And Chris Mautner weighs in at Newsarama; and I post about my related flame-war with Mark Waid here.