Eduardo Risso’s art alone is worth the $2.99 price tag, and has been the strongest component of this series so far. He is able to capture setting in both its mood and details. The Mexican-American border comes alive here. From the dense weave of inner-city apartments to the rural orphanage to back roads and ditches, all of it feels like an authentic representation of the land it is meant to reflect.
The framing of a panel in a local bar was particularly enjoyable—it is arranged so the reader is set in the back of the bar, watching a local musician play his guitar in the foreground, while Lono’s dialogue occurs in the background. It capably captures the charm of a city like Juarez. All of this is improved by the warm, earthen tones of colorist Patricia Mulvhill.
The final two pages stood out as being some of the best in the series so far. They’re tense. They’re dynamic. They’re scary. They’re simply effective. After almost five full issues of plotting, this is the breaking point. It’s a great cliffhanger, and fills the reader with dread while providing undeniable propulsion forward into the next chapter.
However, that cliffhanger comes at the cost of the rest of the issue (and much of the series) to date. Issues two through five have spent most of their time reiterating what was established in issue one. Lono is fighting his inner demons. Sister June is hiding ulterior motives. Father Manny is unsure of himself. Every single character has only worked to reinforce what was established as the series began. This is the work of character creation, not characterization.
Being aware of the characteristics that compose these personalities is not the same as learning who these people really are. In order for that to occur, they have to be faced with conflict and forced to make decisions, good or bad (knowing the 100 Bullets’ universe they may all be bad). Those conflicts have been waiting to occur from the very start with every successive issue only adding tension.
However, it’s hard to increase the stakes any more when you conclude the very first chapter with a man being left on a park bench after having been skinned alive. I don’t need to be convinced that the antagonists are dangerous after that.
These flaws will most likely disappear now that the story has reached a point of no return and Azzarello begins to allow himself to do what he does best: break things.
Although this issue largely avoided the central conflicts of the comic until its final pages, those final pages are wonderfully crafted and promise that what is to come will have been worth the wait. Beyond that, Risso’s renderings of the Mexican landscape, for all of its natural beauty and the brutal landmarks left by the cartels, are what make this issue worth reading multiple times.