Genre is a catch-22 in serious art these days. If a genre film is made, it has to wink at the audience, at the very notion of the film itself, and be as much about genre as anything else. If a genre book is written, the genre is a hook to hang the deeper meaning on. We sweep genre up in our arms while crushing the life out of it; we want it to be serious despite its escapist upbringing. After its numerous deaths and resurrections, genre is the abused kid rocking himself to sleep in the cellar.
Brian Azzarello, who's given us westerns, war stories and big trouble in small towns understands that genre works when it's done with something orbiting respect and approaching love. With 100 BULLETS, he and artist Eduardo Risso combine street crime epics with secret agent case files, taking a simple premise and expanding it into an entire world populated by serpentine plots and a revolving door of thugs, men in black, women with mysterious motives and hard-boiled protagonists.
THE COUNTERFIFTH DETECTIVE, the fifth 100 BULLETS volume, mainlines Chandler and Hammett with a Michael Curtis and John Huston chaser. Milo Garrett - private eye with a face wrapped in bandages from a mysterious accident - is thrown into the world of the Trust, the Minutemen and Agent Graves lurking with his briefcase. He's a hardass, a jerk, an alcoholic; spending as much time in bar fights as on the job, headed for his inevitable film noir conclusion.
Azzarello and Risso handle it with devoted hands stripped of all pretense. The greatest trick they play is absorbing you into the strength of the writing, the hand in glove artwork and the devotion to storytelling without ever making note of how many hoops they've pulled you through, how far into the muck of genre you've sank without ever putting up a struggle.
Christopher Sebela lives, works and sleeps in Kansas City, MO. When not laying out newspaper pages or writing quasi-subversive headlines for a tiny upstart company within a huge publishing syndicate, he pimps his muse as a freelance writer or labors in vain crudely editing reams of footage. He has no idea why he has a website, but he does: thoughtpeach.com.