Monthly Dose is a semi-regular column where I reread one issue each month of long-completed series.
100 Bullets #3: Though perhaps a bit overly expository in places, the conclusion of this initial arc is a massive triumph overall. Everyone gets precisely what they deserve, which isn't really good news for anyone. Even Dizzy, who gets to avenge the deaths of her husband and baby and get out of the life she'd been trapped in up to now, doesn't walk away without some brand new emotional wounds to deal with. Her brother Emilio reveals himself to be the cause of her family's murder, so Dizzy loses the only person from to whom she still had any meaningful connection. It leaves her future wide open, because her past is about as dead and buried as it could ever be. Her love, her child, and her brother are lost to her, and the crooked cops who're responsible are dead by her hand. At the very end of the issue, she gets in a car with the mysterious Mr. Shepherd, and though we have no way of knowing yet who he really is or what plans he might have for her, it's clear that despite the finality of the events in this issue, Dizzy's real story is only beginning. Eduardo Risso does a lot with shadow in the artwork here, and (along with that) silhouette. This is as emotionally dark as the book has gotten so far, and the visuals match that. I also really love Emilio's whole look, the outward smugness that only tenuously contains the wild young man inside. That wild man spills out once the shit hits the fan and Emilio gets shot by his "partners," and he never really gets a hold of himself again. So the final impression we get of the character is that of an out-of-control, immature, pathetic failure, begging for some forgiveness from the sister he betrayed. She gives him not one inch of it, though, because difficult as it may be, Dizzy is too strong to let herself give in to his pleas. As she says, he's got a hard time ahead of him, but he's brought every minute of it on himself, and at least she lets him live. Brian Azzarello wraps up a very tidy package, providing full and satisfying explanations and conclusions to all the threads and characters of this arc. He does rely on exposition more than I'd prefer, but it's well-written and naturally-fitting exposition. And even as this all draws to a close, Mr. Shepherd shows up and provides the promise of bigger and better things from Dizzy to come. Exactly what I want from the finale of an opening arc.
The Intimates #3: Feels a little bit like the title is coasting through this one. It's got some good moments and it builds to a solid ending, but there's not as much new stuff and some of what we see feels a little tired already. The info scrolls, for example, aren't as focused or thematically tied together here as they were in the first two issues. They still provide valuable and often amusing information to the reader, but they don't seem as sure of themselves this time out. It makes them less enjoyable than before, more of a hassle/annoying interruption to the narrative flow. It's too early for the info scrolls to be wearing thin like this, so hopefully they can pick up some slack in a month. Also there is Destra using her explosive fingernail powers and getting scolded for it, which happened in the debut and isn't utilized for anything all that fresh here. It does set up the idea that Destra is genuinely trying to be kicked out of school, and we also find out via the info scrolls that her parents give a lot of money to The Seminary, so it makes sense that she wouldn't get expelled even after so drastically acting out. You can even see the disappointment in her face when the principal tells her she's sticking around. So there is a bit of detail added to her character, but it's not surprising or even all that helpful, because we already knew that Destra had a bad attitude about school and a rebellious side, now we just have some teensy insight as to why. Anyway, the main story of Punchy finally figuring out that Empty Vee is his secret admirer is much stronger than the stuff that surrounds it. It gives Vee some much-needed spotlight time, and tells a very real and raw tragic teenage romance story. This ain't no Romeo & Juliet bullshit where two kids are so devoted to one another it kills them. This is a lonely and misguided young girl setting herself up to get crushed by the selfish, horny boy for whom she fell. The closing scene where Punchy so brutally and callously turns her down is the highlight of this issue. Giuseppe Camuncoli lights it to heavily add to the drama, and captures Punchy's inner shmuck and Vee's desperate and depressing hopefulness perfectly. Also, like with Punchy and Duke's failed "mission" last issue, the info scrolls go away when this heartbreak scene begins, which is a smart move that deepens the emotion and allows the reader to give it more focused attention. So even if Joe Casey isn't being quite as adventurous or ambitious with his ideas on these pages as he was in the opening two issues, this is a fine read that adds small pieces to several characters and culminates in a powerful final scene.
X-Force (vol. 1) #3: Fabian Nicieza's writing takes a bit of a dive. The script feels more forced and rushed than it has before, like he had less time to put it together or wasn't as inspired by Rob Liefeld's art or something. It starts off right away with Siryn's weird thought balloons that overtly explained the actions we can already see taking place, and only gets stranger from there. Juggernaut makes a Shout brand stain remover joke, Cable says the enemies will be on them "like a lisp on Mike Tyson," and when Spider-Man shows up at the end he refers to Warpath as a "jamochie," "buckeroo," and "rutabaga" all in a single page. Maybe it's humor that worked at the time and has soured with age, but it reads more like weakly-conceived jokes that fall flat right away. And there's a general sense that Nicieza and Liefeld couldn't get on the same page, with lines that don't quite match the facial expressions or mid-battle dialogue that's a lot longer than the action around it would really allow. And this issue is pretty much all action. It's not even a whole fight, just the beginnings of X-Force trying to take the World Trace Center back from Black Tom and Juggernaut. It's tremendously decompressed, taking place over what probably amounts to like 30 minutes and resolving nothing, ending on a cheapish cliffhanger. There is, of course, a new significance today to seeing one of the Twin Towers blown up by villains who're described as terrorists. But within the context of this wham-bam 90's superhero romp, it's too sudden and too typical. Issues like this make it easy to see why Liefeld has adamant supporters and vehement naysayers both. His style craves this level of action, giving him ample chances to do big, bold, eye-catching panels in the midst of a sprawling fight. But there's a level on surrealism to his figures that sometimes distracts, and he can be sloppy at times. Siryn, for example, dominates the opening of this issue, then says she's going to team up with X-Force to stop the bad guys, only to promptly and completely disappear from the action, never to be seen or heard again. She might show back up next issue (or in the issue of Spider-Man where this story continues before returning to X-Force next month) but for now it comes across as a mistake, and a big one at that. So yeah, not a very strong showing from X-Force #3. Too messy.