Monthly Dose is a semi-regular column where I reread one issue each month of long-completed series.
100 Bullets #11: A trite story with a predictable ending, this is an issue that I never remember when I think about 100 Bullets, but anytime I start rereading it, I know everything that happens after I finish the first two or three pages. Graves gives his classic attaché full of evidence and bullets to a woman whose husband sexually abused their daughter, causing the young girl to run away from home and end up a prostitute and drug addict who ultimately overdosed. It's the world's dullest Law and Order: SVU plot, with way too much of the issue being Graves relating the daughter's (Tina) tragic story to her mother (Lily) at a diner while eating a piece of pie. He lays out the details coldly and plainly, so there's no real voice to the story, just the facts. He does leave the reveal that Lily's husband is at fault until the very end of the conversation, but it's not a surprise by any means. We've already seen how distant from one another Lily and her husband are, and since he's one of three other characters we even meet in this issue (the other two of whom are Lily's co-workers) he's kind of the only viable option. She goes home and kills him, which he deserves I guess, but there's no sense of relief or satisfaction for me when it happens. It's more of a "Yup...that's what I figured," reaction. This issue is just Brian Azzarello biding his time, really. After setting up Cole Burns and the whole idea of the Minute Men, the series goes back to its format of Graves and the briefcase interacting with different, disconnected people. I'm not sure it needed to do that, and it definitely didn't have any specific reason to tell this particular story full of overused details and bland characters. Eduardo Risso has some good bits, like Tina's bedroom being preserved as an everything-in-its-place shrine to her childhood, or young fry cook Tomas having an intense and intimate conversation with his pregnant girlfriend in the background of the Graves-Lily conversation. But Risso also doesn't have a whole lot to do here, since it's all just chatter in one of two sparse locations from cover to cover. I want to see the larger narrative advance now that it's been introduced, and if that's not going to happen, I want to read something that is at least fresh or has a few good twists or in any way gets me going.
The Intimates #11: I'm not wild about the ways in which this issue mirrors the debut, because it's not the right place to do that. I know Joe Casey may not have known for sure that this issue would be the second-to-last in the series when he wrote it (although there's some stuff in the info scrolls that indicates otherwise) but either way, that ended up being the case, and having the book do a second take of its first issue so close to the end of its life is awkward. Also, the script drags its feet in some scenes, advancing the plot of Punchy and Destra looking into the Devonshire Company only incrementally even though that storyline is theoretically the focus of the issue. The narrative is jumpy, and though in the past this has helped keep the energy up, here it comes across as more of a stalling tactic. The trick of shifting the time and/or place of the action from panel to panel is used to distract from the lack of proper storytelling. Or that's the closest thing to a real purpose I can find for structuring things this way. What happens is good, and builds on things from past issues: Punchy's friendliness with the janitors, his map of the school, the room with no doors, etc. Just seems like more could've gone down on the pages that were used for throwaway character introductions of new teachers that will never matter or even be seen again. I guess the idea is sort of...every year after summer vacation is over, you have to go back to school, and it's different in small ways but the same in every way that matters. You can see that point being made if you hold this issue up next to The Intimates #1, and it's true and a theme that fits with what this series has always been about, but it doesn't make for the best single issue. Alé Garza comes aboard as artist here, and though he brings with him clarity that Scott Iwahashi never had, he's still got a fairly loose style that I don't love for this book. It makes everyone seem wilder, kids and adults alike, like they're caricatures of themselves. The varying thickness of Garza's lines have the same effect. So it's a bit of a muddled comic all over, not what you want to see this late in the game.
X-Force (vol. 1) #11: Mark Pacella is the guest artist, and I'm not sure if I've seen his work before, but this issue he seems to be aiming for as Liefeld a look as he can. It makes sense, because at the time this title was probably sold mostly on the basis of Liefeld, but since I'm not a big admirer of Liefeld's work and this is a less-confident version of it, I didn't love the art here. Bridge's body is ten times too large for his head, Warpath's face is all flat and featureless, and there are other physical malformations that just look uncomfortable. Then again, there were a couple pretty spectacular images, most of all the two-page vertical spread of Weapon P.R.I.M.E. So just like Liefeld will once in a while find something to draw that plays to his strengths, Pacella's got a few choice spots as well. And all the fighting Deadpool does (which is most of the issue) works for me. It's never over-the-top or impossible to believe, though it did bother me a lot when Deadpool said he'd decided to kill Shatterstar and then changed his mind like a page or two later for no discernible reason. Why have him make the death threat at all? Just give him any other line there. Per usual, Liefeld gets plot credit with Fabian Nicieza scripting the actual dialogue, and per usual that means this is a slow-moving slog that has a bunch of forced quips and shitty banter during any fight scenes. The development of Domino as a double agent is something I am eager to see paid off, and it does seem like the whole Brotherhood/Morlocks problem has been fully laid to rest now, so maybe the point of this issue was to get everything in place so the next chapter can move more quickly. But other than the opening scene of X-Force telling off the Morlocks (by which I mean Cable screams some threats and also recaps the last few issues while the rest of the team stand stoically behind him) this issue was made up of Deadpool punching Shatterstar and "Domino" for pages and pages before very rushed reveals of Weapon P.R.I.M.E. and the real Domino as a mysterious villain's prisoner. So the title does appear to be getting somewhere, it just doesn't take the time to arrive there yet, choosing instead to pad out the issue with extended action sequences.