Trista & Holt #6 (Iffy Commix), the latest in Andrez Bergen’s 1970’s noir series, opens with Trista in trouble, having been stabbed by Issy Holt’s uncle, the hard-headed, hard-charging Moore Holt. Issy has been obsessed with Trista since first seeing her at Holt wheel man Lou Holden’s funeral, and now Issy finds her at death’s door on the floor of Samson’s bar. She knows the connections they share, but Issy doesn’t, and this promises to complicate things tremendously going forward.
Bergen is a master of the tropes and motifs of high noir and Trista & Holt shows how adept is he is at capturing the spirit and tone of ‘70’s neo-noir, placing the saga of Tristan and Iseult in a much more recent time and setting it to a disco beat. Marcella Cornwall, whose crime organization works opposite the Holts, is mostly portrayed by Angela Lansbury circa Murder, She Wrote. Marcella is the one who sent Trista on the dangerous errand to kill Moore Holt in the first place and she’s grown even more demented since last we saw her. While Trista’s level-headed confidante Governal shows concern for Trista’s well-being and knew she might not have been carrying enough fire-power to dispatch Moore once and for all, Marcella believes only that the end justifies the means, taking Trista’s loyalty for granted.
The artwork Bergen chooses to show the crime scene at the bar along with the traumatic aftermath is haunting, and cinematic effects such as stark lighting and varying levels of focus make Trista & Holt a rich visual and narrative experience. It doesn’t hurt that screen idols of the era surface frequently, such as when Paul Newman portrays Issy, adding ‘70’s gloss and glamour to the urban grittiness of the proceedings. There are some significant twists and turns in this issue, and some very striking imagery sets the stage for more to follow as the plot thickens considerably and the tantalizing entanglement between Issy and Trista grows ever more complicated—and dangerous.
Art and story by Andrez Bergen Art: 10 Story: 10 Overall: 10Recommendation: Buy
The artist/creator provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.
Bullet Gal #12 by Andrez Bergen (Iffy Commix), the final issue in the series featuring one of the toughest chicks on the planet, is packed with fantastic images, the best of what has come to define the aesthetic of Bullet Gal and the mythical metropolis of Heropa. In #12, digitized reality has been re-set and all are scrambling to come to terms with all that implies.
The press is in an uproar over what the re-set means and here Bergen skillfully blends visuals of digital culture with vintage/noir imagery, including famous faces such as Edward G. Robinson and Kirk Douglas. Here also are beat reporters from central casting and images of classic autos from the ‘30’s and ‘40’s crowding a downtown neon-lit theatre district as all celebrate and commiserate about what just happened and why.
On all levels of society from Mitzi’s mentor Lee (who’s responsible for the re-set) and his bickering doppelgangers, to the heroes to the bad guys (and gals), there’s a palpable sense of apprehension and anticipation. The Crime Crusaders are disbanding to form a new group, and the villains are regrouping to form a new threat. Meanwhile people are partying like it’s New Year’s Eve—and they don’t really know why. It’s the eve of something all right, but what exactly remains a tantalizing mystery.
Meanwhile the duel-pistol-wielding Mitzi’s been headed for a reckoning with French femme fatale Brigitte since the beginning of the series, so when Mitzi observes the effects of the re-set on Brigitte, she’s totally thrown. This new world isn’t so much brave as it is scrubbed of its noir-ish, smoke-stained patina, sanitized and deodorized, with good and evil apparently re-categorized.
Ever the adaptable heroine, Mitzi begins to adjust to her new identity, stepping into a blindingly bright future as a defining persona of the new Heropa, but she’s not blinded by all the hype.
When Lee calls her away from the celebrations, if that’s what one could call the gatherings taking place post re-set, he takes on the shadowy form of Cary Grant ascending the stairs in Suspicion, a glowing glass of milk on a tray. This version of Lee seems authentic, but how to know? Can we only hope—for Mitzi’s sake? Don’t worry about Mitzi–even without her twin polished-nickel 9mm. pistols, Mitzi remains Bullet Gal at heart: bored cynicism, eternal optimism and resolute bravery combined into one formidable woman of the future.
Bullet Gal #12 is a visually stunning conclusion to the series, and the narrative closes on a satisfying note that still leaves the door open to the imagination. Even if you aren’t usually the type to remain in your seat watching the credits of a film to the bitter end (if you are, I probably wouldn’t need to tell you this), stay and read Bergen’s end-notes and final word on Bullet Gal—it’s definitely worth it!
Trista & Holt #5by Andrez Bergen (Iffy Commix) begins with Issy Holt and his right-hand man Brangian leaving for Holt wheel-man Lou Holden‘s funeral. There Issy sees Trista for the first time and can’t get her image out of his mind. The magic generated by their very brief first encounter is seen in points of light surrounding Issy who is instantly captivated by her. Trista and Issy are represented by pictures of handsome and lovely individuals with movie-star looks a la Paul Newman, Faye Dunaway, et al. Again there’s the mood of a fateful star-crossed future for these two in this intoxicatingly stylish 1970’s noir universe.
In the last issue Trista set out to perform her first hit on the bad-ass Holt family enforcer, Moore. She was ordered to do it by the slightly unbalanced (or is slightly an understatement?) matriarch of the Cornwall family, Marcella “Queenie” Cornwall. The ever-loyal Trista carries out the hit, but Moore’s head is so hard she doesn’t know if her small pistol actually finished the job because he crashed through a window before she could find out. What she does know all too well is that she’s been stabbed—it’s bad– and what happens next is anyone’s guess.
My guess is that Issy will find her at the bar where the hit took place, or else follow a trail of blood to the beautiful woman he met briefly at the funeral and now can’t get out of his mind. Will this jar Issy out of his world-weary ennui? Something tells me yes, but what that means remains to be seen. Will he switch sides in this war between the city’s crime families or will he and Trista try to run away together, leaving their dangerous, eccentric relatives behind?
Things will very likely be more complicated than either of those scenarios. This is noir, after all, in the truest sense of the word, so likely no happy endings here—just an ending. In the meantime, like royalty, these lead characters carry out their responsibilities with sober resolve. Speaking of royalty, this issue features a picture of Queen Elizabeth II representing Issy’s powerful mother, Alaina, and none other than Prince Phillip in tow as Issy’s father, Isidore “Anguish” Holt.
The images Bergen uses to weave this narrative are striking, witty and seductive and the writing mirrors the visual. It’s serious noir that doesn’t take itself too seriously just like the best scenarios and dialogue one might find in the office of Sam Spade late at night or riding out to Greystone Mansion with Philip Marlowe: danger laced with humor; death and deception might be around every corner, but in the meantime, hey—ya gotta live.
In any other 1970’s world Trista and Issy would be living the high life, gracing discos with their glittering presence and speeding from parking lots of stylish establishments in the finest of ‘70’s automobiles. In this world Trista dresses up to carry out a hit on a nasty brute and Issy escapes reality by watching CHiP’s on television. Trista’s latest misadventure will likely force him to face facts, to get outside his fabulous mid-century modern apartment and deal with the consequences of being who he is. In the meantime, Trista’s reality is a fight for survival, surrounded by cigarette ashes and shattered glass.
If you’re already a fan of noir, you’ll be swept away by this series and recognize the savvy neo-noir and pop-culture gems to be discovered in the imagery and narrative, and if you’re new to the genre/mood of noir but curious about its proud tradition in literature (up from its pulp-fiction roots) and film, check this out and you’ll learn something—like why guns don’t always beat knives, and ‘70’s muscle cars still rule.
The cover of Bullet Gal #11 by Andrez Bergen (Iffy Commix), features a lovely woman in a carnival mask, an appropriate image considering how Bullet Gal’s outward identity shifts constantly as that obscure-object- of-desire/ danger/ justice (a la the lead character in a Bunuel film) adapts to situations and circumstances outside her control. This installment of Bullet Gal contains witty banter between Mitzi (Bullet Gal) and her mentor Lee, whose identity shifts often as well. The conversation is hard-boiled and existential as Mitzi and Lee discuss the reality (also ever-shifting) of Heropa, for although its look is pre-mid-century modern with vintage black terreplanes cruising the urban landscape, it’s decidedly post-modern and beyond plot-wise as Lee explains the imminent “re-setting” of the current reality and the consequences that will have on all concerned—including Mitzi. Will she be able to fly? Lee contends that she won’t. It’s a cardinal rule. But we’ll see.
Though Mitzi’s look changes often, she’s ever rock-solid and true. She has her occasional moment of fear, but never lets those moments get in the way of hard-charging, gun-slinging action. No matter what version of reality she has to deal with, she’s always in the moment, fully engaged and aware, dual polished nickel pistols at the ready. She’s matter-of-fact in the best possible way and just because she’s ruled by her head and not her heart doesn’t mean she doesn’t have heart, soul, and courage aplenty, because she does. She also has a wicked sense of humor, even having being shot and “held together by painkillers.”
That’s what gives her super-hero status in this universe, flying ability or lack thereof notwithstanding. It isn’t Mitzi’s unreal qualities that elevate her to the status of super-hero, it’s the all too real action-oriented Mitzi that makes her a potential role model for women-who-get-things-done. She takes on the toughest of gangsters and meanest of their French assassin girlfriends with equal “what else ya got?” resolution. When Lee shows her a picture of Brigit, the femme fatale extraordinaire who’s out to kill her, Mitzi says: “She’s pretty.” Mitzi isn’t threatened by Brigit’s looks, weaponry, nor connections. She just acknowledges Brigit’s beauty and moves on. She may have to kill Brigit someday; but all the same, Brigit is pretty. When and if Mitzi kills her will be determined only by necessity. Mitzi does what has to be done, that’s all.
In this penultimate episode of Bullet Gal, Mitzi prepares to step into her destiny in the new Heropa. Whatever happens, she’s ready. Mitzi travels lightly, weighed down by little else than that impressive set of pistols left to her by her late father. She’s not afraid of change and calls things by their real name. Mitzi stands at the crossroads of the present and the future, at home in the former and looking toward the latter with curiosity and a sense of adventure tinted in shades of deepest noir.
With Bullet Gal, Bergen takes us on a wild ride through a world populated with gangsters, dopplegangers, a woman who fights for justice and a woman who wouldn’t hesitate to stab justice in the throat with a switchblade. It’s gangster/ noir laced with sci-fi in an all-too-real yet digitized ethereal universe. And it’s about to all be re-set!
Savor Bullet Gal #11 and visit the present version of Heropa while you can; there’s only one more to go!
Trista & Holt #4 (Iffy Commix) by Andrez Bergen picks up where things left off at the end of #3 with the death of mob wheel man Lou Holden. The fall-out continues only this time instead of Alaina Holt planning mayhem against the Cornwall family, it’s Marcella Cornwall who’s calling the shots as she plays the piano, orchestrating a hit against the Holt family enforcer, Moore Holt. Trista questions the wisdom of Marcella’s recent strike at the Holts but Marcella takes her to task and demands she perform the next hit. Trista is rattled by the idea but Marcella, equal parts Brooke Astor and Ma Barker, is dangerously persuasive, and Trista is loyal to a fault.
Once again, riveting narrative and gorgeous imagery combine to create a comic experience like no other. The story itself is absorbing and the images are fascinating in themselves: from the various evocative versions of the women representing Trista, to alarmingly detailed pictures of guns and weaponry, and vintage docu-photos of downtown urban landscapes and mob funerals. Sometimes the black and white images are crystal clear, others under or overexposed or even blurred as if to illustrate varying shades of emotion, intensity, or even madness; the visual see-sawing between absolute clarity and confusion adds a great deal of depth to the narrative and insight into the psyche of certain characters. For example, at the beginning when Trista and Marcella are discussing recent events involving Marcella’s latest foray into violence, Marcella goes from looking like a genteel matriarch to a slightly blurred and distorted woman about to go on a bloodthirsty rampage. In the final frames of the scene she looks like a disturbed Angela Lansbury—possibly another wink at ‘70’s and ‘80’s T.V. that often surfaces in this series–in #3 we learned Issy’s fave show is CHiPs; the car from Starsky & Hutch figures prominently; other subtle references abound–so this time I’m reminded of Murder, She Wrote. Only instead of solving murders, Marcella is hell-bent on committing them (or having them committed).
The ethereal floral wreath cover image for this issue is appropriate on many levels because funerals figure prominently here, and at the funeral there’s a frisson of attraction between Issy Holt and Trista—doomed romance? Few words are exchanged but once again it’s the juxtaposition of images that says more than words. Here it’s the looks exchanged between Trista and Issy (is it me or does Issy look remarkably like a young Paul Newman?) that alludes to complications, good and bad, ahead for both of them.
There’s a big “if” involved, however. Trista’s never shot a person before and now she’s preparing to go out on her first hit under the mentorship of her confidante, Governal. He warns her constantly that she could be in over her head. She dismisses his concerns but deep down knows he’s right. One thing about Bergen’s heroines that I’ve come across from Mitzi of Bullet Gal to Trista is that even with their beauty, toughness and the confidence they wear like armor, they are not immune to fear, twinges of conscience, fatigue, confusion, getting shot and bleeding profusely. They feel things intensely but never let the gangsters (male or female) around them see them sweat, cry or hesitate. It’s a matter of survival—and pride, perhaps, and it keeps their enemies on edge. In their respective underworlds, these young women are savvy enough to know that image is almost everything, but you need guts and the right gun to back it up.
As we see Trista in one of the final frames wearing a chic coat with a fabulous wide leopard-print collar, we know about (because she tells us) but can’t see her fear and apprehension. She looks like she’s blithely heading out to drinks and dinner at a posh restaurant instead of a gangland hit. She has a job to do and she’ll do it, dire warnings, leaden nerves, scratchy throat and all. Then once again all too soon, the harrowing outcome leaves us hanging as we return to the very beginning of this installment, a la Sunset Boulevard. Trista’s not telling her story from the same place as Joe Gillis, but the extent of the damage on both sides is yet unknown.
Trista & Holt is epic neo-noir: hardcore gangster, dark and Byzantine, with flashes of humor and well-placed pop-culture references that cut through the dim shadows like afternoon sun through the slats of a Venetian blind. Check out Trista & Holt #4 but be careful; it’s seductive and highly addictive.
Trista & Holt #3 is another work from Andrez Bergen (Iffy Commix) that captures the spirit of noir so perfectly it hurts. What really got me by the throat was that this one was over far too soon and after the feast I experienced by reading all twelve issues of Bergen’s Bullet Gal a few weeks ago collected into one sumptuous volume, It’s Not You, It’s Me, I’m now left waiting hungrily for Trista & Holt #4 (if you haven’t caught all of Bullet Gal yet, 10-12 are yet to arrive in separate issues).
It’s the nature of Bergen’s work that the intoxicating images, motifs and dialogue come from across the entire landscape of literary and film noir and that’s in evidence here. Though it contains references from various eras, Bullet Gal seems more firmly established in the world of “high” noir, with archetypal noir imagery from the 1940’s existing in a digitized-techno narrative that’s completely classic and new (yes, I’m aware of the paradox there. ). Trista & Holt #3 seems to turn that inside-out, with all the classic noir tropes seen here in the neo-noir of the 1970’s. Instead of classic black gangster vehicles a la Capone and company traveling the streets of Heropa we’re treated to Ford Grand Torinos and muscle cars from the era of Starsky & Hutch.
Two brutal crime families, the Holts and the Cornwalls, each with a powerful matriarch, battle for ultimate supremacy. Violence erupts in the streets against one of the Holt’s guys, making headlines on the news and stirring up shock, blame and plans for revenge within the Holt family and a toxic but (of course) flawlessly beautiful femme fatale, Alaina Holt, takes action while her husband Isidore “Anguish” Holt has a meltdown. It’s definitely worth getting to know the dramatis personae of this corner of Bergen’s dark and fascinating universe.
I love the dynamic of the two warring families, each with its own thugs, wayward relatives and henchmen to contend with, and also the film noir convention of voice-over from the lovely and world-weary Trista, ally to Marcella “Queenie” Cornwall, and the appropriately jaded Issy Holt, whose favorite show, CHiPs, is interrupted by news of the family’s wheel man’s untimely demise. Perhaps Issy’s apparent dead-pan delivery illustrates the detachment necessary to exist in such a maelstrom of violence and treachery, the fabulous mid-century modern surroundings of his apartment notwithstanding. No wonder he seeks escape in the company of Ponch and the gang, but Alaina isn’t about to let any of the men escape from reality for very long; she’s a woman of action, as is her nemesis, Queenie Cornwall. Like in Bullet Gal, the decisive action of the women propels the story forward and any signs of lingering in thought, grief and self-pity are severely frowned upon. There’s just no room for that here. Something about the epic battles between these two families and the take-no-prisoner divas at the helm of each winks at the popular nighttime American soaps of the ‘80’s, such as Dallas, Dynasty, and Falcon Crest, only instead of oil, mining or wine, these gangster families deal directly in gun-power and turf-wars, and turn to violence as a way to get things done first instead of last.
If you’re a fan of noir, this is a must-read and you’ll be addicted immediately; and if you’re not a noir fan but you love new and innovative forms of story-telling, you have to check this out.
If you haven’t yet checked out Pop TV’s new comedy, Schitt’s Creek, the creation of father/son duo Eugene and Daniel Levy, you’re missing out on a hilarious and insightful look at what happens when a rich family is stripped of all luxury and plopped down in a place devoid of upper-class creature comforts. Life in Schitt’s Creek is all too much like real, down-to-earth, small town life. Far from being a work devoted to schadenfreude regarding their misfortune (cue The Simpson’s Nelson Muntz: “Ha ha! Now you’re poor!”), this show is not the least bit mean-spirited and it’s beyond funny because the main characters are rounded and quite sympathetic in their sense of displacement, loss and loneliness. The backwoods hamlet to which they’re relegated after the I.R.S. seizes all their other property for tax evasion (their accountant didn’t take care of business, and took off) is a town Johnny Rose (Eugene Levy) bought for his son, David (Daniel Levy), as a joke, but now the joke’s on Johnny as he navigates the politics and power structure of his new surroundings. He’s treated with a certain amount of respect as the town’s “owner” but seems to be drifting as he becomes more accustomed to his situation: a captain of corporate culture without a ship. The real power lies in the hands of Roland Schitt (Chris Elliott) the town’s mayor and owner of the motel where the Roses now reside who can be nice when he’s not being slippery and a downright pain in the ass.
Johnny’s wife, Moira (Catherine O’Hara) is a former soap star who wears lots of black clothing, artsy jewelry, and has an extensive collection of wigs. At times it looks like she’s the one hit hardest by the trauma caused by the family’s loss of status but she’s stronger than she looks and occasionally her soft, breathy voice turns to steel when dealing with Roland and the frustrations of life in Schitt’s Creek’s only motel. Johnny and Moira sometimes get on each other’s nerves in their room with a ceiling that leaks brown water and where there are never enough towels but they seem to understand each other, can communicate clearly with “looks,” and sometimes when their two kids are fighting like cats and dogs next door, Moira just looks at Johnny and shakes her head slowly, which speaks volumes. Johnny and Moira know each other far better than they know their own children and part of the irony of their miserable situation is that by being forced into adjoining motel rooms, they’re getting to know David and Alexis (Annie Murphy) more than they ever did when David was living in a huge apartment in New York (that’s a thing of the past along with their palatial home) and Alexis was globe-trotting to far-flung locations with some of her rich “loose acquaintances” who have private jets and vices aplenty. By having to share a room, David and Alexis get on each other’s nerves a lot: he’s a Type A; she’s a Type B, but their attempts to get acclimated to their surroundings are fascinating and provide some of the most fun this season.
Alexis is the first to go somewhat native and is thrilled to be invited to a keg party by the motel receptionist, Stevie (Emily Hampshire) who runs the front desk at the motel. When any of the Roses walks in the door she observes them like they’re exotic creatures from another planet, and answers their questions with pure deadpan understatement though one gets the impression she’s laughing on the inside, not at them but at their reaction to her home turf, which, as something of a modern Beat chick with an outsider’s sensibility she recognizes as being off-center and provincial—but hey, it’s home. For now. As the season has progressed Stevie has developed an interesting relationship with David, the only one who seems to appreciate her dry humor and sharp but precise wit.
One of my favorite episodes so far was when David’s clothing has been evicted from his father’s closet and he decides to part with some of his beloved designer duds to try and raise a little cash for more eye cream—he got fired from his bag-boy job the first day because John was constantly calling him to see how he was doing. Stevie suggests a trip to the local thrift shop but David, who’s only accustomed to upscale consignment shops at worst is appalled to discover there that his Parisian leather sneakers with Vulcanized rubber arches are only worth a couple of bucks. David’s reaction: “You’ve lost my trust,” he tells the young man behind the counter, “And my business.” The clothes are the only thing of his former life that David has left and their apparent near-worthlessness on the local market wounds his ego. If you’ve ever needed a few bucks and tried to sell some items at a popular “clothing exchange,” you feel David’s pain. He takes it personally.
Daniel Levy is adept at showing David’s struggle to carve out a life in Schitt’s Creek. As he tells Alexis when she asked why none of his friends have called he tells her they’re just giving him some space. As they both know, nothing like going broke to dent one’s social life. When Johnny and Moira go away for a weekend for some much needed privacy, Alexis convinces David to have a party in their motel room. He agrees only if it’ll be a game night, with very strict rules, guidelines and time boundaries. All of that goes to hell however when a bunch of guys Alexis invited from off the street arrive to do some serious drinking. David, horrified, retires to his parent’s room for the duration of the evening to read. The look of disappointment on Stevie’s face shows how fond she is of David and when she goes to try and talk him into returning to the party to help her team win at charades, it’s a real moment. David is smart, funny and uptight; Stevie seems to be the only one in town who “gets” him, and much to her surprise, vice versa.
As for Moira who spends much time alone watching television, Roland’s wife Jocelyn’s (Jennifer Murphy) offer to take Moira to the local salon for a “spa day” recently came out of left field. Moira was mortified at the hairdo she ended up with but tried to hide the fact from Jocelyn, who after all, had paid for it. Moira is caught completely off-guard again when Jocelyn, ever polite but much more aware than one might think for someone who’s married to a guy like Roland, stops by to tell her she knows Moira hates the new hairdo, and knows that she hates Schitt’s Creek, but that the people there are just trying to help, and that Moira might need them someday, so she’d just better try and get used to it. Moira explains that she doesn’t really hate the town, all evidence to the contrary, but it’s not her town, and the hairdo is not her, though it looks great on Jocelyn. Neither woman pulls any punches during this conversation, and it’s a breakthrough moment of honesty.
Amid all the moments of laugh-out-loud fish-out-of-water comedy on Schitt’s Creek, there are genuine moments of poignance and discovery when expectations and assumptions on the part of the Roses and the other citizens are turned upside down, and therein lies the brilliance of the show. The Roses technically own the town, but economically and geographically, they’re strangers in a strange land. Doing their best to support each other through one of the roughest times of their lives, they find compassion and common ground in unexpected places, with unexpected people.
I wouldn’t exactly call Schitt’s Creek, a dark comedy, but perhaps a grey comedy. It has its darker moments, like at the end of the first episode and their first day in town, when the family is saying good night to each other; Moira closes the good nights with, “Let’s all pray we never wake up.” Even the show’s theme song begins with decorous, inquisitive notes (from a French horn, perhaps?) then slowly builds to a regal tune of perseverance: dignity. That’s what the Roses are trying to maintain, along with their sanity.
Just because I’m a fan of an animated T.V. show doesn’t always mean I’ll want to read the comic but with Bob’s Burgers Volume 1 (Dynamite) by the writers and artists/ animators of the show, overseen by its creator Loren Bouchard, I’m now a fan of both the television and comic book versions. For me the show always ends too soon but this collected edition of the first five issues gave me plenty to chew, along with palate-cleansing interludes of pin-up art in various styles by different artists. Want to see a portrait of Bob in the style of Van Gogh? It’s here. The whole family in stained glass? Yes, like in a church. It’s here, too.
With this edition you get several installments of Tina’s Erotic Friend Fiction in genres from sci-fi to Western, to zombies. Is “zombies” a genre? I hesitate to say horror because it’s too funny. Tina’s butt-obsession is in full play throughout her stories so as you can imagine, Jimmy Pesto, Jr. figures quite prominently. Gene’s musical theatre endeavors play out in rhyme, with farts aplenty. Louise’s sections feature her wreaking havoc at school and at home, and solving mysteries in her hard-charging, get-outta-my-way style. I especially like the outcome of her sleuthing in the library book vandalism case! In one instance she doesn’t quite solve the mystery involving a member of a boy band group but I’m very intrigued and hope this will be addressed in the future (where are you, Boo?).
We don’t see a whole lot of Bob and Linda in this volume, but what we do see is quite interesting. I love Linda’s way of talking (her syntax and diction) so I enjoyed being treated to her letters to (mostly) corporate recipients with ideas for inventions, new perfumes and tips on wine-drinking for busy moms. From Bob there are burger-of-the-day idea lists, fresh from the kitchen on ruled, grease-stained paper. The cleverly-named daily burger special is a running motif on the show that gets a more satisfying treatment here, some even with illustrations. Coming up with these is Bob’s thing–he’s really good at it and when I read them they make me hungry.
I love the very distinctive voices on the television version and that’s the only thing missing from the comic book, but since I’ve watched the show since the get-go, the voices are recorded in my mind and play as I’m reading. If you haven’t really watched the show and you’re new to this fabulously quirky universe located in a sea-side town populated with characters from the cranky and eccentric to the delusional yet hilarious, well, the most fun is in watching Bob, Linda and the kids interact with them.
I’m a fan of the drawing and the way the characters look, both on the show and in the comic. Even some of the more initially outlandish-looking side characters tend to remind me of folks I’ve known or seen. As for my favorite supporting character, in the future I’d like to see more of Tina’s and Jimmy Jr.’s classmate, Zeke, who, like Nelson in The Simpsons has gone from being a quasi-bully and sidekick for Jimmy, Jr. to a more full-fledged character on the show. With his modified mullet hairstyle and Southern accent, he has a surprising knack for cooking and a fondness for older women. In the future I’ll be on the look-out for more of Zeke and definitely more about Louise’s search for her boy-band member crush—yes, Louise has a crush!
Story: Mike Olsen, Jeff Drake, Rachel Hastings, Justin Hook, Chad Brewster Art: Brad Rader, Tony Gennero, Frank Forte, Bernard Derriman, Robin Brigstocke, Damon Wong, Kat Kosmala, Cecilia Aranovich, Kyung Shin, Marcelo Benavides, Ken Laramay, Paul Claerhout, Ryan Mattos, Steve Umbelby Story: 9.5 Art: 9.7 Overall: 9.8 Recommendation: Buy
Dynamite Entertainment provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.
If you love classic noir, you’ll love Bullet Gal: It’s not You, It’s Me by Andrez Bergen (Underbelly Comics/IF? Commix) only this isn’t classic noir. It’s a new millennium pastiche of every noir motif there is but done as a stylized, digitized, mind-bending visual rhapsody that’ll leave you feeling like you’ve been slapped in the face by a French femme fatale.
The protagonist of Bullet Gal is seventeen year-old Mitzi (no last name) with a murkily tragic past who arrives in Heropa with little more than the clothing a Beat poet would carry in her valise and her 9mm Model B pistols with pearl handles. She hates injustice and has seen her share of it so she has no qualms about using those pistols to wreak havoc on the bad guys. Who are the bad guys? Gangsters and composites of every gangster you‘ve ever heard of or someday will. They’ve heard of Mitzi and even though she’s easy on the eyes, they know they have reason to watch their backs.
Lee, a Cape (i.e. member of the Crime Crusaders Crew) is Mitzi’s mentor in this twisted and confusing universe that’s part Gotham/ Metropolis, part futuristic Melbourne, and part Chicago in the 1940’s. Lee gives her advice and vital information, but there are eight versions of him, in varying shades of seriousness, honesty and sincerity, so Mitzi has to rely on her own sharp instincts, smarts and toughness to survive. And man, is she tough. Her worst enemy is one she barely even knows, but who knows her: Brigit, French girlfriend of Sol. He’s a bad-ass gangster but even he defers to the supreme villainy of Mademoiselle (don’t call her ma’am or madam, please!) Brigit. Like Mitzi, tragedy has followed her as well, only she’s the one who deliberately left it in her wake, often using sharp objects.
Bullet Gal has formerly been seen in individual comic book format and those are all here, so you can start from the beginning, read each installment and conclude with the final issues yet to be released as individual comics. Funded through Kickstarter, this volume, containing the entire Bullet Gal oeuvre, contains interpretations of her by various artists, which is amazingly appropriate because throughout Bullet Gal, Mitzi takes on varying looks and shapes according to whatever visual media/beautiful/ tough-girl avatar/ image has been selected to portray her. She is always Bullet Gal, that obscure object of desire armed with pearl handled pistols only half as dangerous as she is, but the various representations only reinforce the idea of Mitzi’s sublime adaptability, an indispensable trait in Heropa.
To say that one reads Bullet Gal is somewhat inaccurate; it’s really more of an experience. There’s sharp dialogue and clever narrative but the visuals are incredibly rich and amazing, especially if you like hard-boiled noir, whether set in the past, future, or in a digitized sci-fi world that might get re-set at any time. Like I indicated at the beginning, this is noir run through a blender and spiked with a little something illicit and exotic that’ll send you reeling. At first I felt like I might be missing something, tried to go back and see if there was more explanation that would help it all make sense sooner but then I realized that partaking of Bullet Gal is like looking at an expressionist painting, reading a modernist novel or watching The Big Sleep; if you look too closely it doesn’t make sense. You have to take a step back and get lost in it; feel it.
After all, confusion, liquor, cigarette smoke, and too much coffee late at night are all integral to the mood of noir, along with a vague sense of paranoia, longing, and wicked humor. Mitzi’s world is awash in all these things but she is a creature of it and navigates the dark stairways, lonely hospital hallways and deadly streets with self-assurance and confidence — and those two polished nickel 9mm Star Model B pearl-handled pistols. Mademoiselle Brigit, beware.
As we cross the threshold into the prequel that is AMC’s new spin-off from Breaking Bad, we see Saul (Bob Odenkirk) post-BB in his job at Cinnabon in Omaha, the very future he prophesied for himself before the end-times of Walter White’s celebrated and notorious career in the manufacturing and sale of the great Baby Blue meth. As legal retainer of this unwieldy and dangerous kingdom Saul had to put his fancy legal footwork to the test time and again in situations that would drive Perry Mason himself to the bottle. If Saul’s legal contortions for the benefit of his clients ever served him as well it’s because if there’s one thing Saul’s younger self, Jimmy McGill learned a few years earlier, it’s that if he didn’t look after himself, no one else would.
As Saul, post-Breaking Bad, sits in a lonely apartment on a snowy evening he yields to the urge to watch one of his vintage “Better Call Saul” commercials. We hear the familiar voice exhorting would-be clients to contact him and this is our portal into the world of Jimmy McGill, circa 2004. If Saul exists in a noir world, Jimmy stands on the precipice of that world, and by the end of the second episode sees it yawning wide before him.
Noir characters are mostly outsiders, or at best, liminal characters, living on the edges. Jimmy is a lawyer, but not of the rarified world of the high-priced firm that keeps his brother, Chuck (Michael McKean), who suffers from a mysterious illness (could be mostly mental?) on the payroll to save money. When he tries to intervene on Chuck’s behalf, these smooth talkers patronize and belittle Jimmy and they don’t get his Network references either. His great quotes channeling Mr. Jenson from the film are wasted on them. When Saul goes to Chuck to explain why what they’re doing is only in their best interest, Chuck won’t take Jimmy’s word for it. He even relays Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill’s message that Jimmy shouldn’t use his own name for his own law practice out of professional courtesy to them. Huh? Oh, they’ll even pay to change the name on Jimmy’s matchbooks.
Marginalized completely by the big firm and even Chuck, who sometimes looks askance at Jimmy as if he’ll never really be able to live down some past tricks (Slippin’ Jimmy?) that forever leave the faint whiff of “sleazy” in the consciousness, Jimmy gets weary of trying to be a stand-up guy who just needs to a catch a break. He decides to carve out a different niche for himself, reconnecting with two skateboard scammers he met by “accident” early in the first episode. When he thinks he’s run over one of them he’s already having a very rough day and the crash elicits from him a brief sob, a what-the-hell-now moment before he pulls himself together to face the scammers, call them on their game and then even co-opt their game, with himself as ring-leader.
Things go spectacularly wrong when circumstances spiral out of Jimmy’s control and even in the grip of fear and under threat of bodily harm, Jimmy keeps his wits, trying to talk his way out of it as long as he has breath. He even intervenes on behalf of the skateboard scammer brothers, where his relentless defense lawyer patter prompts one of Tuco’s guys to say, “You gotta mouth on you.” Jimmy takes the compliment and never stops defending his fallen accomplices to Tuco (Raymond Cruz) and company. Jimmy can’t get them off completely however, as they lie bound in the desert of the wild, wild west and Jimmy has to endure the resulting mayhem. He does pay their hospital bills, even though the deepest trouble they got into wasn’t due entirely to Jimmy but to their own greed and desire to cut Jimmy out of the deal. Even after the fact, Jimmy finds himself sickened, literally, by the violence he witnessed in the desert (this wasn’t the kind of break he wanted), but he’s sickened also by trying to play by the rules and getting lied to, disrespected and further behind, no matter how hard he works. It’s still very early in the series, but one can see that the experience with the skateboarders which intensifies with Tuco and the boys will eventually pave the way for Jimmy’s/ Saul’s association with Mike (Jonathan Banks, who simmers as the court house parking lot attendant here) and Gus, Walt and Jesse.
Jimmy McGill exhibits a naturally sunny disposition, a glad-handing way about him in his public persona that those at the big law firm seem to find juvenile and off-putting, and it’s sometimes met with silence and a stony stare by the more criminal element, but he’s just trying to be a nice-enough guy in a noir universe. The hard times he’s been through, the skepticism and attitude he faces, even from those he cares about, and the fight for self-preservation in a brutal world rife with violence, insanity and even sheer indifference are what will forge Jimmy McGill into Saul Goodman of Breaking Bad: still an upbeat guy with a ready handshake and an encouraging word—and not above floating the idea of someone getting “sent to Belize” if they get to be too problematic. But that’s still in the future.
In Better Call Saul, Jimmy McGill is still learning to navigate the tightrope between what he can stomach and what he can live with, how far is too far, and when it’s too late to pull back. Jimmy is a complex character all the more compelling because he hasn’t yet become Saul.
This promises to be a great series, so whether you’re a fan of Breaking Bad or not, give it a chance. You never know; the day might come when you’ll have to give Jimmy (or Saul) a call!