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.
Writer/ Artist: Andrez Bergen
Story: 9.5 Artwork: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy
Andrez Bergen provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.