100 Bullets: Brother Lono #1 Review

100 Bullets is probably one of the finest series in Vertigo’s impressive back catalogue, as well as being a wonderfully…

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100 Bullets is probably one of the finest series in Vertigo’s impressive back catalogue, as well as being a wonderfully written and beautifully rendered crime book. The series ended quite decisively with its 100th issue, the multi-layered story wrapped neatly, and its extensive cast of characters sent on their way, either to their eternal reward or to a life finally free of the machinations of Agent Graves and The Trust. It had an air of finality about it. Which is why I was skeptical when I picked up Brother Lono; Brian Azzerello and Eduardo Risso’s return to the 100 Bullet’s universe, bringing the fan favorite psychotic Hawaiian along with them.

When we last saw Lono, he was pumped full of lead, while recuperating from a shot to the face and a vicious mauling by a pack of dogs, by minute woman Dizzy Cordova. While we never saw the body (you should always see the body), I accepted that this was Lono’s final fate, the veteran taken down by the rookie. But of course I am now proven wrong, and I’m kinda glad. Lono was my favourite character of the series, ever since his silent introduction in issue 5, where he single handedly took on a helicopter. Since he continued to prove himself, a larger than life beast of a man whose only code in life was that he could what he wanted when he wanted to anything and anyone. Often only signified by his trade mark smile or hawaiian shirt, you could see that Azzerello was having a blast writing him. Which probably brings us to this 8 issue mini series. But don’t let the grinning psychopath on the cover fool you, this is a very different Lono. A Lono who seems to be seeking the one thing he shouldn’t be allowed to have: redemption.

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We find the man, broken in spirit if not in body, in jail in Mexico, bailed out by his mysterious new boss to escort a newly arrived nun to her mission. Throw in a vicious gang, Las Torres Gemelas, wreaking havoc , and the stage is set for Lono to get back to his sadistic, blood thirsty ways. Given that it has been four years since the final issue of the main series, you would expect there to be some rust on Azzerello and Risso. But you would be mistaken. Every trademark the men are known for is there: Azzerello’s hard boiled dialogue, Risso’s gorgeous line work (seriously, this books, like all of the others, is absolutely beautiful to behold), scene’s inter-cutting each other, it’s all there. It’s like 100 Bullets never ended, this first issue ramping up the tension and mystery in a way readers of the book have come to expect. This first issue sets up the story nicely. We all know Lono is going to slip into his old ways, the fun is going to be how he gets there. Las Torres Gemelas, and there brutal leader, are presented as adequate villains, a finger in every pie and not above torture. In fact the brutality is one thing I didn’t expect. Sure, 100 Bullets had it’s fair share of violence, but it always seemed to played out with a bit of subtlety. Here we are presented with everything from eye gouging to immolation. Sure, it’s more than likely used as a narrative device, to give us bad guys even more sadistic than Lono (who we have seen mete out his fair share of brutal beatings),  but it took some getting used to.

As a massive fan of 100 Bullets, Brother Lono is exactly what I wanted. Azzerello and Risso gel as much as ever, crafting a story worthy of their talents. Fans of 100 Bullets who were wary of putting this on your pull list, you shouldn’t have. It’s great to be back in this universe, and I can’t wait to see where the pair take me.