If you have not read “100 Bullets”, there is mention of some major plot points regarding the character Lono below. It won’t ruin the story, but it does reveal this particular character’s fate. You’ve been warned.
It was announced this weekend at Emerald City Comic-Con that the creative team behind “100 Bullets”, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, will be reuniting to tell a story about one of the principal characters from the aforementioned series. I subsequently lost consciousness and woke up naked surrounded by blow and hookers… Maybe that didn’t happen, but it is a good metaphor for my emotional reaction to the announcement.
“100 Bullets” is one of my favorite comic series of all time. I spent more than 50 hours in high school working on a thesis paper concerning the book in order to graduate with an International Baccalaureate diploma. I’ve read all one hundred issues several times since. It’s an incredible piece of literature and shows just how much a separate writer and artist are capable of in the comics medium. This column isn’t about all of the reasons “100 Bullets” is an incredible piece of art. It works from the premise that “100 Bullets” is an incredible of art and a completed one though.
The series “Brother Lono” will take place after the conclusion of “100 Bullets” and follow the titular character Lono. At the conclusion of “100 Bullets” Lono had been ravaged by dogs, shot in the mouth and shot several more times in the chest with an assault rifle before falling out of a second-story window. The place where his body fell is later revealed to be absent of a body, leaving his ultimate fate unknown.
Now we know what happened to Lono. He survived, like he always did, in spite of the grievous (and well deserved) harm visited upon him. That changes the story.
Stories like “Hush” in Batman, “Born Again” in Daredevil and others that take place in ongoing series will always be affected by what came before and comes after. They are part of dramas that are intended to not end between creators. Readers can consider them as part of a wide-span of works or in a bubble. Independent works like “100 Bullets” are different though. They are controlled by a single creative person or team and have clear beginnings and endings. This makes them more comparable to a novel than a series, like the aforementioned “Batman” or “Daredevil”. So the questions raised by an addition to the story are vastly different than the considerations raised by continuity in other series.
The analogy of “Brother Lono” to “100 Bullets” is better met by “Dune Messiah” to “Dune” than “Heart of Hush” to “Hush”. The question raised is whether works like “100 Bullets” or “Dune” should or can be read in a bubble. If “Brother Lono” reveals that Lono, a sociopathic killer, really does care for another human being, should this affect future readings of “100 Bullets”?
First, I do not think additional works should necessarily change the value of an original. No matter what happens to Paul in latter novels by Frank Herbert, his change and ascension in “Dune” may still be considered and analyzed by its own merits. The stories of other famous literary protagonists should not lose value because an author writes more during their lives. Each novel or comic can stand alone and may be considered solitarily. Lono’s path through “100 Bullets” is worth considering for what it is, no matter what may occur in “Brother Lono”. He is a terrible, nigh-unstoppable force who inflicts pain upon whatever he comes into contact with, unable to feel any himself; a character worthy of comparison to Cormac McCarthy’s The Judge in “Blood Meridian”.
Second, this does not mean that additional works do not impact readings of the original. It is difficult to reread “Dune” without a sense of dramatic irony, knowing the ultimate fates of characters like Paul Atreides. Sequels and additions to original works of literature present a challenge to readers when discussing or rereading the original works. Pulling only from a single work is difficult when aware of latter additions and this will impact critical analysis, even if only on a subconscious level. This does not make additional works bad or good. It only presents a challenge to academics and readers when considering the works.
I’m very excited about “Brother Lono”. I always liked reading about the character in “100 Bullets” and with one exception, “Spaceman”, have always thought Mr. Risso and Mr. Azzarello create truly sublime comics together. “Brother Lono” will hopefully be another great comic from these two, but how will it impact the meaning of the original work? It’s worth thinking about.