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Bullet Gal #6

Review by Paul Bowler

Bullet Gal #6 continues the prequel IF? Commix book series from Australian author Andrez Bergen, the writer of the acclaimed superhero noir-styled detective novel Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? , and IF? Commix series Tales to Admonish. Following the release of his graphic novel Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat and the new novel Depth Charging Planet Goth, Japan based writer and artist Andrez Bergen’s latest IF? Commix issue, Bullet Gal #6 will be published in print form in December 2014 in Australia.

Last issue featured the origin of the deadly French hit-girl Brigit, girlfriend and personal assassin of the powerful crime boss Sol, in a disturbing tale that explored the psychotic femme fatales squalid upbringing on the outskirts of Paris and charted her infamous blood-strewn rise to power in Heropa at Sol’s side. Bullet Gal #6 finds Mizi still reeling after her personal battle against crime in Heropa took a startling new twist. Having discovered that her murdered mentor, Lee, really had seven identical doppelgangers, Mizi was then approached by one of his remaining doubles who offered her a mask and the chance to become one of the Crime Crusaders Crew. It may be Christmas time in the sprawling metropolis of Heropa, but there will be little seasonal cheer for Mizi this year, ambushed by Brigit’s gun-totting henchmen, Bullet Gal’s battle for survival is taken to whole new level as the world around her suddenly becomes the greatest lie of all…

The Prolonged Adios follows on directly from Mizi’s encounter in the bar with the other version of Lee, the serious one as she calls him, after he reveals that “her” Lee’s body has been exhumed and stolen from the graveyard. The revelations continue as the new Lee quickly brings Mizi up to speed about the city of Heropa, divulging a secret that effectively turns her life, and world, upside down in space of a few distinctly sobering heartbeats.

Bullet Gal 006 COVER_Dec 2014_IF Commix

Inter-cutting flashbacks in the bar with the brutal opening moments after Bullet Gal has been shot, Andrez Bergen skilfully ramps up the tension, sending Mizi’s guilt-ridden memories on a delirious trip down the rabbit hole while her lifeblood drains away into the gutter – a crimson penance she almost seems to welcome as payment in kind for her past deeds and letting her guard down at this crucial juncture.

Bergens noir-infused art, with its striking use of painting, digitally enhanced photomontages, and bold symbolic imagery brings the hyper-stylised world of Heropa to life on the page with an intoxicating clarity that completely immerses you in the situations unfolding on the page. At some points it almost feels like you are there with Mizi: sharing her bewilderment at Lee’s statements, you will accompany her down that dark lonely street, her anger and resentment washing over you every step of the way, before you too are sent tumbling to the pavement and left questioning reality itself as you watch Mizi’s life gradually ebbing away. The psychedelic nature of what Mizi experiences as she teeters on the brink of death is another tour-de-force from Bergen, and it is this pixelated fusion of reality and fiction that masterfully engineers one of the most audacious plot twists we’ve seen so far over the course of this IF? Commix series.

Bullet Gal #6 also contains an intriguing Epilogue to the main story featuring the Cabal of Lee duplicates, and it seem that sinister plans are afoot following the disclosure that one of their number has been compromised. Then we have the IF? Commix Mini-Feature: The Milkcrate Man, there is a great Bullet Girl poster by artist Claudia Everest, and the issue rounds off with another fun edition of Dejavu at the Neon Bullpen.

With the news that Andrez Bergen has now completed issue 12 of Bullet Gal (scheduled to be published in June 2015) and that the entire 12 issue run of the series has been signed to North American publisher Underbelly, to be released as a 340 page Bullet Gal trade paperback – It’s Not You It’s Me – featuring cover art by edgy pop/pulp artist Niagara Detroit, there has never been a better time to become acquainted with the adventures of Bullet Gal. (Check Out the Under Belly presents If? Commix production Kickstarter they have recently launched for the project here  )

Bullet Gal #6 rounds off with a thrilling double-edged cliff-hanger as Mizi clings desperately to life, while somewhere behind the façade of an innocuous looking shop front, mademoiselle Brigit ruthlessly enforces her late “mere’s” sound advice to deal with a subordinates failure and bring Bullet Gal’s crime fighting days to an end. Bullet Gal #6 takes the series in an entirely new and unexpected direction, with its innovative story and art by Andrez Bergen, this outstanding pulp noir saga continues to impress on every front.