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Bullet Gal #9

Review by Paul Bowler

Silence really is golden; it also comes packing a gold handgun in Bullet Gal #9’s entirely silent issue. This IF? Commix book prequel series from Australian author Andrez Bergen, the writer of the noir-themed superhero detective novel Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa, IF? Commix series Tales to Admonish, and the graphic novel Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat, continues Mizi’s enthralling adventures in Bullet Gal #9 – available digitally and in print mediums by Australia publisher IF? Commix at the end of February.

Following the revelations of Heropa’s digitally spliced origins, last issue brought the main story arc back into sharper focus, the honest cop Bob and his partner Irv Forbush were introduced, Bullet Gal’s mentor, Lee, faced the Police investigation, and Mizi still clung to life in hospital after being shot and left for dead by Brigits henchmen. With Bullet Gal #9 Andrez Bergen brings us another slightly off beat instalment this month, with this inspired “silent issue”, where despite the absence of words, the ominous tone and stylishly noir-infused narrative proves to be as compelling as ever. Discover more about how events were shaped in previous issues, the influences they had on the characters, their schemes, and the glorious serendipity of Heropa’s star-struck vision of yesterday as we revisit the defining moments of this series from a completely new perspective.

With no speech bubbles to guide the narrative, Bullet Gal #9 is totally dependant on Bergen’s art to drive the plot. It’s a bold move, and one that really plays to Bergen’s strengths as a writer and artist. This issue really showcases his distinctive art and use of digitally enhanced photomontages, mixing striking black and white pictures with bold visual flourishes, this issue speaks volumes without using so much as a single word of dialogue.

Bullet Gal 9_COVER ART

Instead events unfold with countless hidden details to enhance the experience. Headlines featuring Major Patriot, the ad hoc leader of the crime crusaders crew, immediately set the tone of this issue from the outset. But whether you choose to read between the lines or merely offer them a fleeting glance, it soon becomes clear that the reality lurking behind the star spangled glamour of the headlines is very different indeed. Mizi’s medical report at Heropa General Hospital gives us further insight into the horrific events that saw her cut down in a hail of bullets and the full extent of her terrible injuries, all counterbalanced by the incongruous presence of a freshly poured mug of coffee that looks so real you’d swear you could reach down and lift it from the page.

Some of the more abstract and emotionally charged scenes actually seem even more intense and dramatic within the context of the silent format. From herein we get a fascinating glimpse of events: Lee, the man with seven identical duplicates, faces the emotional fallout of Mizi’s brush with death, from here we glide dreamily across Heropa’s gleaming skyline, then darkened streets pave the way as Bob and Irv Forbush begin their investigation, before fresh doughnuts and a handwritten note of trust distract and enlighten with delicious intrigue.

It is Mizi’s recovery though, as the light of a brand new day spills in through the window of her Hospital room that is perhaps the most remarkable moment of all. Bullet Gal’s life blooms again just like the vase of fresh flowers at her bedside as she basks in the glory of her resurrection, her eyes turning skyward to greet the message that will complete her journey back from the brink of oblivion. Bergen’s vision balances everything throughout, giving us just enough to keep the underlying narrative on track while allowing our imagination free reign to find added meanings and subtexts as and when they present themselves to us. Simply allow yourself to become immersed in the history and stars of yesteryear, whilst marvelling at the panoramic vistas of Heropa’s skyline, before Mizi’s enemies set out to ensure her demise, where a single cigarette is cast from a window to be crushed under the wheel of a car as someone watches and waits…

This silent issue could so easily have become a case of style obliterating substance. However, I’m pleased that certainly isn’t a factor here, if anything, Bullet Gal #9 is a triumphant noir-shrouded rhapsody of storytelling and characterisation made all the more remarkable for embracing such a bold move at this point in the series.

Following the release of his new novel Depth Charging Planet Goth and the debut of his 70’s hardboiled pulp IF? Commix crime saga Trista & Holt, the new Bullet Gal trade paperback edition: It’s not you it’s me, collecting the entire 12 issue series, will be available from IF? And Under Belly Comics in March. Bullet Gal #9 is another outstanding issue, this IF? Commix series from Andrez Bergen constantly impresses with its striking visuals and great characters, and this silent issue is one of the most daring and inventive so far.

Bullet Gal #9, is published in print form at the end of February 2015 in Australia, along with the digital version, and available direct from the IF? Commix website.