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Bullet Gal #11

Review by Paul Bowler

After the release of the Bullet Gal trade paperback collection: It’s Not You It’s Me, the 12 issue arc by Andrez Bergen continues in Bullet Gal #11, the penultimate issue of this IF? Commix series – available digitally and exclusively published in Australia on July 1st 2015. Bullet Gal #11 sees our heroine, Mitzi, regaining consciousness in hospital after being shot – a hit ordered by crime boss Sol Brodskey and arranged by his personal assassin and lover; the psychotic French femme fatale Brigit. Now, as Mitzi recovers, her mentor, Lee, can finally reveal his plans to deal with his six remaining duplicates. Soon their lives will be changed forever, a new HQ will be founded, and the roll call of Capes surreptitiously altered – but what will the implications of the Reset mean for the noir-inspired pseudo digital reality of Heropa as the end draws near?

Following last issues debut of pint-sized new recruit, Little Nobody, this IF? Commix book prequel series from Australian author Andrez Bergen, writer of the noir-themed superhero detective novel Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa, along with IF? Commix series Tales to Admonish, Trista & Holt, the graphic novel Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat, and the new novel Depth Charging Planet Goth, delivers his most intricately structured issue so far with Bullet Gal #11 as the series builds towards its conclusion.

From the moment Mitzi arrived in Heropa, the gutsy 17 year old armed with her late fathers twin polished nickel 9mm Star Model B pistols, her self-styled mission against crime soon earned her a mentor, the enigmatic Lee, a man who has – until now – played his cards very close to his chest. He’s a character who is very much a quandary of his own making. Lee is not only the man who created Heropa, he also moonlights as Major Patriot (The leader of the Crime Crusaders Crew), and he’s one of eight identical doppelgangers which represented the fragmented persona of the man whose angst-ridden agenda to resurrect his wife actually engineered Heropa’s digital reality – Lee Denslow.

BULLET 11_IF Commix

The way in which Andrez Bergen weaves the innumerable plot threads together here in this issue is simply sublime. Its spellbinding to watch as mentor and protégé ready themselves to face the uncertain future that will be forged of their own design, especially once the post-op histrionics have been cast aside, and each heartfelt scene between Mitzi and Lee is so intimately moving it will keep you hanging on their every word as the intense chemistry between them shimmers over the page like a haze of twirling cigarette smoke.

This more colourful side to Lee’s character brings even greater diversity to his partnership with Bullet Gal, and it even sees him impersonating one of his own duplicates over the course of this issue. As the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place all the grand schemes, organized crime, dark shadowy conspiracies, and even the legacy of Heropa itself are succinctly redefined as Lee explains his plans to Mitzi.

Andrez Bergen’s distinct art has constantly pushed the envelope with this IF? Commix series. Bullet Gal #11 is no exception to that rule: indeed the vivid pulp noir themes, Dadaist influences, and flourishes from the halcyon era of comics are all as prevalent as ever. With his stylish use of bold monochrome imagery, digital manipulation, and exquisite photomontages, Bergen adds an uncanny vibrancy to the cold sterility of Mitzi’s hospital room, while the flash back to Lee #3’s (That’s our Bullet Gal’s Lee) meeting with his cabal of duplicates is categorised more by the infamy of their brooding menace, it is the quieter, more subtle moments where something as simple as a hug, a sidewise glace, and the gentle simplicity of allowing the silence to say everything while Mitzi and Lee gaze out the hospital window at the sprawling metropolis of Heropa that really exemplifies the close emotional bond between these characters and the city they inhabit.

Ironically enough it is the agenda of Lee’s forebear, Heropa’s originator Lee Denslow, that has allowed Lee to ensure that his designs for a new HQ becomes an integral part of the Reset, which together with the help of Great White Hope, Milk Crate Man, and the Big Game Hunter will make certain their “get out of jail free” card will usher in a brave new world in which hope will always tower over crime, violence, and corruption.

Having ensured that anomalies – or “phonies” – like Bullet Gal, honest cop Bob Khan and his partner Irv Forbush, have been introduced to the mix, along with the help of his fellow Capes, and rookie Little Nobody, Lee #3 intends to usher in a new era for Heropa that will outmanoeuvre and defeat their enemies with his audacious gambit whilst also throwing in a wry tip of the hat to the Silver Age of comics just for good measure!

Along with its gorgeous cover by Andrez and Ding, this issue rounds off with a gallery of IF? Comic titles, there’s an edition of Soapbox D’Andrez, together with Post to Pistolero, along with a Bullet Gal Pin Up by Laksanardie, Catch Up image by Nicktribedesign, and a cover design by Martintheworld & Andrez.

With everyone believing that Mitzi is dead and the Reset of Heropa now imminent, this innovative prequel story arc has proven to be one of IF? Commix finest as Bergen steers the multiple events and characters towards Heropa’s augmented virtual future. Bullet Gal #11 establishes a new bar of excellence in terms of storytelling and art for this second to last issue. Indeed, the stage is now set for a thrilling finale to the series, and Mitzi brings Bullet Gal #11 to a close with a killer punch line that knowingly breaks the fourth wall with all her sultry aplomb. After all some rules, especially Heropa’s most cardinal; are made to be broken…

Bullet Gal #11 is available July 1st 2015 digitally ($1) and in print form ($5) by Australia publisher IF?