‘Bullet Gal: It’s Not You. It’s Me’ –TPB Review

In June of last year, I had the pleasure of reading a rather unique and unusual, 12-page comic called Bullet Gal. The author, Andrez Bergen, played it off as just messing around a bit with some styles that he liked, as a way to kill time between projects. When I read it, my immediate reaction was to demand more issues. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one, and now, after a successful Kickstarter campaign, the full, collected, 12-volume issue is available from Under Belly Comics.

Bullet Gal is a gritty, noir/superhero saga, whose inspirations range from Dashiell Hammett to Stan Lee to Quentin Tarantino. It follows Mitzi, a.k.a. Bullet Gal, a dark and troubled teenage girl, who’s looking to dole out justice and vengeance against those who hurt the innocent; however, in a world with actual superpowered humans, she’s less superhero and more vigilante, fighting crime with guns.

Then, she meets Lee, a mysterious man who offers to train her and turn her into a real superhero, who champions real justice. Then, after a few months of this, she meets Lee again—a different Lee. His power, you see, is to duplicate himself, and while he’s been trying to mold Mitzi into a superhero, the other copies have their own agenda.

In the meantime, our heroine also runs afoul of a mob boss whose men she’s been dispatching and a beautiful, but psychotic, French assassin named Brigit who’s determined to take her out of the picture. Bullet Gal watches her friend and mentor killed, is nearly killed herself, and has her entire world shattered and turned upside down. It’s quite an adventure.

Rather than simply telling the story linearly from beginning to end, Bergen experiments with a number of different storytelling techniques. In some issues, the story unfolds from Bullet Gal’s point of view. Others tell it from the point of view of one of the minor characters: a work-a-day police detective or a new hero struggling to complete his first mission. In one issue, the French assassin Brigit tells us her rather insane backstory, and in another, we see the history of Lee and how superheroes came to be in the first place. Not to mention the issue towards the end of the run that’s told entirely without words.

In addition to experimenting with storytelling, Bergen also experiments with art. The entire series is done in a unique style that takes existing (black-and-white) photos—some taken by Bergen or his friends, and others in the public domain—digitally manipulates them, and puts them together to form a cohesive story. It’s no easy task, arranging completely unrelated images to relate to each other like that, but it works, and adds to the gritty, noirish feel of the story in the process.

The things Bergen writes/creates tend to work on two levels. On the surface, they’re generally standalone adventures; you can pick up any one of his novels or comics and read and appreciate it for what it is. But, underneath that, they all combine to form a single, intricate world, where everything is connected and everything affects everything else.

Bullet Gal is a prequel to Bergen’s superhero novel, Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? Heropa is, in turn, deeply connected to his dystopian sci-fi/noir novel, Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat. Then, they all end up being connected, as well, with Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth, which is a coming-of-age drama/mystery that takes place in the '80s.

You can read any one of these works on its own, without having picked up any of the others, and be able to follow what’s going on just fine; however, as you read, you’ll likely find that you WANT to read the others: first, to gain a deeper understanding of the world that connects them, and, second, because they just sound really cool.

I have to admit, I got just a little emotional reading the end of Bullet Gal. I’ve been following the saga since the beginning, and I’m sad to see it go. It’s been a pretty wild ride all the way through and a great read.

Currently, Andrez Bergen is working on Trista & Holt, another noirish comic with the same digital photo-manipulation style. That one’s great, too (in a very different way), but I do hope that he comes back to these characters and this world sometime down the line. Even though the arc is complete, there’s still plenty left to explore and plenty of ways to continue the story—in fact, I’ve suggested a couple to Bergen myself. Whether he takes them or not, the fact remains that these are great characters, a great story, and a great world that are worth revisiting again and again. For now, though, just read Bullet Gal: It’s Not You. It’s Me and experience the characters, the story, and the world for yourself.

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