BULLET Gal, by Australian author Andrez Bergen, is fascinating to just fall into. Bullet Gal is a neo-noir science fiction dystopia, set in the fictional city of Heropa. However, the series is meant to be much more than its plot: the really important parts are concerned with deeper questions about the creative process. Mitzi is a seventeen year-old new arrival to the city of Heropa, a new city founded just after WWII.
With her father’s two pistols, she adopts the identity of Bullet Gal, and begins assassinating the city’s criminals. This attracts attention from the city’s heroes, including Lee, a man split into eight identical copies of himself, and the city’s villains, including French femme-fatale Brigit and her gangster boyfriend, Sol Brodsky.
Yet there’s something else that’s not quite right about Heropa, and Bullet Gal is trying to figure out just what it is that seems off about the place. The series is almost like an anti-comic book, in the sense that it tackles and subverts many of the tropes in comics. One of the subverted ideas in this book is the role of influence on the creative process... We’ve all read books or seen movies with characters that are clearly clones of somebody else (I’m thinking of the sheer number of Joker-inspired bad guys following The Dark Knight). Bullet Gal seems to be mocking that. The self-awareness of the characters, both in terms of popular culture and the genre that they are a part of also comes off as a form of loving parody.
Is the series critical of the possibilities for artistic interpretation? In some sense, but more to the point, it’s honest about what makes movies, comics, and books work.
All creators are working with ideas borrowed from other sources, but this particular world is literally made up of art and styles from other places. Without spoiling the ending, the message is deeply critical of meddling in a created world. Purists and fans, as represented by the comic’s villains, want to preserve settings that they love just the way that they originally found them. In doing so, they end up stifling any possibility of creative growth, which you see reflected in some of the characters in this series.
Beyond the meta-criticism of art and the creative process, Bullet Gal is fun to read if you’re in love with noir tropes (like I am). Bergen has a gift for recreating the dialogue of the great writers, like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, and passing it on to a femme-fatale.
The science-fiction theme seemed to me to be the more important one, though. For all that Bullet Gal immerses itself in noir themes, dialogue, and imagery, the science-fiction elements of the story are what drive its message about creativity and art.
The plot itself isn’t as coherent as the critique, but I don’t think that Bergen wrote Bullet Gal to be a straightforward read. Lots of Raymond Chandler stories fall apart if you look too closely at the details, but the details were never really the point to begin with. In Chandler’s case, he was interested in creating atmosphere and tone. Bergen wants to do that as well, but there are also statements about art here that are interesting.
Spend some time with Bullet Gal and don’t try to rush through. This is a story that you need to move through slowly and deliberately, and don’t give up if it all isn’t immediately transparent. This is a smart book. Give it the deliberation it deserves.
Zeb Larson, Flickering Myth
TAKE a '40s crime drama, mix in just a tad of superhero talk, and you have got the basis for Heropa, the primary setting for Bullet Gal.
A lot has happened to turn the city on its ear but, as always, life tries to return to normal. In a dangerous city, sometimes shooting first and asking questions later is the only way to survive.
In what has to be one of the best noir I have ever read, I was stunned by the turn of events and found myself getting more excited to see where the story is going next.
Andrez Bergen is phenomenal at his job, since apparently his job is to keep me on the edge of my seat and guessing as to what will happen.
Bloodshed and violence are everyday occurrences in the world but he makes it seem darker, more suspenseful.I’m reminded of Sin City but in a much more authentic and grittier way, not to say they are anything alike. I’m just using that to compare the ambience of Bullet Gal‘s setting.
I was stunned by the turn of events and found myself getting more excited to see where the story is going next.
Andrez Bergen is phenomenal at his job, since apparently his job is to keep me on the edge of my seat. And if you or anyone you know loves suspenseful detective stories, this is definitely a treat.
Gary Makries, Geeks of Doom
THERE seems to be no stopping Tokyo-based Australian pulp writer Andrez Bergen, the creator of such literary-graphical delicacies as Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat.
His latest ongoing project is Bullet Gal, featuring a hard-as-nails heroine, and an assortment of strange cohorts such as one-eyed cop Bob Kahn and his partner Irv Forbush. They’re the latest to take the stage in a land Bergen calls Heropa – a hardboiled cityscape filled with souls of noir.
Crime Fiction Lover
MITZI is a girl with a grudge.
Armed with nothing more than her dad’s old pistols, she’s started cutting a swath through the underworld of Heropa.
As the criminals of the city start hunting the mysterious young lady who works as a vigilante in a city full of heroes, Mitzi’s rampage also garners the attention of someone on the side of the angels.
Enter Lee – a mysterious man with an offer Mitzi can’t refuse. A chance to help good people and not have to worry about the rules regarding licensed heroes needing to have a super-power? It sounds too good to be true and it probably is. But Mitzi is content to play by Lee’s rules... for now.
Based in the same world as writer Andrez Bergen’s novel Who Is Killing The Great Capes Of Heropa?, Bullet Gal is an homage to the classic heroines of pulp fiction as well as the noir aesthetic. Comparable to Sin City and Velvet, Bullet Gal promises to be a must-read for all fans of Golden-Age adventure-style comics!
Matt Morrison, Kaboooom
FOR anyone who knows Bergen, you know he may be one of the busiest people in the industry.
In between releasing music under the moniker Little Nobody, novels and short story collections, he’s founded IF? Commix, releasing 12 issues of Bullet Gal, and after a successful Kickstarter, Under Belly Comics released them all together in a collected paperback.
An Australian living in Japan with a wife and child, Bergen spins so many plates I’m surprised his day job isn’t supplying them to a restaurant.
Bullet Gal is a homage to all things pulp and noir. It acts as an expanded look into the character of Bullet Gal – original name Mina before she inherited those two pistols in each hand – from Bergen’s 2013 novel Who Is Killing The Great Capes Of Heropa? ...Though don’t worry, no prior knowledge of the canon is required, because Bergen lures us in with interesting characters and storytelling so tongue-in-cheek you’ll be surprised it doesn’t pierce through to the other side.
Like any great short story collection, it breathes with different voices, rather than falling into one single tone.
It’s obvious that these stories were developed across a period of time because each issue adds something new to the expanding mythology that the reader is introduced to, or already familiar with. Bergen’s voice as the narrator and through the characters is another example, of many, about what shines through in this. Bergen speaks with a bizarre mix of Australian slang, Gentleman’s English, and Japanese politeness. Oddly enough, it works. A vocabulary that you thought was left in the world of cassette tapes is resurrected back into the mind, filling you with a bliss state of nostalgia that only exists in old movies and stories your grandparents told you.
Bullet Gal herself is an extremely interesting character: witty and deadly. Her archenemy is femme fatale, a French assassin, so deadly and beautiful she makes Uma Thurman’s The Bride look like she could learn a thing or two.
Though, Bergen show’s his mastery of the pulp and noir genre by not letting these women fall victim to the tropes and clichés that we see so often in homages. These are powerful women, more powerful than the men who they choose to work for.
Bullet Gal is a collection of everything that Bergen knows best, and he knows it. These beautiful words all come together to create one fantastic expansion of the universe that Bergen creates.
It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for Blade Runner or The Matrix because, in these pages, something exists for you, calling to you, with a pistol aimed at you, just to be safe.
Jay Slayton-Joslin, Cultured Vultures
IF you love classic noir, you’ll love Bullet Gal by Andrez Bergen - only this isn’t classic noir.
It’s a new millennium pastiche of every noir motif there is but done as a stylized, digitized, mind-bending rhapsody that’ll leave you feeling like you’ve been slapped in the face by a French femme fatale.
The protagonist of Bullet Gal is seventeen year-old Mitzi (no last name) with a murkily tragic past who arrives in Heropa with little more than the clothing a Beat poet would carry in her valise and her 9mm Model B pistols with pearl handles.
She hates injustice and has seen her share of it so she has no qualms about using those pistols to wreak havoc on the bad guys. Who are the bad guys? Gangsters and composites of every gangster you‘ve ever heard of or someday will. They’ve heard of Mitzi and even though she’s easy on the eyes, they know they have reason to watch their backs.
Lee, a Cape (i.e. member of the Crime Crusaders Crew) is Mitzi’s mentor in this twisted and confusing universe that’s part Gotham/ Metropolis, part futuristic Melbourne, and part Chicago in the 1940’s.
Lee gives her advice and vital information, but there are eight versions of him, in varying shades of seriousness, honesty and sincerity, so Mitzi has to rely on her own sharp instincts, smarts and toughness to survive. And man, is she tough.
Her worst enemy is one she barely even knows, but who knows her: Brigit, French girlfriend of Sol. He’s a bad-ass gangster but even he defers to the supreme villainy of Mademoiselle (don’t call her ma’am or madam, please!) Brigit.
Like Mitzi, tragedy has followed her as well, only she’s the one who deliberately left it in her wake, often using sharp objects. To say that one reads Bullet Gal is somewhat inaccurate; it’s really more of an experience. There’s sharp dialogue and clever narrative, especially if you like hard-boiled noir, whether set in the past, future, or in a digitized sci-fi world that might get re-set at any time. Like I indicated at the beginning, this is noir run through a blender and spiked with a little something illicit and exotic that’ll send you reeling.
At first I felt like I might be missing something, tried to go back and see if there was more explanation that would help it all make sense sooner but then I realized that partaking of Bullet Gal is like looking at an expressionist painting, reading a modernist novel or watching The Big Sleep; if you look too closely it doesn’t make sense. You have to take a step back and get lost in it; feel it.
After all, confusion, liquor, cigarette smoke, and too much coffee late at night are all integral to the mood of noir, along with a vague sense of paranoia, longing, and wicked humor.
Mitzi’s world is awash in all these things but she is a creature of it and navigates the dark stairways, lonely hospital hallways and deadly streets with self-assurance and confidence — and those two polished nickel 9mm Star Model B pearl-handled pistols. Mademoiselle Brigit, beware.
Nevada McPherson, Graphic Policy
IT'S the era of World War II, and 17-year-old Mitzi lands in the dysfunctional, dystopian city, Heropa - a crime-ridden, high-octane city relying on teams of superheroes to save the day.
Mitzi (aka Bullet Gal) doesn't have super powers but sees herself as the queen of justice, armed with 9mm pistols, surviving using her own wit.
She soon meets Lee who happens to have his own kind of super power, but is unsure if she can trust him. Surrounded by drama and tragedy, Mitzi is creating enemies in this bizarre universe. She suffers love and loss but still manages to pull out brilliant quips - thanks to writer Andrez Bergen, whose snappy dialogue keeps the ball rolling.
Bergen has captured the imagination of many with his latest instalment of neo-noir influenced by sci-fi, pulp fiction and hard-boiled crime stories.
This is crime-caping with bags of attitude. Bergen took Bullet Gal from his previous novel Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? He obviously had a lot of love for the character as she also appears in anthology comic Tales to Admonish with her own story “All Fur Coat, No Knickers”.
As Bullet Girl is a prequel to these stories it isn't necessary to read these first, although it will be interesting to see what adventures she gets up to next.
It's been deservingly compared to Frank Miller's Sin City and Ed Brubaker’s Velvet, having successfully turned the femme fatale tropes around and created a kick-ass female character.
Samantha Ward, Starburst Magazine
BERGEN is onto something new here, yet it's something old at the same time.
This novel is a prequel of sorts to his 2013 novel, Who Is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?, but... another influence that goes unmentioned is T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, in that Bergen is taking scraps of popular culture from decades past and juxtaposing them to help tell a story.
The story concerns a young woman who becomes a noir-like hero in the city of Heropa. I won't give anything away, yet Bergen is definitely inventive and the book looks great.
You don't need to have read any other Bergen books to enjoy Bullet Gal, but if you pick it up you many want to find out more about the worlds Bergen has been developing.
My favorite book of his so far was One Hundred Years of Vicissitude (2012), followed by Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat (2011). He also does other comics from his home in Tokyo, though with the flavor of his native land of Australia. Give Bullet Gal a try. It's not like much else you'll see these days!
Jack Seabrook, Bare*Bones Zine
AS I started to read the story, I thought Bergen was telling an autobiographical tale of how the setting was created in his mind. Even after I finished reading it I surmise there is some of the real Bergen in the story.
I think that kind of honesty and internal connection is necessary for a work to feel real. As always, the writing style that Bergen uses is simple dialogue. He speaks directly to you, drawing you into his world. His characters aren’t overly developed leaving the reader with plenty of mystery, but still enough to connect with them and actually care what happens to them.
It’s dark and gritty and sometimes even confusing, but in a way that makes you want more.
If you love Bergen’s stories about Heropa as much as I do, then more is exactly what you want.
John Kowalski, Word of the Nerd