Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art & Colors: Eduardo Risso
Letters & Design: Jared H. Fletcher
Release: February 21, 2018
Combining genres is a difficult balancing act. Even when done well there’s a risk the audience won’t quite know what to make of the finished product—think Firefly. Moonshine is one of these genre colliding projects: a crime story with supernatural horror elements. Moonshine #7, though a tough first issue to read for the series, is a good example of those genre elements melding together.
Moonshine #7 opens with a short dream sequence that leads to the main character Lou Pirlo’s thoughts as he wakes up in a railroad boxcar. When the train comes to a stop, the freight hoppers jump off in a bid to evade waiting police. Pirlo ends up in custody, which disappoints a crime boss who’d had designs for him. The issue then shifts to a poor rural family discussing whether or not to avenge their dead father. That decision leads to a shocking cliffhanger.
This is an issue told through minimalism, and more even than the writing, it is the art that conveys that sentiment. I am seldom a person who notices art first in comics—an irony given that comic books are “graphic literature.” Moonshine #7 left me remembering the art more than the story. Eduardo Risso’s use of color throughout the issue sets a mood in every scene: the washed out yellows and blues of hot daytime, the dark blue of night, the blood red of fear. Throughout this issue, I had that nostalgic feeling of watching yesteryear but through the distorted lens of an old movie. And rather than providing a sense of kinetic energy and action, Risso’s pencils bring to mind photographs—moments of action frozen in time.
The minimalist style that works so well with the art proves problematic with the writing. Brian Azzarello hasn’t written an easy jumping on point with the first issue of a new storyline. It’s six pages in before the apparent main character gets a name, there’s no information offered about the crime deal Lou Pirlo was connected with, and no backstory is offered on the vengeful family at the issue’s conclusion. Azzarello doesn’t seem particularly concerned with making issue seven approachable for people who didn’t read issue six.
Critique of its impenetrability aside, the overall writing in Moonshine #7 is an exceptional example of blending the crime and horror genres. The clipped dialogue plays into the mood established by Risso’s art of this being a story lifted from an old crime movie, and Pirlo’s thoughts help round him out as a relatable if tortured character. His thinking is arrived at via a nightmare in the issue’s opening pages, and it’s those pages that introduce the horror element—teasing at werewolves. But the balance of the story lacks any supernatural elements until the final panels where a werewolf makes an appearance after several pages of oblique hints leading up to the reveal. This light touch on the story’s horror component is the perfect way to balance it with the larger world of old crime fiction.
I have the feeling that to fully appreciate Moonshine #7 I’d need to read the trade for the first six issues, and that’s a weakness that drags it down. While the issue is engaging it generates no shortage of questions about histories and relationships that trace back to previous issues. But Moonshine #7 excels in blending two genres together; in that, it is a shining example. Azzarello and Risso have created a compelling environment that feels like an old-school crime movie…that just happens to have a werewolf or two in it. Great action, great art, and great writing continue to prove that it is a worthy rival among many other superhero comics. For now, that’s enough to keep me around for the next issue.