Moonshine is a new comic about a Prohibition-era gangster sent deep into the dark hills of Virginia to recruit a hillbilly moonshiner to work for the organization. If the copy and the silhouette on the back cover don’t clue you in that this is a werewolf story, in the very first scene of three revenuers get dismembered. I also literally just realized that the title is a play on werewolf canon too. This is the kind of critical insight that keeps you coming back.
I’m going to keep this short. If you want the really short version, it’s this: this comic is a mess.
“Handsome” Lou is the gangster Joe “the Boss” Masseria picks to trek down to Virginia and make the deal. Azzarello uses Lou’s frequent bouts of alcohol-induced memory loss to play with the narrative, frequently jumping ahead and then sometimes returning when Lou learns what happened while he was blacked out. (Maybe don’t send the guy who can’t handle his booze to handle the moonshiners? Did Masseria learn nothing from Rush?) Anyway, the jumping around never quite has the effect Azzarello seems to be going for, but it does make the story overly hard to follow.
There is just so much going on here that none of it really works. There are werewolves, and maybe a witch too. An extended hillbilly family, and a fresh batch of gangsters on Lou’s heels. It’s horror and crime fiction and regular noir and country noir. We get flashbacks to the death of Lou’s sister, perhaps prophetic dreams, and it tries to say something about race. A writer who could do all of that well in a hundred pages would have to be a genius. Azzarello doesn’t do it all well.
Risso goes with a lurid, noirish look for the art. There are lots of blacks, large portions of panels hidden in shadows, with the area out of the shadows cycling through any number of colors—orange, red, blue—based on the source of the limited light of the time. Most of the characters—hillbilly, black, or Italian—are intentionally drawn in the most stereotypically offensive but realistic manner possible. There is also a lot of blood and violence, but the nature of the medium means seeing more of the former than of the latter. The blood drenched panels are frequently arresting; but when we do get to see the violence take place it never really worked for me.
This is right up my alley, but I don’t know if I will stick around for volume 2.
3 of 5 Stars.