Hey gang! I don’t know about you lot, but the year is quickly disappearing already – I feel like I’ve blinked and it’s jumped from January to March. It’s either that or I’m losing my memory… which, believe it or not, provides a great segue for me to talk about this week’s comic! This time around, I’ve delved into Moonshine volume one, written by the 100 Bullets dream team of Brian Azzarello (Wonder Woman) and Eduardo Risso (Logan).
The year is 1929, and Prohibition is in full swing. “Handsome” Lou Pirlo has been sent to the depths of West Virginia to negotiate a deal with the best moonshiner in the USA, Hiram Holt. A slick-talking New York mobster, Lou thinks his latest assignment will be a cakewalk – but he hasn’t accounted for Hiram being just as tough, ruthless and conniving as any mob boss. When his initial attempts at swindling Hiram go astray, Lou has to juggle the patience of both a furious boss, and an openly hostile Hiram – otherwise, it’ll be all out war between the mob and Hiram’s clan of hillbillies. Matters are complicated when Lou starts to lose time, and people start to turn up dead, torn to pieces. Hiram will do anything to hold on to his operation, and will go even further to keep a much darker secret – and Lou is right in the firing line.
So here’s the thing, right: Moonshine has some serious pedigree. Azzarello and Risso, best known for their work on 100 Bullets, should be perfectly placed to pick up a title and produce something that’s an instant classic. That being said, I never got further than one volume with 100 Bullets, and after reading Moonshine, I’m getting the same feeling. Moonshine has a lot going for it – I like Azzarello’s Wonder Woman run a lot, Risso’s artwork is solid and reminds me of Mike Mignola’s fantastic style on Hellboy, and a deliciously pulpy story that makes it perfect for this column. However, I couldn’t help but feel a little let down by it.
That’s not to say that Moonshine is bad – I’ve read much worse – but it’s not likely to end up on anyone’s classics list with volume one alone. I think the main issue is that it tries to blend too many elements at once, and in doing so pays more attention to certain aspects of its story than others.
Moonshine starts off as a conventional mob story, and comes across as akin to an old favourite of mine, Fatale, but focuses more on the mafioso and his counterparts rather than delving deeper into the supernatural elements that begin to creep into the tale as the pages turn. This is likely by design, but I can’t help but feel that it’s a missed opportunity – the idea of a blend between 1920s mafia noir, redneck hillbilly shenanigans and supernatural horror in a bayou sounds like a no-brainer, but there was a chunk of the story following the mafia men (one is literally called Fat Tony, in one of the cheesiest choices of the entire book) that I felt was rather unnecessary. The creeping horror of dealing with Holt and his men was still interesting, but it felt like an unnecessary deviation from what would have otherwise been an engaging tale.
All things consider, Moonshine has a lot of potential. While it is let down somewhat by its composition, it has a lot of really likeable elements – they just don’t pay off immediately. If you like your horror dark, and your noir intense, Moonshine will definitely be your thing.
Written by Alastair McGibbon