Moonshine is a new Image series by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, the team behind 100 Bullets. Let’s see what they have up their sleeves. Is it good?
Moonshine #1 (Image Comics)
Somewhere out in the Appalachians during the late 1920s, a mobster by the name of Lou Pirlo is sent to make a deal with a local moonshiner named Hiram Holt. Holt makes some of the best moonshine in the business and Pirlo’s boss wants to negotiate a deal with the man to bring his stuff to New York. However, out in the backwoods, there’s something deadly and nasty waiting. Something Pirlo is soon going to have an encounter with.
The Initial Impression
The thing that stands out the most about Moonshine #1 to me is that it feels unfinished. Not in the sense that artwork is sketchy, or the dialogue in word balloons are missing, or that scenes are not done. It’s more in the sense that the story just feels incomplete. It’s like we got half of a story in the first issue, but we’re missing the second half that would act as a hook to really grab the audience’s attention. What we get in the issue felt interesting, but not enough.
Story-wise, this is pure setup. We follow the journey of Lou Pirlo as he attempts to strike up a deal with Hiram Holt out in the wilderness. We get some mysteries brewing with Holt and his kin and learn a bit about Pirlo, with his ambition and drive for being out there in West Virginia in an area where he’s clearly out of his element. For a reader interested in this time period and area, the creative team does a pretty solid job of capturing the tone and sense from that era in the way people talked and dressed and how society was then. That stuff is good and there could be enough there to pique a person’s interest alone if that’s what they’re into.
However, we barely learn anything about the characters (certainly nothing that’ll make us like them or want to follow their story) and the story just ends abruptly. Pirlo meets some new characters at the end of the issue and cut. It’s like if you were to watch an episode of an hour long crime drama, but the episode ends half way in. It doesn’t feel satisfying and what you are left with isn’t enough to really get invested in. The first issue almost works but just needs more to it.
Outside of that abrupt ending, though, Azzarello’s storytelling and pacing were very solid. The story kept moving at a good speed, scenes transitioned well from one to the other without any awkward transition, and no moment felt like it dragged on for too long. Characterization was alright, but rather limited here. We know something about Pirlo and Holt, along with some of the people around them, but they don’t make much of an impression beyond that (Holt is a bit more intimidating though). The dialogue was interesting, trying to strive for accuracy with the lingo of the time period while also trying to get the right accent and dialect for the characters. It works more than it doesn’t and leads to some good exchanges between the characters, like Pirlo meeting Holt. It did occasionally suffer when the word choice made things hard to understand and a grammar mistake or two ended up slipping through as well. Despite that, Moonshine #1 was written well, but could be better.
The artwork by Eduardo Risso was the strongest point to the comic. Risso has a grimy, gritty style in the way he draws his characters and settings, which tonally fits with the type of story the team is creating. It’s also a style that does a decent job at making very distinct and unique looking characters, making everyone stand out well from each other and also being decently expressive. The layouts and panel arrangements make the story flow well and easy to follow along with. The colors are rather beautiful and help with the atmosphere, going very warm and light throughout most of the issue when Pirlo goes to meet Holt. It’s a good looking issue and easily some of the best work I’ve seen from Risso (even better than 100 Bullets, in my opinion).
Is It Good?
Moonshine #1 is a comic that’s almost good. It has all the right ingredients to make it good–a decent setup with a supernatural element to it, a great setting that feels accurately captured, solid writing, and quite nice looking artwork. However, it doesn’t feel all there. Its characters are just not interesting enough and the story comes across as if it’s missing half of itself. As such, while it is tempting, I recommend waiting on Moonshine until its second issue comes out. Unless you are a huge fan of this creative team, there’s no need to hurry to get this the moment it’s released.