Sometimes, I get really excited about a comic. When I first read about Brian Azzarello (W) and Eduardo Risso’s (A) new comic Moonshine (Image Comics), I knew I had to have it. I even made a sticky note with the release date that I then made the background on my phone. That’s how much I was looking forward to this comic. Why? Well, primarily because I’m from the Appalachian (pronounced “App-a-latch-un) mountains. I know that moonshine is still made in those mountains, and I expect it always will be. So yea, I wanted to know how they would represent the people and the dialect.
The problems with my desire to critique the comic for its representations is simple. I wasn’t born during prohibition, so how could I possibly know how things were back then. I can’t. All I have are the few stories I’ve heard from friends and relatives, and those are not even enough to base an opinion on.
Instead, I’ll critique the comic on what it should be judged for: its art, writing, layout, colors, letters, etc. The things that all true comic fans judge their books by. Oh, and let’s not forget the covers. Comics are truly the one type of book you CAN often judge by its cover.
Thus far I’ve read issues 1-4. Each issue’s cover has been predominantly two-four color artwork (unfortunately, I didn’t get the regular cover for #4, so I’m sure about it). The first cover is sinister in greens, black and a white moon in the background. Number 2 is no less frightening, done in shades of gray, black, and red. Likewise, #3 is horrific done in black, white, and blood red. All of these covers give the reader a sense of dread and apprehension. Really, you start to wonder if you really WANT to open the cover, or just leave whatever horrors are in there well enough alone.
I decided to brave it and quickly dove into #1 when I returned from the comic shop. To call #1 disappointing would not be fair. As with most good series, it does the job of setting up the rest of the story arc as well as the entire series. That, as we all know, is a lot to undertake in 24 pages. And thank you Image for printing comics with NO ads. It makes the reading immersion so much better.
One of the first things I noticed is the art, then the coloring, then the layout. All of these are done a bit differently than your everyday comic. The layout includes mostly black panels to keep the reader in that suspenseful mode. The few times things get lighter provide a much-needed relief from the tension of waiting to see what happens next. There’s almost an audible sigh of relief to have that dome of dread lifted even momentarily before being plunged back into the unknown. This holds true throughout the first four comics. Colors are also used to move the reader from scene to scene. You’ll probably notice this in some of the images provided here.
So the basic storyline, without giving anything away, is fairly simple and somewhat well-known. It’s prohibition and people in the underground booze-running business are looking for the best product to supply their very thirsty patrons. In this story, that businessman is Joe, in New York, and he’s had a taste of pure heaven. Obviously, he wants this product in bulk for his establishments. He sends one of his goons, Lou Pirlo (who’s really not a goon), to the Appalachian mountains of Virginia to secure the hooch from Hiram Holt, the moonshiner. Lou does his best, but his best isn’t quite good enough, as Hiram doesn’t want to sell to any city slicker in New York. From there, things get very, very interesting for Lou and everyone around him.
Four issues in, and I’m hooked. There are times that I won’t review a comic until I’ve had a chance to read 3 or 4 issues. Other times, the first issue really grabs me, but maybe it goes down hill after that. This one was a bit of a slow starter but ramps up big time in the 3rd and 4th issues. If you like suspense, a tad of the horror, and a different kind of comic, this is one you will definitely enjoy.