Atmospheric, visceral, and unabashedly pulpy, Azzarello and Risso’s latest collaboration is a series you can sink your teeth into.
Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso are no strangers to each other or the potential of the graphic narrative. From Johnny Double through 100 Bullets to Spaceman, the dynamic duo has entranced fans and critics alike with their stylish genre-mashing thrillers.
This week, the stellar creative team moves their practice to Image Comics for a new pulp-inspired horror series set during the height of Prohibition. Lou Pirlo is a big city, no-nonsense mob “torpedo” (professional gunman) with a taste for fine whiskey. When his boss sends him to the backwoods of Appalachia to secure a lucrative moonshine operation, Pirio thinks it’ll be a cinch to get Hiram Holt and his redneck clan on track.
Of course, what he discovers in the Appalachian outback is something much darker and more sinister than a paid milk run to hillbilly country. Although a man of the hills, Holt is no dummy. He’s a straight-up businessman, who knows exactly how much his top-notch product is worth to the booze-starved patrons up North. What’s more, he’s willing to protect his business and defend his family with a brutal, animalistic ruthlessness that shocks even a hardened gangster like Pirlo.
There’s an insidious undercurrent of menace and general unease simmering beneath the surface of the plot, as Pirlo struggles to adapt to the strange rural rhythm of life in Appalachia. He descends deeper into an alien world of slow time and sultry heat light years distant from the rat race and cold lines of the big city.
Anyone who’s ventured forth from the safety of their fortified urban bunkers to the open spaces sprawling outside their city limits knows what it’s like to feel like the proverbial fish out of water. Azzarello and Risso play up this feeling of culture shock, using the sensation to create deeper layer of dread-infused tension to Pirlo’s increasingly surreal journey into the Appalachian night.
As expected, this first issue is a slick production, welding Azzarello’s hard-boiled dialogue and blistering pace to Risso’s stylish, atmospheric visuals with a natural ease born of their long years of collaboration. There’s no denying the creative synergy fueling their partnership, even if this first issue reads a bit like a backdoor pilot for a TV or movie deal.
Despite this, Moonshine is a fun, engrossing read from two of the medium’s most accomplished practitioners and lays the groundwork for a new blood-curdling crime series that will surely keep readers coming back for more.
Brian Azzarello (W), Eduardo Risso (A) • Image Comics, $2.99