Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Moonshine 4, originally released January 11th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot! The world forgetting, by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d?”
Alexander Pope, “Eloisa to Abelard”
Patrick: Context is an important part of the modern conception of identity. When you meet someone, you ask what they do, where they’re from, who their family is. You’re not so much asking them to look within in themselves for definition, but outward to the relationships and roles shape them. But that is a frustratingly limited definition of identity, and one that leaves the identifier out of the equation entirely. Pope’s poem quoted above meditates on the serenity granted to the person that is courageous enough to both forget and be forgotten by the outside world. Only stripped of context can we ever hope to discover who our character truly is. That’s the situation that Lou Pirlo finds himself in — his stuttering past holding him back from realizing his true potential. What he sees as “holes” waiting to be filled are actually blissfully empty memories.
The whole issue sees Lou pulled apart by competing impulses to obey Boss Joe and to simply survive. But the most enlightening portion of this issue has got to be the very end, where Lou explains the backhanded compliment that is his nickname, “Handsome Lou.” Lou’s either not very bright, or not very ambitious, or not very lucky, but whatever the case, no one considers him reliable. That Handsome handle is the equivalent of saying “he’s a nice guy, but…” That’s the baggage that he carries with him to Hiram’s hollow, and proving everyone back in the city wrong is precisely what motivates him to engage the Holt clan. So like, success here wouldn’t even be his success — it’d be Joe’s success.
The scene plays out bathed in the peach glow of a campfire. It’s an earthy tone that comes off as almost alien in the issue, standing in stark contrast to most of the pages with are full of cool blues and greens. In fact, the only time we get anything remotely resembling this warmer color palette is during Lou’s half-remembered flashback, but that’s even more about the contrast between muted reds and a hunting gray scale than anything else. No, this campfire scene is connected to Tempest’s naked body.
This moment isn’t about sex, but the nudity does help to draw attention to the colors in play here. Tempest and Lou are about to head into the woods to do… something. Again, to this point, we don’t have any confirmation on who is an is not a werewolf, but the smart money says that both of these two (and probably anyone who drinks the moonshine) can transform into monsters at night. Artist Eduardo Risso is drawing an explicit connection between the fragility and honesty of nudity with whatever Lou and Tempest are about to go do. Lou’s on the cusp of understanding what’s in those “holes” in his memory, and again, the colors do most of the forecasting there.
Naked, Lou walks directly into the the dark blue night. And the dark blue pages in this issue are among the most violent and grotesque in the series — that’s where the wolves start fucking people up. And Lou follows Tempest there as a journey of self-discovery.
The implication is that these “holes” are opportunities for Lou to define himself. We get some violent holes right from page one — bullet holes. Writer Brian Azzarello smartly drops us in and focuses on the gore before doubling back to expand on how the shootout played out. The “how” of it isn’t really that important – what is important is that there’s information missing. And then when Lou tries to escape in one of the cars, Mrs. Holt blows out the tires, and Risso gives us an interesting perspective on that action.
We’re close up on these blown tires, to the point where we can see the holes. That sends Lou into the woods, where he has both his status in the criminal organization and the strength of the wolf demonstrated for him again.
I don’t know if Azzarello is actually making the case that Lou would be happier if he embraced the gaps in his memory, but it certainly does seem like a life running around the hillside, drinking moonshine and eating elk would suit him better than trying to strike deals for big city mobsters.
Drew: It’s certainly possible, though in the meantime it seems like Lou hates these holes, and specifically, not knowing how responsible he is for whatever happened during his blackouts. Patrick, I had a slightly different read of Lou’s status within Joe’s organization — it’s not just a deficiency of personality or skill that earned him his nickname, but that “something happened — a long time ago.” Lou goes on to add that this was long before he worked for Lou, leading me to think that it has something to do with that memory of a little girl on a bloody beach that we saw last month; some past trauma that is still affecting him to this day. Reading between the lines, it’s easy to see a connection between Lou’s unreliability and his familiarity with blackouts: he’s a drunk. He has some utility as a personality, but can’t be trusted to accomplish much on his own.
In that way, it may be tempting for Lou to abandon the boss that doesn’t hold him in high esteem, but I’m not convinced the hills of West Virginia are a good fit for him, either. Even leaving aside his addiction, his relationship with Hiram and his family is complicated at best, naked romps with Tempest notwithstanding. Also, there are werewolves. We get confirmation that Enos, at the very least, is a werewolf, but there’s no good way of knowing who isn’t one. Tempest? All of the Holts? Lou? Patrick, you suggested it may be related to drinking the Moonshine, though it sure seems like Lou didn’t become a Werewolf this last time he blacked out — he’s the one who shot the werewolf, who we later learn was Enos. I’m certainly not ready to rule out that Lou is also a werewolf, but the specifics of when and why might be more complicated than we can really guess right now.
Patrick, I think your summary of the holes in this issue is near comprehensive, though you leave out the crudest one — the one implied by the vaguely vaginal shape of the night sky around Tempest’s silhouette. I don’t think you’re wrong to connect the color of the night sky to violence, but it seems like the violence Lou is creeping towards this time is of a decidedly sexual variety. It also promises some answers — Tempest obviously knows more about what’s going on than Lou does, and I can’t help but wonder if the nudity and the woods has more to do with some kind of pagan-esque ritual than the tryst Lou thinks he’s in for.
Of course, it seems like all of the women in Lou’s life know more than he gives them credit for. Delia had a vision of Lou’s sister in the night. She doesn’t say exactly what she saw, but she does hand Lou a knife, telling him he “should” have it.
Delia never explains what the knife is for, but I’m sure it will play a big role at some point. The other woman that surprises Lou is young Cissy, whose casual racism and apparent jadedness give Lou pause. He remarks that he “thought she was a sweet kid,” though he didn’t really have much to base that on. It was a hole in his experience that he filled in, though was disturbed by what that information actually was.
Which I suppose brings me back to”Eloisa to Abelard”. To me, those lines don’t just celebrate forgetting, but ignorance more generally. Perhaps Lou would be better off thinking that Cissy is a “sweet kid,” or having no idea of what’s going on with Holt’s family, but is seems like all of this is somehow tied up with his own emotional baggage. That is, he’s already stuck with something he can’t forget, and can only move past it through the knowledge and experience he’s having now. That’s not exactly a turn I expected this story about gangsters and werewolves to take, which is exactly what makes it so thrilling.
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