by Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
The moment. Be in it.
Drew: I have a theory that teens are such popular subjects of drama because they are so famously terrible at anticipating the repercussions of their actions. We accept impulsive behavior from Romeo and Juliet because they’re basically kids, but that same impulsivity needs explanation for adult characters. Maybe they’re prideful or hubristic or jealous or afraid; whatever it is, the drama is driven by a flaw in the characters that keeps them from acting rationally. Lou Pirlo has plenty of flaws that might explain his impulsivity — he’s both an alcoholic and a werewolf, after all — but with Moonshine 12, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso suggest that impulsivity might be baked into his very core. The result is refreshingly free of the dramatic irony that characterizes other drama; we might recognize the decisions here as impulsive or ill-thought-through, but we have no idea what their repercussions might be.
Azzarello and Risso set the tone with another of Lou’s nightmarish fantasies. This time, Lou is dwelling on his mother — a figure I’m not sure has come up before. Her message of living in the moment seems to have manifested itself perfectly in Lou, whose present moment finds him naked and on the lam. He obviously doesn’t have a choice but to live in the moment, but this issue insists that none of the other characters do, either.
Take Mean Tom and Emmitt’s own escape. Emmitt is initially worried about the repercussions of killing Boss Dirt, but those concerns don’t amount to much after the fact. As Lou put it: “…there was nothing could be done to change it.” But the two still have plans, however short term they may be. When they happen upon that little shack, their only plan seems to be to steal food and clothing, but they quickly add raping the mother to that list. But again, as Lou put it: the future “ain’t there.” That is, plans don’t amount to much in the world of Moonshine.
That’s not for lack of trying on Mean Tom’s part. And Risso renders the sexual assault with all of the brutal ugliness he can muster:
But those plans are cut short by Lou’s arrival. (And I gotta say, that insert shot of Lou’s shadow reaching for the gun has to be one of the cleverest ways to convey a simple action I’ve seen in quite a while.) Even then, Tom still sees some future where he overpowers Lou, but the future still ain’t there. There’s just no accounting for werewolves.
Plans go similarly awry back in town, as L’Ago prepares to leave, and Tempest has to decide whether she’s double-crossing him or her family. It’s not entirely clear what Tempest’s plan was, but she clearly didn’t anticipate Cacciatore watching from the sidelines in case his boss turned into a werewolf. The result is a complete morass that leaves L’Ago (and potentially Tempest) dead. The family doesn’t get Holt back. Tempest doesn’t get to leave. L’Ago doesn’t get eternal youth. There’s just no accounting for werewolves.
Which I guess leaves things basically planless: Lou isn’t interested in making them, and anyone who is meets a quick end. It’s a thrillingly open-ended way to end this arc; anything can happen. Case in point: the return of Delia. I’ve seen Azzarello mention that the next arc is going to feature voodoo more prominently, so I might have expected her return, but now that all seems like planning that this series might well reject.
Patrick, as always, there’s a ridiculous amount of stuff to talk about here, and I barely touched on any of it. I’ll refrain from just listing cool things I want to hear your thoughts on, but I couldn’t help but notice all of the child bystanders in this issue. With Lou’s parents always on his mind, I’m starting to wonder if this series might have a larger theme of the lessons younger generations pick up from older ones. I don’t know if you can flesh that out at all (I’m only just discovering it), but it’s definitely something I’m going to have to keep my eye on going forward.
Patrick: Not to pull an “I told you so,” but I did write about that same idea when we talked about issue 2 back in November 2016. I think it’s interesting where we don’t have children witnesses in this issue — most of the action involving L’Ago and his men seem to be completely un-witnessed. And I think we get a little clue into why that is when L’Ago explains what happened to his own wife. She died, 30 years ago, which means that he will always remember her as young, presumably pretty and hopeful. That’s a positive for L’Ago, a “silver lining” as he calls it, subtly foreshadowing the kinds of bullets we’re about to see Cacciatore fire from his hidden perch.
And I’ll circle back to foreshadowing, but because the issue is so insistent on it, let’s stay in this moment with L’Ago. There are no children in the car with him to remember this moment, so the only people who get to see this softer side of L’Ago are the grown-ass men with their values already fully developed. This sentimentality is purely in this moment. But it’s important to note that the actual woman L’Ago is describing is not in that moment. She’s gone — has been gone three decades. If there was going to be a L’Ago family tree at some point, it is now only a stump. So there aren’t any children around to be infected with L’Ago’s cunning, his sentimentality, or his fashion sense. As we’re about to see, his line and is influence is about to come to a hard stop.
I promised foreshadowing so let’s get to what I believe is the best page in the issue.
That center panel is absolutely marvelous. It serves as the background for the whole page, becoming the gutters that swallow up the rest of the panels. We are zoomed waaaaaay out, and this panel arrives just in time for Tempest and L’Ago to express their differences in the most top-level way imaginable. All conversation is based on some level of abstraction, and negotiations like these two are about to embark on, require deeply specific language. But L’Ago and Tempest simply are not there; they’re still struggling with the existential divide between them. That’s a topic of conversation that’s orders of magnitude broader than they need to be engaging in, and Risso’s ultra-wide angle enforces that.
Of course, it also hints at a perspective that I always forget about until after he shows his face: the sniper Cacciatore. Of course, this is the genius of Risso and Azzarello — masterful metaphors are also literal statements. When we do finally see L’Ago’s man on the hilltop, our brains rush to fill in the information we only half-understood on the previous page. The reader is essentially forced not to live in the moment, but to be flipping back to the past, which itself was suggesting we flip ahead to the future.
All of which is to say that this was a particularly spellbinding issue of a wholly engrossing series. It almost feels like it’s not in the spirit of the piece to say I can’t wait to see where they take the series next, so I’ll bite my tongue.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?