Moonshine 8: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers

Moonshine 8

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Dyin’? Boy, he can have this little life any time he wants to. Do ya hear that? Are ya hearin’ it? Come on. You’re welcome to it, ol’ timer. Let me know you’re up there. Come on. Love me, hate me, kill me, anything. Just let me know it.

Luke, Cool Hand Luke

Drew: It’s hard for me to read genre fiction through anything other than a deconstructionist lens. I mean, it’s hard for me to read anything through anything other than a deconstructionist lens, but this is especially true of genre fiction, where by definition conventions must be explicitly followed. Fortunately for me, that postmodern generic awareness is just as prevalent in creators as it is in audiences, so I’m never struggling to find multidimensional, self-aware, fully postmodern genre fictions. But the good ones, the ones that actually force me to reexamine the genres they’re deconstructing (rather than just having fun with some winking references), are few and far between. But Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s collaborations have always gone a step further. Beyond cute self-awareness or even symphonic use of references, Azzarello and Risso’s work offer new perspectives on the foundational genre pieces they take on. That is to say, their comics don’t just gain meaning from their references — their references gain meaning from the comics. They’re almost a purer form of postmodernism, digesting entire genres in a few issues, offering new readings to even the most familiar works of art. Continue reading

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Moonshine 7: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Drew Baumgartner

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Patrick: On February 14th, a 19 year old former student opened fire on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He killed 14 students and three teachers. The gunman had been expelled before completing school, and he bounced in and out of foster care. He suffered from depression, cut himself, frequented white supremacy websites, and actively posted about his desire to shoot up the school. When he was still a student, he wasn’t allowed to wear a backpack, because administrators feared he might bring something dangerous on the campus. On the day of the shooting, he was armed with an AR-15, which he had purchased legally. This shooting is a critical system failure. And that failure is necessarily the failure of the generation that came before both the shooter and his victims — the children punished for their parents’ crime of inaction. How does that happen? How does a generation obsessed with protecting their young end up harming them? Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s Moonshine 7  explores the devastating relationship between generations, staging acts of innocence and malice simultaneously. Continue reading

Moonshine 6

Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Moonshine 6, originally released March 29, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

“All actions takes place, so to speak in a kind of twilight, which like a fog or moonlight, often tends to make things seem grotesque and larger than they really are.”

-Karl Von Clausewitz, On War

Patrick: Lou Pirlo is, ostensibly, the protagonist of Moonshine. But he’s a man badly in need of definition. Is he an ambitious mafia man, working his way up the rungs of the organized crime ladder? Or is he a drunken fuck-up with a pretty face? Or — and this may be the most tantalizing question of all — is he a murderous wolf-man? It’s a question that requires clarity to answer, and that has never been one of Pirlo’s strong suits. As the fog of war closes in on Hiram’s Hallow, so too does the narrative confusion obscure our hero. Continue reading

Moonshine 5

moonshine-5

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Moonshine 5, originally released February 8th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

I’ll only do nudity if it’s important to the plot.

Actress, Traditional

Drew: I can’t remember when I first heard this sentiment, but I can guess with 100% certainty the gender of the person who said it. Actresses use this line to justify the choice to disrobe, but the fact that they need any kind of criteria speaks to how often they might be asked to do nude scenes that aren’t important to the plot. More importantly, I’ve never heard a male actor express anything similar to this, because male nudity is so rare — they don’t need a rule for deciding which nude roles to take because they’ll likely never be offered one in the first place. Curiously, because male nudity is so rare, it necessarily has more impact, making it feel more “important” than even the most “essential” female nudity — I can count the number of times I’ve seen male nudity in films on one hand, but I’m certain I’m remembering all of them. This may be a tellingly long-winded way of saying I want to talk about Lou Pirlo’s wang, but damnit, I think it’s important. Continue reading

Moonshine 4

moonshine-4

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. Continue reading

Moonshine 3

Alternating Currents: Moonshine 3, Drew and Patrick

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Moonshine 3, originally released December 14th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Drew: I remember my third grade teacher expressing regret at having sat too close to the stage at a magic show. “I could see how every trick was done,” she said, oblivious that her complaints were describing what I always wanted. To me, the “magic” of a magic wasn’t in suspending my disbelief, but knowing that they were doing something that isn’t magic right before my eyes, and I still couldn’t see it. Suffice it to say, my love of seeing the strings in art — of appreciating the thought and care that goes into those strings — runs deep. The best artists, like the best magicians, hide those strings in plain sight, such that people like my third grade teacher regret noticing them, but finding and celebrating effective uses of even the simplest techniques offers an entirely different set of pleasures. As Moonshine continues to develop its relationships in issue 3, I’d like to turn to the storytelling mechanics that make this series so remarkable. Continue reading

Moonshine 2

moonshine-2

Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Moonshine 2, originally released November 16th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Patrick: My father grew up in Theresa, Wisconsin. It’s a small, rural town a good 50 miles northwest of Milwaukee. Most of his side of the family is still there, cheering on the Packers and living lives I’m going to charitably call “old fashioned.” My father must have envisioned a better — or at least different — life for himself, and he got out, went to college and become an engineer. He worked in northern Illinois, the greater Chicagoland area, so the physical distance he traversed wasn’t enormous, but the philosophical distance he traveled was. He values education and art and compassion — a departure from what he was raised on. In turn, my siblings and I have all also moved away from our Wisconsin homestead and embraced cultural, societal and philosophical ideas even further from where we were raised. And not even in the same direction — my older sister is in the army, and my little brother is a crusader for homosexual homeless teens in Colorado. And I’m an artsy-fartsy comedian in Los Angeles. We’re allowed this room to grow with relatively little violence or conflict precisely because of the distance we’ve given ourselves from our stomping grounds. Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s Moonshine 2 shows just how traumatic that transition from one generation to the next can be when everyone stays in one place.  Continue reading

Moonshine 1

Alternating Currents: Moonshine 1, Drew and Patrick

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Moonshine 1, originally released October 8th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

It’s the notes you don’t play that matter.

Traditional, Jazz

Drew: I don’t think this quote means what people think it means. It’s often extrapolated into the hackneyed quote put in jazz snobs’ mouths that “you have to listen to the notes they’re not playing,” as though jazz is somehow about carving melodies of negative space in solid blocks of sound. To me, this quote suggests almost the complete opposite, reminding players that jazz isn’t about playing all the notes, and that a well-placed rest can be remarkably effective. It’s the corollary to the art axiom that every line must have a purpose — a good artist must omit whatever doesn’t meet that criteria.

Obviously, “purpose” carries some value judgements that can vary from artwork to artwork, but for comics, we might understand the purpose to be “conveying the narrative.” Again, this will vary from instance to instance — sometimes, set-dressings will be important for establishing the setting or a specific mood, other times, they might needlessly clutter a moment of action or emotional turbulence — which is why good artists will vary that level of detail. I’d like to suggest Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso are masters of that kind of precision, giving their readers exactly what information they need when they need it — no more, no less — and that Moonshine 1 stands as a shining example of this mastery. Continue reading

100 Bullets: Brother Lono 8

Alternating Currents: 100 Bullets 8, Drew and PatrickToday, Drew and Patrick are discussing 100 Bullets: Brother Lono 8, originally released February 26th, 2014.

We are what he made us to be. To try and be something else…is the greatest sin of all.

Lono

Drew: I didn’t know religion growing up. My parents never took me to church, and somehow, none of my childhood friends ever went, either. It wasn’t until I entered middle school that I made friends with people of any kind of faith — run of the mill midwest Lutheranism, but they might as well have been the pope in my sheltered mind. Being both 13 and an asshole (I know that seems redundant, but I only grew out of one of those), I enjoyed picking fights with them over simple religious tenants. The simplest — why do bad things happen to good people? — was most commonly answered with the wimpy cop-out of “God works in mysterious ways.” That seems like a simple enough “we’ll never know” (and was probably only ever invoked to get me off their backs), but as with most religious answers, that simplicity masks a world infinitely more complex than the question itself. Is everything that ever happens part of God’s “mysterious” workings? If “bad” things can be part of God’s plan, doesn’t that throw the whole notion of morality out the window? These questions lie at the heart of Brother Lono 8, though the answers Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso come up with may not be what anyone suspected. Continue reading

100 Bullets: Brother Lono 7

Alternating Currents: Brother Lono 7, Drew and PatrickToday, Drew and Patrick are discussing 100 Bullets: Brother Lono 7, originally released January 8th, 2014.

…I’m afraid the heart of religion is fear.

Father Manny

Drew: It’s hard to deny the importance of fear. It is the fundamental driver of our sense of self preservation, and may very well be the most basic, universal emotion there is. Of course, that also makes it the easiest to manipulate. Modern life is filled with organizations trying to scare us: corporations want to scare us into buying their products, political parties want to scare us into electing their candidates — but none of those organizations are about fear in quite the same way that religion is. I’m not just being cynical (and I don’t think Brian Azzarello or Father Manny is when he makes the above statement) — underneath all of that scary stuff about hell and sin is an elemental fear of the unknown: what if our ignorance of things we couldn’t possibly know (i.e. the meaning of life, the existence of a creator, etc.) was bad? Brother Lono 7 finds almost every character confronted by some unknown entity, and the results are decidedly bad for all of them. Continue reading