Moonshine 12: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers

Moonshine 12

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

The moment. Be in it.

Lou Pirlo

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. Continue reading

Moonshine 11: 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: Hey, how fast is a comic? I’ve read twenty-page comics that take me over half an hour to get through, and there are some issues I can breeze through in less than 10 minutes. Some comics take place over the course of 60 in-universe seconds, while others stretch on to tell stories that take entire lifetimes. So the answer to my question is: variable. Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s Moonshine 11 masterfully commands pacing to create breathless swings between compression, tension and release. Continue reading

Moonshine 10: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers

Moonshine 10

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

Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.

Anton Chekhov

Drew: Chekhov’s gun has parallels in virtually every artform (at least in aesthetics that value clarity); whether it’s a brushstroke in illustration, a word in prose, or a note in music, if it doesn’t have an explicit purpose, it shouldn’t be there. But, of course, our knowledge of this principle lends a sense of foreshadowing to every object, character, or concept that is introduced in a narrative (again, if we can assume the narrative is playing by Chekhov’s rules). But because narratives are driven by drama (that is, difficulties for the protagonist), Chekhov’s gun mostly applies to things that can somehow harm or disrupt the characters’ lives — there’s a reason it’s not called “Chekhov’s birthday present.” Which creates very different expectations for things going right and wrong — things going wrong are far more likely to be introduced ahead of time (per Chekhov’s rules), while the drama of things going right is left best to the last possible moment. In that way, narratives reflect our own experience of reality, where we’ve given the name “Murphy’s law” to the notion that things will go wrong if they can, but no similar expectation for things going right. That is, we expect things to go wrong, so things going right is always a pleasant surprise. Or, as Lou Pirlo puts it in Moonshine 10, “God works in mysterious ways,” but “Old Lucifer…he was direct.” Continue reading

Moonshine 9: Discussion

by Patrick Ehlers and Drew Baumgartner

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

Hence, the enlightened ruler is heedful, the good general full of caution. This is the way to keep a country at peace and an army intact.

-Sun-Tzu, The Art of War

Patrick: Risk is terrifying. It’s so often the barrier to achieving anything worth achieving. And there’s a safety, a presumption of success by default, that comes from risking nothing. Sun-Tzu preaches measured responses and caution in all action. That same caution is as big a benefit for the characters of Brian Azzarello and Eduaro Risso’s Moonshine 9. Continue reading

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

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