In the comic industry, there are certain teams who create magic together. Whether it’s Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, or Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, you know you can expect greatness. The same can be said for the team of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, who’ve knocked it out of the park with Moonshine: Vol 1. The graphic novel combines 1920s gangsters, rural noir and horror to create a tale about monsters, both human and inhuman.
The story is set during the Prohibition era, with the Italian Mafia looking to get rich off the sale of illegal alcohol. It focuses on a gangster called Lou Pirlo, who’s sent by the boss of the Masseria family to Appalachia to secure booze from the Holt family. What Pirlo thinks is a routine run soon descends into a hellish fight for survival.
Hiriam, the patriarch of the Holts, doesn’t want to do business. He shows Pirlo the mutilated bodies of FBI members who came across one of his distilleries. Pirlo thinks about leaving town, but his boss tells him otherwise. Hiriam’s family soon come calling and tell Pirlo they want to get into business with Masseria. Pirlo takes part in a liquor run and comes face to face with a werewolf. The beast kills one of the Holts and Pirlo manages to escape.
Things only get worse for Pirlo as he gets drawn into a war between the Holts and Masseria’s gang. After a violent shootout between both sides, Pirlo gets into a fight with Hiriam’s adoptive son, Enos. His sister Tempest breaks it up and she and Pirlo get close to each other.
After a night in the woods, Hiriam finds out Pirlo slept with his daughter and tortures him in a barn. Later, it’s implied Tempest freed him and turned him into a werewolf. As more of the Masseria gang show up, Pirlo goes on a rampage and slaughters them, managing to save most of the Holts.
Thanks to Azzarello’s writing, Pirlo is a compelling protagonist. Despite being a gangster, he has his own code of honour and is sympathetic enough to make the reader care about him. He’s haunted by the death of his sister Belle and numbs himself with alcohol to get through the day.
Every member of the Holt family is well-rounded, coming across as more than simple hillbillies. They’re a smart family and hold their own against the big city gangsters. Azzarello captures the dialogue of the period and makes you feel as if you’re a part of the 1920s.
The supernatural elements of Moonshine are used sparingly. They exist on the fringes of the story and strike from the darkness without warning. Azzarello makes each moment count and ramps up the brutality and tension when needed.
Risso’s art has a gritty, moody feeling that fits with the Prohibition era. Every panel is richly detailed, from the expression on a character’s face, to the flash of a Tommy gun going off. Risso doesn’t shy away from violence, drawing ripped up carcasses and severed limbs.
Moonshine: Vol 1 is a gory graphic novel that hooks the reader from the first page. Buy it now on Amazon.