Appalachia can't catch a break. Ever since Deliverance left a mark on cinematic history for backwoods vacations, Appalachians have gotten a bad rap. They're not the inbred, banjo-playing, tourist-humping, freaks we've been led to believe. Case in point, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso join forces once again to bring 'Moonshine' to stores this week about an illegal distiller deep in the northern hills of West Virginia that is unlike any hillbilly clan you've ever heard of.
Meet Lou Pirlo, an overconfident big city liaison for a mob boss, he's looking to broker a deal that would bring the finest hooch being produced during Prohibition to New York. All Lou has to do is convince Hiram Holt and his brood with an offer he can't refuse. It turns out, Hiram isn't some toothless hillbilly, he's an iron-fisted businessman unimpressed with Pirlo or law enforcement for that matter. He knows he's the king of this hill and his moonshine is the best there is. It's going to take more than a slick-talking well-dressed Yankee to make a deal.
Azzarello is a master of creating worlds where the lines between good and evil are blurred. There's no hero here, at least not yet, but equally shady characters from the mob to the bootleggers get to feel each other out. Something is amiss though and when Lou finally makes it to Hiram deep in the hills you feel his anxiety as he approaches. Whatever bravado he had melts quickly after Lou realizes he is not to be played with. It could prove fatal if he steps out of line. And here he thought the big boss back in New York was intimidating.
And Azzarello sets the story without even really delving into the supernatural side of 'Moonshine.' There's a slight hint of it but it's pretty ballsy of Azzarello to set it aside for now, solicitations be damned. But he really doesn't have to. The set up with a two-bit mob lackey like Lou venturing into the West Virginia hills being totally out of place and alone with Hiram's clan is enough of an unnerving exercise in hard-boiled storytelling.
Eduardo Risso's art helps to tell the story with his great depiction of rough-and-tumble characters, scenic landscapes, and distinctive color schemes. He uses silhouettes to great use, sometimes less is more and is versatile enough to go from an awkward diner scene to a bloody dismemberment scene with relative ease and skill. If you've read 100 Bullets you know Risso can set a mood with the best of them.
Even though Azzarello and Risso have only grazed the surface with the debut issue of 'Moonshine,' we've seen enough to know this is another great collaboration between two great creators. It's dripping with atmosphere and danger, a pulpy rural noir, that is only getting started. 'Moonshine' is a no-brainer to add to your pull list.