I didn’t expect I’d ever be doing this again. When 100 Bullets reached its 100th and final issue, in ruination, death and destruction, Azzarello swore it was the end. All that was to be said had been said: it was complete. Yet four years on, I hold in my hands again a 100 Bullets comic. And the gang’s all here again, the whole damned crew who stuck it out together: Azz and Risso, and Trish and Clem and the Reverend Dave, and Will Dennis riding shotgun like before. Like nothing’s changed, though everything’s changed. Everybody’s favourite big-dick Hawaiian took a bullet to the chest and crashed out a window, but that last panel that showed bloody fooprints and no body was no tease. Lono is back, and the hell of it is that there are only seven more of these left to me.
Brother Lono 1 is an extended first issue of an eight-part mini-series set an unspecified time after the end of 100 Bullets and focussing on the amoral, violent, OTT Lono: The Dog, Medici’s Warlord, survivor. Where is he, what’s he doing, is he still the world’s greatest Fuck? (we are not talking sex here). What’s going on?
This is an archetypal Azzarello first issue. It begins from the end, with a man digging graves, dozens of graves whilst an unknown narrator tells us that this is a tale of a man who believed he had nothing to lose. By the second page, we can see that that man is Lono. Like Dizzy’s first arc, Milo Garret’s, Wylie Times’s, we see the outcome before the why and the what.
And what we see, as the pages begin to turn, are scenes and snapshots: people we don’t know doing things that make sense to them but not yet to us, though we quickly begin to guess. Firstly, we are in Mexico: though the words are in English, they are translated. A man named Ernesto, undergoing bloody torture, pleading that he has told everything he knows. Yet a threat to his baby, the sight of his wife forced into prostitution, and his tongue is loosened yet further.
A man who watches and listens to this torture attends Mass, talks to a Father Manny, hands over blood money from an organisation calling itself Las Torres Gemelas, or “The Twin Towers”. The Father would refuse the money if he could, but he dare not. Instead, he finds Ernesto’s baby on his doorstep.
Then we meet Lono, as we would expect to meet him: in jail, snoring, locked up. There’s something wrong though, that we don’t immediately register, something different… the white shirt. In the ending we have already been shown, Lono has on his traditional loud Hawaiian shirt, but here he’s dressed in white, all white. And there are no obscenities in his speech.
Lono’s getting out, his boss has a job for him, meet the bus, collect a nun, bring her to the church. The other guy in the little jail is getting out too. That’s not supposed to happen: he had a deal, he’d be deported back to the States. But his bail has been paid, and they’re waiting for him outside. ‘They’ are interested in the bus too, the bus from which two women has just disembarked: one grey-haired, fiftyish, a tough old broad who knows the score, the other in her twenties, tall, slim, red-haired, sweet, in the shortest of frayed shorts.
The guy who was in jail has to identify which person on the bus is the DEA: to stop them cutting any more fingers off, he identifies a man, but it’s bullshit: this is Senor Butler, and he’s with ‘them’. Lono misidentifies someone too, assuming Beatrice, the tough old broad, is Sister June: she’s not, it’s the sweet young girl. She’s a nun. She assumes Lono is a priest, calls him Father, but he hastily corrects her. He’s not the Father. But he is Brother Lono… The title of this story isn’t just for show.
Oh, happy day. There’s a lot to learn. Things are not as they once were and there are reasons for this. But things are moving, and things will not be as they are for very long.
Only seven more…