So this is the scene from halfway through: dark.
El Monstre del Norte! (“The Monster of/from(?) the North”) takes us to the midway point, and this is very much a midway issue, still stirring the pot but making sure that the gumbo remains thick and formless. The story inches forward, slowly, and there’s an intriguing last page reveal that adds another, unexpected element to what is developing, but we are still a long way from resolutionns, or even a tipping of the hand.
I have so missed Azzarello.
There’s no direct follow-up to last issue’s closing scenario. In typical fashion, Azzarello switches scene to introduce a rider, an American on a motor bike (from the north…) stopping at an isolated gas station to refuel, and buy a ‘dog’ – actually an iguana. He’s on his way to Durango to meet Cortez, to discuss product, and moving even more of it. It sets a ball rolling, in a direction that’s mightily unwelcome, towards the Church, and Father Manny.
Last issue’s confrontation between Father Manny and Pico, in which Lono intervened to compoundedly break the latter’s arm, spins off in two separate directions. First there is Lono, setting and repairing Pico’s arm, talking with, and to some extent at the angry thug, whose bitterness is directed at the Church and Father Manny for “letting” the child Paolo leave the orphanage, to ‘die’ and become Pico. Lono reacts to the picture in two ways, latterly by talking about himself and his ‘conversion’ from a smoter, whose motto was a Head for an Eye, but before that there is a stunning interpolation, a page out of the blue, in which the old Lono, the Dog, reacts with anger, and the biting off – and swallowing – of Pico’s finger.
Yet Lono still adheres to what he has become but we know, as certainly as we knew, before we opened the pages of issue 1, that the day is coming when he reverts to being the Dog: we saw the shirt in issue 1, the Hawaiian shirt.
Meanwhile, Sister June, the newcomer, the ‘innocent’, cannot understand why Father Manny hasn’t gone to the Sheriff over Pico’s attack, the Sheriff who we find watching Cernao, and Madden (El Monstre del Norte) at night, Father Manny refuses to go to the law: he feels responsible for Pico/Paolo, responsible for all the children he has failed by letting them go, children who are dead: but Pico is alive.
Last issue Father Manny complained, in genuine anger, to Cortez about the bodies buried on church ground. Now Cortez has a proposition: that Las Torres take over more of the Church’s land, establish a presence, a known presence that will ensure no reptition. And the devil seduces with bright promises, of money for schools and books, real schools, for all the Durango children, not merely those who fall, by ‘chance’ into the Orphanage’s net.
It’s a tempting offer, a progressive offer, an offer that can do good, but it’s the devil’s offer, the offer that requires a long spoon with which to sup. It’s an offer that will keep more children. But it is an offer that draws the Church ever more under the dominion of Las Torres. And it is an offer that cannot be refused, for the devil will not allow it.
And at the moment, Sister June, overhearing from the shadows, dials a number, talks on the phone. No, her cover is holding (except with Pico who, in turn, overhears). Yes, it does appear that the Church is part of the drug trade.
So we enter the downhill side, the slide to a conclusion that we already know brings death in its wake. I believe that the graves Lono dug in his Hawaiian shirt at the very beginning are the graves of Father Manny, of Sister June, of orphans, The Dog awaits, growling in its sleep. How many will it bite? And will it, in its turn, be bitten, savagely?