The end of a era

One of the minor inconveniences caused by the current lockdown has been the disruption to my comics collecting. The companies aren’t publishing, the distributors aren’t delivering them, the shops aren’t open and I can’t go into the centre of Manchester to buy them, since I’m not Dominic Cummings.

That this is only a minor inconvenience is largely down to the fact that, after Tom King’s Batman series ended twenty issues prematurely, I’ve been reduced to only two series, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s Moonshine from Image comics, and DC’s unashamedly fun Fantastic Four rip-off, The Terrifics.

But now the industry is tentatively poking its nose out from under the blankets, and it appears that Moonshine 18 and The Terrifics 27 should be appearing very shortly, maybe as early as this week. Which is good in one way, but not in another.

Although Moonshine is telling an ongoing story, it only comes out in mini-series of six issues. No 18 will therefore be the last in this ‘series’ with nothing else due until much later this year, at best.

And to my dismay, I have learned that DC has cancelled The Terrifics from no 30, but that only issue 27 will appear as a paper comic. The last three issues will only be published digitally, and will not appear in print until collected as part of Graphic Novel no 5. GN Vol 3. is not due to appear until September this year, so you can imagine how long that’s going to take.

So the return to publishing is, for me, only a false renaissance. The larger point is that after these two issues have come out, I will have no new comics to buy. The last time that happened to me was a very long time ago. In fact, it was before the landmark purchase of Justice League of America 107, in January 1974, that kick-started the whole thing for me. I haven’t given up on comics after all this time. They are giving up on me.

Not forever. There will be Moonshine ‘season 4’, and Tom King is sequelling his Batman run with a 12 issue Batman and Catwoman series, if that ever appears, given that his successor on Batman appears to be doing the usual overturning of everything King had set up, leaving Batman/Catwoman as a likely  contravener of the new continuity.

It’s been 46 years, and the sudden expectation of an absence is a bit of a shock. Of course I still have those DVD-Roms I’ve been exploring for the last couple of years, but that’s not the same. The wavefront is stopping: I am far from sure where that will leave me.

The Magic Words: Azzarello, Risso, Buy

In these latter days, given my ever-growing distance from what purports to be modern entertainment, and exacerbated by my current issues with depression, it’s very hard to find new things to be interested in.

This applies especially to my lifelong love of comics, which for some time has left me with only one monthly title, Kurt Busiek’s Astro City, supplemented with the occasional Graphic Novel, and those mostly when they supplant a bunch of the original comics.

But there are certain magic words, the effective of which is to add up to a mathematical formula: Brian Azzarello + Eduardo Risso = Buy.

In the middle of the week, I learned of the forthcoming publication of Moonshine 2, from the much-derided but increasingly influential Image Comics. It’s written by Azarello, and both drawn and coloured by Risso: the 100 Bullets crew back together, and even though I didn’t have a clue what Moonshine is about, and whether it’s an ongoing series or a limited one, and if so, how many issues it’s planned to run, these were matters that didn’t matter. Did we wait to find out who starred in the new Pratchett, what was its theme, how many pages before we bought it? No, we did not. And when Azz and Eduardo get together I ask no such questions, I just buy it and put the series on my pull-list at Forbidden Planet in Manchester.

That was this afternoon, the furthest I’ve been outside in the last couple of weeks: Planet and Pizza Hut and home again.

So what is Moonshine, and is it any good? The two answers are: I’ve no idea yet and of course it fucking is.

Moonshine is set in 1929, and Risso’s art is perfect for the era. The story’s hero appears to be one Lou Pirlo, a tough customer looking to make a name and a position for himself under Joe ‘The Boss’ Masserio, a bootlegger. Masserio has found a supply of illegal hooch being made up in the mountains of West Virginia by a hillbilly named Hiram Holt. It’s good hooch, in fact it’s the best, and Masserio wants it for his organisation.

So Lou is sent out to Spine Ridge to do a deal with Holt. The figures ain’t entirely to Holt’s advantage, but this is Joe Masserio we’re talking about, and this is the bootlegging business. Unfortunately, Holt isn’t interested in playing – Pirlo is shown a still, and three mutilated bodies, three G-Men, hunting down the illicit still in the opening sequence, finding it, and also finding hillbillies with axes: oh yes, this is Azz and Eduardo – and is sent back with a message: Holt doesn’t take to having others mess with his business.

Halfway down the mountain road, Lou’s car pops a tyre. He hears music, follows iit to a negro camp, watches the singing, a girl dancing. When he enters the firelight, they stop to watch him. When one of them asks what he wants, he replies, “A drink.” Looking at the girl, he adds, “For starters.”

And that’s issue 1. Not much going on, mostly passive, mostly a beginning of a set-up. No massive surprises. Yet.

But this is Azzarello and Risso, and they don’t ever lay all their cards on the table, not at once, and sometimes you don’t get to see the hand even after they’ve won it. I just know that the magic words were magic again and I’m in, and I’ll be at the table for as many months as Moonshine lasts.

And if they want to keep this one going as long as 100 Bullets, I’m in. Pass the hooch.