This issue doubles down on the same strengths and weaknesses of its preceding issues by beautifully constructing tone and setting with its visuals, but failing to progress the story in a meaningful way.
Eduardo Risso’s art is, once again, well worth the price of admission. An interesting component of the working relationship between Azzarello and Risso is that Azzarello does not dictate the layout of every page. Eduardo Risso typically determines that design element.
His grasp of visual language is exemplified in pages six and seven of this issue. Both rely on an overhead set of panels describing a scene and a larger, page-spanning panel beneath. In the first, a set of silent, aspect-to-aspect panels create a tense air that is met by the arrival of cartel goons. Their silhouettes against Mexican moonlight define the word “ominous”. In the following page, the layout remains the same, but the tone changes dramatically. Colors shift from burnt oranges and browns to a neon blue. Plenty of dialogue with multiple exclamation points builds to the spread of Sister June standing alone. Whereas the cartel members were cast in shadow, she is revealed in the tense blue light of the page. The cartel, hidden and dangerous, is made to mirror the story’s protagonists, exposed and desperate.
The problems with this issue are not so much bad as they are disappointing. The story continues to stall, failing to progress characters or ideas in a meaningful way.
There are two twists in this issue that fail to deliver either a sense of surprise or a better understanding of the characters. That’s largely because both revelations have been obvious from the first issue. Sister June has always been telegraphed, by both the art and story, to be the DEA agent. It is so obvious that it’s unclear as to whether or not this is actually a twist.
The more disappointing surprise is the revelation of Lono’s true nature. It’s something that was made perfectly clear in Azzarello and Risso’s masterpiece 100 Bullets. Lono is a deadly and demented man. In a story filled with cold-hearted killers, he was always the most psychotic. Even without reading 100 Bullets, Lono’s character arc has always been clear: He is a dangerous man, haunted by himself and forced to confront other dangerous men. It’s essentially the plot of The Unforgiven, First Blood, and so many other stories. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but it’s no surprise when Clint Eastwood or Sylvester Stallone finally start killing people. The important part is seeing how they crack, and that’s what is missing here. Until Lono finally makes the decision to resume his violent ways, the story cannot move forward.
Brother Lono continues to stall its story, promising bloody action and frightening consequences, but never reaching them. Risso’s art is, once again, the best (and a very good) reason to purchase the title.