By: Brian Azzarello (story), Eduardo Risso (art)

The Story: Lono learns that turning the other cheek is not all it’s cracked up to be.

The Review: As much as Christianity has become a religion of peace, love, and compassion, its Old Testament origins were hardly strangers to the notion of violence.  Two verses are particularly appropriate.  Deuteronomy 20:12 advises, “However, if [a city] does not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it.”  And of course, Ecclesiastes 3:8 admits that there’s “[a] time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace.”*

But you don’t need biblical support to navigate the moral quandaries that confront Lono in this issue, as he receives a vision of Christ Himself.  Whether this is a true spiritual experience or merely the manifestation of Lono’s subconscious turmoil, when God purports to speak, you listen and figure out what He’s saying.  Christ, suspended from the cross, asks Lono for help, but rebukes him when Lono begins removing the nails.

“We all have our roles in life,” He explains to the confused smoter.  “Mine is to die for you.  Yours is to kill me.”  But when Lono exclaims at the idea that he’s his Lord’s murderer, Christ replies, “You think very highly of yourself, don’t you?  You’re not that important…  And you’re not alone.”

What this seems to be leading to, of course, is a situation where Lono would be forced to test his resolve to remain on the better path against direct and unavoidable threats, perhaps quite literally, as you see Cráneo bearing down on Lono in an SUV.  Even Father Manny foresees such a scenario and implies that “trust” (which is a handy stand-in for faith) alone may not be the right response.  When he asks if Lono go back to the way he was “before, given the right circumstances,” he’s clearly alluding to the biblical conditions for violence I mentioned earlier.  Even though he quickly berates himself for making such an suggestion, it lingers on, begging the question of what circumstances would be the right ones.

If there’s any justification for Lono taking a stand, even a forceful one, it may be for the sake of protecting the orphanage’s young, still impressionable charges.  Paulo’s presence in the story is for the express purpose of showing the consequences of allowing a child, no matter how lovingly and sincerely raised, to go astray.  So when Cráneo comes a’calling, bearing temptation and using every condescending trick in the book to manipulate Manny’s children into doing his dirty work (“Most a [sic] you…you ol’ enough to make your own decisions.”), it becomes necessary for someone to fight for their sake.

It’s hard to believe there are only two issues left, considering how much there’s left to explore: Maddon’s business frustrations, Cortez’s consultations with a fetus in a cube, June’s secret extracurriculars, and the increasingly grisly messes left for Cesar to deal with.  Azzarello has done right by his limited format in focusing on the plight of the orphanage and its residents, but you can’t help feeling like there’s quite a bit of story he’s leaving out to do so.  Still, in the right hands, two issues can accomplish much, and it’s promising that Azzarello drops in on each plotline, no matter how briefly, baby-stepping them towards some kind of resolution.

Risso’s art is very much an acquired taste, but there’s no denying that he can be very effective at what he does.  He’s an expert at creating haunting imagery with a minimum of effort, as you can see by the opening image of Christ, blood trickling form his temples, giving you a sidelong look and requesting help.  In some ways, the rawness of Risso’s art highlights the stark visuals he has to convey: a woman absentmindedly breastfeeding, a body punctured with blades half-floating in a river, Christ settling himself in a lawn chair as he bleeds from the hands.

Conclusion: The issue keeps you very much interested in the outcome of Lono’s path toward redemption by giving you something of an early climax, but puts quite a few plotlines on the backburner in the process

Grade: B+

-Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * For those who are interested in these kinds of things, I am citing from the New American Bible, purely out of convenience.