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

The Story: The better question is who doesn’t die at the end of the issue?

The Review: I’ve come to expect the unexpected when it comes to Azzarello’s comics, but one thing I never expect from him is a happy ending.  Not that he’s incapable of delivering one—Wonder Woman #18 ended on a hopeful note, at least—but it just doesn’t seem to be part of his makeup.  Even if it was, it certainly wouldn’t seem to fit into the pervasive grimness of Brother Lono.  This series has been a lot of things, but sentimental is not one of them.

This final issue is still bleak, though, even for Lono.  I’m not just talking about the gruesome outbreak of violence, which is only to be expected once our protagonist decided that the gloves should come off. Spoiler alert—while the orphanage is ultimately saved, the price paid by all the major characters makes the victory feel a bit hollow.  Cesar and Paulo are dead, Manny is blinded, June (a.k.a. agent Linda May) gravely wounded, and Lono is back on the hell train.

So what does this last development mean for Lono’s spiritual status, exactly?  Obviously, murder on this scale is not terrific.  The final panel of Lono reclining in Cortez’s chair, smoking a cigar and knocking back a glass of liquor, looking more at ease than he has this whole series, suggests that he’s simply returned to form.  But has he, really?  Sure, he lopped off Maddon’s hand and gave June a pretty good torso wound, but he also deliberately spared them both despite being on a roll, death wise.  That’s something like mercy, isn’t it?  To not kill without need?

And it shouldn’t be lost on anyone that the people Lono does kill are the ones who shoot at him first, besides threatening the only institution of true innocence in the series.  Does that transform a mass homicide into a crusade?  From a legal and social standpoint, Lono’s actions seem justifiable, or at least rational, but are they morally, religiously correct?  June assures Manny that “you and the children have nothing to worry about.  And if you ever do…”

Lono,” Manny finishes for her.

The suggestion is that Lono will run interference—with gleeful and extreme prejudice—on behalf of the orphanage, an idea bolstered by Manny’s remark that “now…the devil is our savior,” and Lono’s shadow from Cortez’s house watching June and Manny drive off.  It’s not a traditionally Christian role, but Lono’s vision of Christ in #5 had something to say about that:  “Mine is to die for you.  Yours is to kill me.”  Was this divine acceptance of Lono’s unchangeable nature?

Azzarello offers no answers nor is it necessarily his intention for you to arrive at one.  At most, he presents a scenario, not entirely outside the realm of possibility, that challenges your own views of justice, redemption, right and wrong.  The closest he comes to a moral conclusion for the story is a spiel (by Azzarello himself as narrator) about God as judge: “We are what He made us to be.  To try and be something else…is the greatest sin of all.  It’s all part of the judge’s plan.”  To twist the philosophical knife even further, he asks rhetorically, “I mean, he has to have a plan, right?”

Azzarello spares no punches in the moral ambiguities of his script, and Risso doesn’t either in drawing its graphic imagery.  Risso doesn’t hesitate to capture every gasping, torturous moment of every character’s suffering.  His commitment to the pain of a scene is so strong that it never seems melodramatic or excessive.  His vision of violence is neither amusing nor gratuitous; it is simply the frailty of the human body on such stark display that it demands a kind of sympathy.

Conclusion: A very definite resolution that nevertheless leaves a great deal unanswered.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – So how do you think Lono manages to explode all the vehicles parked out front?  Is there a rocket launcher in his possession we don’t get to see, or is that just his hellish power unleashed?