Writer: John Arcudi
Illustrator: Valerio Giangiordano
Publisher: Image Comics
WHAT IS IT?
This historical fiction drama about an indigenous Union soldier fighting in the Civil War is merely the backdrop to a bone-chilling horror-story.
It's an exploration of psychology and indigenous roots, as captured in the Amazon Prime show Undone, and takes place during the Civil War era like Dances With Wolves.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Pawnee tribe Native Two Moons is a soldier on the Union side of the 19th century Civil War. Adopted by white Christian foster parents who renamed him Virgil Morris, Two Moons also undergoes an internal combat. Conflicting beliefs about his indigenous roots, the battlefield around him, and his American cultural assimilation challenges his individualism.
Alongside Two Moons's identity crisis and internalized warfare, Two Moons also begins to have visions of horrific monsters pulled straight out of a nightmare. Safety no longer seems viable for Two Moons, and he questions the tangible nature of these visions. After he is confronted about his shamanic lineage, Two Moons no longer trusts his own two eyes. Can he trust his fellow soldiers or a helpful Irish immigrant woman either?
John Arcudi's attention to historical accuracy, cultural representation, and era-appropriate vernacular is remarkable. Characters speak with syntaxes and interact with one another in a believable manner, an example of how Arcudi's extensive research bears fruit as a white man of the 21st century,
Valerio Giangiordano pulls out all the artistic stops in Two Moons #1. He renders ethereal ghosts and monsters with a complete attunement to horror imagery.
Colorist John Stewart could have just used dreary, muddled coloring to depict the Civil War time period. Instead, the bold blues of Union soldier uniforms and the multiple instances of red as a color motif embolden the characters against the gloomier mood of the landscape backgrounds.
Michael Heisler's lettering is wonderfully legible throughout, but where his lettering really stands out is in the back half of the issue. His outstanding lettering choices later on hearken to the issue's overtones of evil and horror, building on the fearfulness of Giangiordano's illustrations.
Arcudi deftly handles horror coupled with the implications of mental illness and indigenous mysticism. The horror elements in Two Moons #1 are bolstered by the overt portrayal of real cultural dissonance and mental, psychological warfare.
Giangiordano outdoes himself with his artistry. The comic is eerie on its own, but Giangiordano's illustrations, cleanly colored by Stewart, are as frightening as watching a horror film.
Two Moons #1 contains blood-curdling imagery that can easily elicit vertigo or disorientation.
Battle scenes are as haunting as the otherworldly imagery, as Giangiordano uses a two-fold spread that clearly showcases the bloody murders involved in war.
Underneath the obvious plot, the entire comic centers itself on the idea of duality. Arcudi presents this duality in several thoughtful ways, like through the two opposing sides of the Civil War and the more nuanced conflict between Two Moons' struggle with his indigenous shamanic heritage vs. his adopted, white Christian upbringing.
A particularly striking use of Heisler's SFX is when the thickly ascending word "CRAK!" flows in the same direction of the blood spray on the character, Sergeant McBride. Additionally, Stewart's coloring exactly matches the red of the SFX, almost implanting the blood-colored SFX directly onto Sergeant McBride.
I appreciate Arcudi's personal note at the end, laying out his reasoning behind writing this indigenous story. Arcudi is penning a comic about an indigenous man in the Civil War, a topic that he wants to shed light on, even if he cannot fully speak to the indigenous experience.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Content Warning: Horrifying images. Nightmare illustrations. This comic is inarguably terrifying. If you think you can handle most horror, you aren't prepared for the shocking imagery in Two Moons!
There's gruesome injuries, battle scenes and the story takes place during the Civil War, which can be a sensitive or triggering topic.
John Arcudi is not an indigenous person; he is a white writer. While Arcudi is open about his whiteness and explicitly addresses this topic in the back of the issue, a white man telling an indigenous story may not sit well with some readers. That being said, Arcudi recognizes his place of privilege and is clear on his intent. Arcudi makes it evident that he is not trying to silence marginalized voices.
Mental illness is hinted at, but approached from the indigenously grounded perspective. Readers may lack awareness of this correlation and question the intent of the depiction of disordered behavior presented in the comic.
A lack of historical context around the Civil War and shamanism could hinder the reading experience. Although, since this book has mature content, one could surmise that most readers of Two Moons have a decent understanding of history to comprehend the time period setting.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
If you need an adrenaline rush of horror, read Two Moons #1. Going into this comic without any background whatsoever, I was unprepared for the terror that awaited me, an unsuspecting victim. Not only is John Arcudi's comic a grounded sensation in storytelling, but the imagery propels this story into another category of electrifying visceral horror.
Mystic shamanism and mental disorders like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder aren't mainstream story plots, but they should be. Like the television show Undone, the indigenous connection between shamanism and psychological afflictions are investigated with respect to the culture and topics.
If you read Two Moons #1 at night with the lights off like I did, Valerio Giangiordano's monstrous images will probably give you nightmares. This chilling first issue of Two Moons will leave lasting imprints on your brain.
I can only dream about what future issues have in store for their victi- I mean, readers.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Rumble by John Arcudi & James Harren
The Mask by John Arcudi & Doug Mahnke
La Voz de M.A.Y.O.: Tata Rambo by Henry Barajas & J. Gonzo
If you like the art:
Tribal Force by John Proudstar & Ron Joseph
B.R.P.D. Hell on Earth: Vol. 5 by John Arcudi & Laurence Campbell
SixKiller by Lee Francis IV & Weshoyot Alvitre
ABOUT THE CREATORS
John Arcudi – Writer
John is a comic book writer, known for The Mask comic book series, B.P.R.D., Major Bummer, and Rumble.
Prolific: He has worked on dozens of comic books. He has also written a number of comic books based on films, including RoboCop, Terminator, Predator, Alien, and The Thing.
Multitalented: His comic series, Barb Wire, featuring bounty hunter and bartendress Barbara Kopetski, was adapted into the 1996 film of the same name starring Pamela Anderson. He also wrote two episodes of The Mask: The Animated Series, and one episode of the motion comics based on the comic Batman Black and White.
Valerio Giangiordano – Illustrator (@ValerioGiangio1)
Valerio is an illustrator who has worked for major comic book companies in both Europe and the USA, including Marvel, Image, and Soleil.
He is a well known comic book cover artist, and his work can be seen in Marvel's Savage Avengers, Taskmaster, Ghost Rider, Jessica Jones, and Punisher.
Outlander: Hails from Rome, Italy.
Dave Stewart – Colorist (@Dragonmnky)
Dream Team: Dave is a well-known comic colorist, working on titles for Dark Horse Comics, DC, and Marvel. He was the colorist on John Arcudi's B.R.P.D. comic.
Award Winner: He has won many Eisner Awards for Coloring in the years 2003, 2005, 2007–2011, 2013, 2015, and 2020. Dave was also nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards Best Graphic Novels & Comics.
Hails from Portland, Oregon.
Michael Heisler – Letterer (@michael_heisler)
Michael is a veteran in the comic book industry. He began his journey in the late 1980s as a letterer, primarily for Marvel Comics. Since then, he has worked for numerous publishers like Image, Dark Horse Comics, DC, and IDW.
Multitalented: Along with lettering, Michael is also a writer and editor.
Known for comic titles like DV8, Union, and lettering Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Rift.
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