[11 June 2009]
PopMatters Comics Editor
It began slowly enough, but over the course of four issues Sheriff Moses Stone proves to be the most seductive of untrustworthy narrators. “I’m not a killer, but I have killed”, Moses reminds readers in captioned narration. At the opening of the story, “Holy” Moses Stone is a man in search of redemption. A retired bounty hunter now working to keep the peace in Bollas Raton, Moses hopes to bury the past that brought him to this point. But within pages of establishing Moses’ well-intentioned nature and his only-too-human search for inner peace, writer Brian Azzarello begins chipping away at his fictional creation.
Azzarello forces readers into one fork of morality after the next. Immersing his audience in the mystery of what originally brought Moses to Bollas Raton, Azzarello writes a piece of noir fiction set in the Old West. When Stone uncharacteristically agrees to pursue el Diablo for a bounty, readers’ interest remains piqued. Why would Stone jeopardize the life he built for himself in Bollas Raton? And why would el Diablo leave only Stone alive after a bloody shootout on Main Street? Why mark Stone with the word “Halo”, rather than kill him?
As the questions mount, Stone’s moral descent becomes ever more clear. From pursuit of money, to lying, to outright murder, Azzarello’s talent lies in animating Stone in such a way that readers ultimately excuse the violence in hopes of finding answers. All the while, Stone and his ever-thinning posse hunt down the elusive el Diablo who seems to continually circle back and chase down his pursuers.
In this short sequence of panels, artist Daniel Zezelj plays visually on the idea that el Diablo can never be surrounded. Unarmed and with his back turned to Stone, el Diablo seems finally to be at the mercy of his last remaining pursuer. But rather than having entered a trap he is unable to escape, el Diablo has played out his final ruse. Just as Stone lowers his gun to el Diablo’s neck so too Stone finds a gun pointed at his own. Cal Chaney, the Halo sheriff, has finally put the pieces to together, and Holy Moses must now answer for a trail of bodies.
No devil, only you.