There exists an interesting dichotomy in the comics world. You cannot often have a continuing series that is consistently both a superb read and a feast for the eyes. Don’t get me wrong, there are fantastic comics with very good art (Invincible being a notable example) but it is rare where both the writing and the art are incredible.
For five years now, Dark Horse have had such a comic in Eric Powell’s The Goon. The story follows Goon, a street tough who runs his local town under the guise of an enforcer for Mafia don Labrazio. In reality Goon’s murdered the don and is running the show using the dead mobster’s name as mythical tool to scare people into paying up. Goon is joined on his endeavours by Franky, a pint-sized degenerate who enjoys nothing more than violence and infidelity.
Goon’s gang fights to keep his turf safe from all manner of hoodlums and monsters, with his arch nemesis being a nameless zombie priest and his horde of slack-jawed zombies.
The series is insane and hilarious; Powell is a master of comic timing. His artistic mastery accentuates his side-splitting dialogue, in an almost cinematic way. He manages to create genuinely likable characters, and you’ll undoubtedly fall in love with The Goon’s myriad of supporting cast members. My personal favourites are Spider (a small time criminal, who’s also a giant spider) and Willie Nagel (a zombie con-man.)
Early on in the series the audience is told in passing of a tragic, unspoken-of event in Goon’s past which occurred in Chinatown and four years later, Powell revealed the secret in the original graphic novel named, appropriately enough, Chinatown. A departure from the usual comedic flair, this wholly serious story is beautifully crafted, with some of the artist’s best work to date. The story itself is incredibly moving, bringing a lump to your throat as you see the Goon’s heart ripped asunder. Powell uses a slow build, allowing the reader to know there’s no happy ending in sight, but still delivers a punch to the gut in the final pages. Eric Powell demonstrates the depth of his creation by showing that this funny book can transcend its comic horror stable, and move into the more serious dramatic arena. If you’ve enjoyed the regular series, don’t be put off.
What’s brilliant about this series, and became evident in re-visiting the beginning issues, is that Powell has been crafting a long plot from the very beginning. Where issues have seemed incongruous to the overall workings, they’ve later been revealed as part of a larger whole. With the series soon to hit its quarter century, revelations are sure to abound.
The Goon is easily one of the most enjoyable reads in comics today. It is consistently entertaining, filled with thrills, chills and laughs. Having just re-read from the beginning, through the original graphic novel Chinatown, to the latest issue (#23), I remembered that comics can still be moving and astonishing. If you enjoy solid stories with a comic edge, and some of the most gorgeous and finely crafted art being produced in the medium, then make yours Goon.
Goon is currently in book form up to and including #18 of the current series, as well as the separate Chinatown OGN. There is also a collection of Powell’s first Goon work called Rough Stuff, this doesn’t play into the current series.
The complete list of currently available collections is as follows:
Vol 0 SC Rough Stuff
Vol 1 SC Nothin’ But Misery
Vol 2 SC My Murderous Childhood
Vol 3 SC Heaps of Ruination
Vol 4 SC Virtue and the Grim Consequences Thereof
Vol 5 SC Wicked Inclinations
Recommended by Matt