The Goon Vol. 1: Nothin’ But Misery
Written by: Eric Powell
Art by: Eric Powell
Cover(s) by: Eric & Robin Powell
Variant Cover(s) by: Eric Powell
Rating 7 (of 10)
If art comics ever tipped on the precipice of recognition into the main stream, The Goon would have been one of the few indie properties to pull it off. It’s a staple of art comics everywhere, a representation of the power a sole contributor can have on an intellectual property. The feelings are intimate and personal when it comes to art comics, despite being hopelessly insular. Often that is the sole offending drawback to the art comic community, that their lack of accessibility to the mainstream has hampered growth. It’s a shame given how intellectual they are. Luckily, The Goon isn’t intellectual. It’s just funny, for all the right reasons.
The Goon vol. 1: Nothin’ But Misery collects the first four issues of the series, published by Albatross Exploding Funny Books, along with a few minor works set in the comic universe of The Goon. Things have happened so far, with three issues preceding the sequence offered here. Whatever story was present is easy to pick up and digest, placing the reader in a world perpetually stuck in the ’40s, with Lovecraftian horrors and supernatural creatures crowding the universe. Turf wars between zombies and humans are frequent, and boast laugh-out-loud highlights, such as a sequence where Franky and the Goon ride an Achondroplasiaphobic werewolf into battle.
The humor of The Goon is its trademark staple, with detective noir types ripped from Dick Tracy speaking non sequitur one-liners in rapid succession. The mode of delivery is intensified by the black humor that spans the pages of the first volume, with memorable moments such as the amoral Franky just stabbing an anthropomorphic fish in the eye… for no reason. Because the two serve as muscle for the mob that controls the nameless (in this volume) eastern seaboard village, this goes well thematically, but risks being too isolating for new readers. Here is where the art comics-mainstream dichotomy is mostly present.
Though the title is billed as a speculative fiction I.P., there are plenty of instances that evoke visceral horror montages, notably in the origins of Buzzard, a living ghoul cursed with insatiable hunger for zombies. These are unnerving, frightening, and true representations of genre staples, but are executed to homage other influences on Eric Powell such as westerns and off-color pop culture (Monty Python and B Movie science fiction). The Goon’s character is explored evenly throughout the series, being more than just a hired muscle, but a mercenary haunted by unknown evils. Even though these serious moments can often be mired by the continual feed of slapstick and cynical humor sprinkled throughout the work, it performs admirably, delivering a strong, character-motivated narrative, with plenty of zombies in sight to kill.
Of all the gags, The Atomic Rage stands out. It’s a throwback to Jack Kirby with all the super hero fluff typical of the early 70s Silver Age comics, but with horrible swearing and somewhat vile repartee. It made me laugh, audibly. That doesn’t happen when I read comics. Easily the best sequence read:
“Ack! My groin!! Must get… To Faith healer… Only… Hope… Lay your healing hands upon me, oh mighty shaman!” (The shaman does so, his hands off panel) “FRAUD! You merely groped me! It’s a blast from my nuclear brain for you!”
This is a comic worth following, even if you feel if, on occasion, the writing is groping your sensibilities. It’s a cost for good, insular narrative!