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The Goon Volume 1: Nothin' But Misery (Goon (Graphic Novels)) Paperback – October 20, 2003
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We seem to overlook the fact that the Goon himself is a shady character, because he battles and murderizes zombies and monster squids and other wicked supernatural whatnot. The brawny, face scarred, blind in one eye Goon passes himself off as mere muscle for the Labrazio crime family, but constant readers will know that the Goon had a while ago killed Labrazio and had taken over his criminal operations, but that he's kept the hostile takeover on the hush hush. So dude's not a good guy. Except that, in a world crawling with nightmarish otherworldly creatures, well, he's actually perceived as a hero.
You won't break your brain trying to keep up with the Goon's exploits. The story arcs basically boil down to: Hey, a monster! And then the Goon clobbers the monster with a pipe wrench or with something else equally handy. So Eric Powell keeps the narrative pretty easy to follow. This particular trade, THE GOON Vol. 1: NOTHIN' BUT MISERY, has the Goon and his cartoony-rendered sidekick Franky polishing off some more of the Zombie Priest's undead minions (these cats just keep wandering off Lonely Street). The Buzzard makes his debut, that tortured ex-sheriff cursed into a dark creature and who survives by devouring the undead (which is all kinds of ironic). The Buzzard has come to town harboring a long-held mad-on against the Zombie Priest, and off he goes to Lonely Street, with the Goon's blessing.
Then, intended as a nod to Christmas (but it feels more like a stab in the eye), Powell introduces a semi-sadistic Santa Claus whose little helpers had been consuming people during the holidays. There's also a hillbilly werewolf, and we learn why Franky had never ever received presents from Santa. Next, the Goon goes up against a magician and his harpies. And, finally, the Goon saves the world from alien invasion, and he does this in only three pages.
THE GOON Vol. 1: NOTHIN' BUT MISERY collects Powell's self-published issues #1-4 of THE GOON and THE GOON COLOR SPECIAL, as well as THE GOON short story featured in the final issue of DARK HORSE PRESENTS. You'd think, just because this is volume one, that it holds the Goon's earliest published issues. But, no, sir. For the Goon's earliest published stuff, you'd have to get THE GOON Vol. 0: ROUGH STUFF, which collects the first three Goon issues originally published by Avatar Press back in 1999. Good luck with that; Volume 0 costs a lot of bones.
To keep things even more interesting Eric Powell occasionally interrupts the story by injecting offbeat, dark humored advertisements, and I'm now really, really jonesing for that Billy Lobotomy Kit (with its totally convincing guarantee: "All heads taken from convicts and soulless heathens!"). The Depression-era backdrop adds to that pulp adventure feel and somehow lends itself well to a protagonist who's no-nonsense and less than loquacious. The very cool thing is that you never know exactly where Eric Powell is taking you. There are out-of-left-field twists, and the creepy crawly elements are offset with moments of sheer absurdity. The Goon and Franky are who they are, intractably, and the monsters are friggin' monsters, and what I mean by this is that you can pretty much forget about steady growth and development in their character arcs. But it's okay, I'd rather not have the Goon suddenly quoting Jane Austen or Baudelaire or Aesop.
Eric Powell can draw, did you know? Guy incorporates the signature touches of several comic book legends into his own wicked style: Jack Kirby's blocky dynamism; a whiff of Steve Rude's simple yet evocative lines; the old school magic and grit of Will Eisner; the twitchy weirdness of Richard Corben. Taking these influences and continuing to evolve, Eric Powell has established himself as an artist to be seriously reckoned. His painted covers are awesome stuff, and I wish there was a blow up of that one iconic panel featuring the Goon driving his red gas guzzler while firing slugs into a monster squid.
Actually, if one short sentence could encapsulate this comic book's in-your-face attitude, it may be Franky's no frills declaration as he and the Goon confront several fishy mobsters on the dock. To quote the ever feisty Franky: "All I can say is... knife to the eye!"
(By the way, I'm still waiting for new word on the supposedly upcoming CG-animated film about THE GOON. What's up with that?)
My fascination has been with zombies and that has led me to different graphic novels where zombies play a part in them. From The Walking Dead Series to Xombie to Reces Pieces, I have found plenty to entertain me with along with the strictly written word in zombie books.
I picked up a couple of Goon titles, thinking that My Murderous Childhood and Nothin' But Misery would be the first two in the series. I was mistaken but after reading these two, I will be hitting up Rough Stuff and moving forward with the rest of the series.
I love the almost schitzophrenic way that Eric Powell's brain works with this series, how he brings in totally lunatic elements with both a dark and malevolent sense of humor that had me cracking up through this entire book. The advertisements are hilarious, the different tales both big and small are intriguing, and overall I thought it was a fantastic read.
Zombies play a part in the Goon series, which is what drew me to it, but it is far more than just that. I honestly cannot wait to read the rest of the various tales of the Goon, because the art is great, the stories are rolicking, and the bottom line for me is that this was fun to read.
The main character is a brute and he should be, the zombies are irrelevant and totally discardable, as they should be. Spot on.