COMIC REVIEW: The Goon: Library Volume #1 – A Must Own | FanboysInc

COMIC REVIEW: The Goon: Library Volume #1 – A Must Own

By Buddy Beaudoin

COMIC REVIEW: The Goon: Library Volume #1 - A Must Own

Writers: Eric Powell, Mike Mignola (Hellboy crossover segment)

Artists: Eric Powell, Robin Powell, Dave Stewart, Shaynne Corbett, Barry Gregory, Kyle Hotz, Ben Cocke, Clem Robins


Dark Horse Comics

In 1999, Eric Powell launched a piece of funny book history aptly titled “The Goon”. Since finding a home at Dark Horse, Powell’s epic masterpiece has received five Eisner Awards and is currently in development as an animated film by Blur Entertainment and producer David Fincher. Today, Dark Horse and Eric Powell reintroduce mankind to the brilliant saga that is The Goon in the first of three planned library volumes, collecting the first four arcs of horror comedy brilliance in a single 498-paged hardcover.

COMIC REVIEW: The Goon: Library Volume #1 - A Must Own

The Goon: Library Edition Volume 1, Page 97

Right from the cover, this thing pops. Powell’s oil painted mastery, also represented heavily in the interior, grabs you without even opening the book – the giant title logo lined so hard it’s practically three dimensional. Cracking the book open, you’re greeted with Eric Powell, the man, in a photo resembling anything but a stock photo, brandishing a 9mm pistol in one hand and a meat cleaver in the other, wearing a derby hat and a devilish grin. The table of contents and the biographic information are separated by a few enlarged pages of art washed over in a green tone that will become more than familiar to you by the time you have completed reading. These breaks also separate each arc contained in the book, giving the reader a preview of what’s to come, but not spoiling the surprise. The table of contests itself even is comprehensive, listing any additional help that Powell received with colors, letters, illustration, or even story as in the case of Mike Mignola and the Hellboy crossover issue contained in the last arc of the collection.

The first collected arc is titled “The Rough Stuff,” and as Powell’s three forwards (taken from original printings and reprints) would suggest, the pages encapsulated are entirely a labor of love, even if Powell’s love is self deprecating. This is where we get our first taste of Powell’s painted covers that made The Goon pop off the stands. If you’re unfamiliar with Powell’s work, these covers are indicative of an artistic precision the likes of Glenn Fabry and his work on Preacher. The colors somehow have a vibrancy and a muted quality all at the same time, making those deep lines and horrific landscapes recede into the art, pulling the featured art out. It’s a hell of a thing.

These pages are rich and nuanced from the start, complete with a level of grit one would associate with horror comics made without computer assistance, with muted palettes and deep line work reminiscent of Tales From the Crypt. The story here is complete, beginning with a prologue and bleeding into comic strip pages featured online before bringing you into arc two. The storytelling is vibrant and whole, giving you backstory on Goon and drawing you more and more into his world with each page. It’s easy to get sucked in, as Goon and his pal Franky never seem to catch a break, ripping from one action filled page to the next in a 1930s fright-fest rivaled by stories like The Spirit or Dick Tracy. Each turn of the page is another opportunity to be surprised.

COMIC REVIEW: The Goon: Library Volume #1 - A Must Own

The Goon: Library Edition Volume 1, Page 98

The second arc “Nothin’ But Misery” is introduced with more of that eye popping painted cover work and a sterling recommendation by foreword author William Stout, production designer on Return of the Living Dead. Right away, there’s a noticeable change in the quality of art, likely due to factors of time and budget, but also looking like what you might expect in comic art of the early 2000’s, as many artists began to use the aid of computers, giving lines more of an edge, and colors a finished sharpness that defined the era. Qualities certainly not lost on The Goon, as Eric Powell’s brother Robin steps in to do some color work as well. This arc also introduces Powell’s deranged humor in a new way, by the use of phony ads, sometimes used as plot devices, but always as companions to the story. They’re full-page ads that serve to complete the reading experience of The Goon on a larger scale than just the central story.  Where “The Rough Stuff” introduced you to the core cast and settings, “Nothin’ But Misery” introduces you to a richer cast of characters that you’ll find yourself rooting for throughout the remainder of the entire volume. Most notable in the new cast of characters is The Buzzard, a former sheriff turned reverse zombie, now a living man living off the flesh of the dead due to a freak spell casting accident by the series’ main protagonist The Zombie Priest. The Buzzard’s backstory is where The Goon first takes a break from the humor of depravity, and begins to really become something deeper and more meaningful, creating more of a connectedness not only among the characters, but with the reader as well. This arc makes it apparent as to why Powell received so much Eisner attention, as he proved himself more than just a talented guy with a funny story to tell, but a passionate and studied storyteller that gives consideration to expanding a universe and fleshing out development. We are of course returned to the vile and inhumane with a short three-page tale titled “Attack of the One-Eyed Scumbag From Outer Space.” It’s as inspired as it sounds.

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Starting with the 2004 storylines, “My Murderous Childhood (And Other Grievous Yarns)” serve as the third arc with a candidly humorous and endearing foreword by Frank Cho. Arc three brings us back to Goon beginnings, in a recap of Goon’s origin story, and again sees a change in tone and depth of art (in all the best ways). “My Murderous Childhood” Introduces yet more characters, such as the fumbling metal scientist The Diabolical Doctor Alloy and the leprous, inbred Graves family, as well as expands the borders of the universe the characters live in by showing off some of the seedier depths of it. The Buzzard’s storyline takes some dramatic changes in here, as he’s held captive and starved by The Zombie Priest (a storyline that is concluded with an epic team up). But, most importantly, There are notable developments made in main characters, Goon, Franky, and the town itself. We get a deeper understanding of Goon’s lack of romance and general disinterest in women as a new mysterious backstory begins to develop, but always seems to leave you with more questions than you started (a great reason to buy Volume 2). Franky goes from pipsqueak to junkyard dog in his backstory, which is book-ended by two photographic short stories of a young boy fleeing from home and happening upon an issue of Goon that forever changed his life and filled him with purpose. More notably in Franky’s backstory more of the arrival of The Zombie Priest and his interaction with the city before he filled it with the living dead and treacherous villainy. Arc three sees a quicker and more action packed pace in the storytelling and an art style that packs in more detail, making the pages, again, that much more immersive. The end of arc three sees three self contained one-off stories as presented by a Rod Serling satire character, and just the tiniest bit of implied sodomy. The perfect lead in, really, to the volume’s final arc.

COMIC REVIEW: The Goon: Library Volume #1 - A Must Own

The Goon: Library Edition Volume 1, Page 99

The final arc, “Heaps of Ruination,” is preceded by an extended foreword full of admiration for the following work as penned by Frank Darabont. Not only is this foreword adorned with love for Goon, but it also presents a theory – that the Goon universe is an extension of Eisner’s Central City as presented in The Spirit, and that these two stories share an untold bond. I don’t know that I believe in this theory, but it certainly made me draw some parallels while reading that I likely would not have come to on my own. Diving in, “Heaps of Ruination” opens with the brutal and epic end of The Buzzard story (so far). The pages here are the best of the bunch, including a massive team-up amongst almost every introduced character in the Goon universe banded together to smash their way down Lonely St. and hit The Zombie Priest where he lives in an effort to save the Buzzard from his tortured captivity. This is the best work in the volume in my opinion, pairing precisely timed storytelling with artwork that is both intricate and massive in scope. These pages are a momentous read, and are beautifully executed.

Immediately following the Buzzard conclusion, the Goon’s story starts to become a little segmented. Not in any way that it disrupts the narrative, but in the way that the next few stories are episodic and don’t deal a whole lot with the underlying arcs. This is where the perfectly done Hellboy crossover takes place, as Eric Powell and Dark Horse put Mike Mignola in the driver’s seat of The Goon. This issue is such a stand out. It places Hellboy in the Goon universe so flawlessly, leaving no breach in character between Powell and Mignola’s work, preserving Hellboy and Goon as their own personalities. It’s fantastic, simply put.

COMIC REVIEW: The Goon: Library Volume #1 - A Must Own

The Goon: Library Edition Volume 1, Page 100

As The Zombie Priest stories end in Volume One, the narrative is shifted to the vain and arrogant life of the modern vampire. This is an excellent ending, and really a great way to segue into a second volume, as it suggests that there is more to The Goon than the first volume would let on. The beginning of the vampire tales bring forth perhaps some meaningful and deeper themes while bringing a new and unseen side of Goon as a character. What a way to end the 455 pages of storytelling in this volume.

But, wait, there’s more! The following, and final, pages of The Goon Library Volume One are a sketchbook series cataloging everything from concepts, to rough pencils, inks, and finished works. Each arc gets its own set of sketchbook pages, making the volume really feel complete. I think that even these pages shine, as in so many sketchbook series in collections, the work represented often feels unfinished whereas the series pages here are extensive and well presented, some even featuring comments by Powell himself.

It was hard to put this library down. It’s fantastically well done. If I were you, I would not only pick this up, but stay tuned to FanboysInc come February 2016 as we likely review the second slated library volume of Eric Powell’s The Goon.

The “Best There Is:” Everything here works. The presentation from cover to cover is flawless and representative of the quality of work expected from an Eisner Award winning series. There’s nothing left out; the pages are bright and vibrant and make you feel like hell. The storytelling is exciting, gritty, and nightmarish. Everything about the way that this volume is put together is the way it should be, and in my opinion, is worth well more than the $39.99 price tag suggests.

The “Not Very Nice:”  There’s not much to be said here. My only complaint is that I have to wait until three more months to buy Volume Two.

FBI Score: 10 out of 10. The Goon: Library Volume #1 is flawless. It is an all inclusive masterpiece of storytelling, art direction, and presentation limited only by the creative revelation that is Eric Powell. Dark Horse should be proud to have this library work representing their brand on retail shelves. Comics readers, whether new or veteran, should take note of this brilliant and historically significant library edition.

Buddy Beaudoin

Buddy Beaudoin is a writer and independent comic creator from Upstate, NY. He's a fan of tea, spacey music, and a nice pair of slacks. He LOVES comics. Batman, Swamp Thing, and Jonah Hex are some favorites, but he's also a pretty big fan of the indies. Should you ever need him, walk outside and yell his name loudly...

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