Comic Picks By The Glick

The Goon vol. 10: Death’s Greedy Comeuppance

January 28, 2011

After writer/artist Eric Powell took his signature series to the next level, successfully balancing his dramatic instincts with his deranged sense of humor, in the “Return of Labrazio” arc that spanned vols. 7-9 we finally get the next collection. While I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline, I was a little put out by the fact that it felt like the introductory act to a much larger story. I was certainly looking forward to this volume in the hopes that it would show the way forward, but I was ultimately let down in the end.

We start off with an issue that marks the tenth anniversary of the series. Fittingly, it focuses on Frankie and the gang’s efforts to throw the Goon a birthday party with disastrous results. Their loss is our gain as this issue also features cake, slatternly maidens, hobo gods, The Rape Gorilla, and none other than Frank Darabont (director of “The Shawshank Redemption,” and showrunner on “The Walking Dead”) explaining to Powell why people in animal costumes being raped by actual animals is never funny. It’s a fun epilogue to the previous volumes and a welcome change of pace in the sense that the title character comes out ahead in the end.

The second issue is a “silent” tale about a black-clad assassin on the trail of a thieving woman who has just wound up in the Goon’s neck of the woods. I’ve never had any doubt about Powell’s artistic or storytelling skills, so the fact that he’s able to pull off such an issue doesn’t surprise me. There are a lot of fun moments here, usually involving the characters’ visual thought balloons, but nothing that will really surprise or startle you with laughter as the best issues of this series do.

Then we get to the three-issue “Buzzard” mini-series. While I like the character and his tragic arc, this story is far too serious for its own good. I’m cool with how the series doesn’t take place in a clearly defined time or place as it gives Powell license to draw all sorts of strange creatures and twisted landscapes without having to rein himself in to a particular time and place as he does in the main series. Truly, the art is the best part of this story.

The problem is that in addition to the aforementioned seriousness is that it doesn’t go anywhere. Buzzard begins the story looking for a way to die, and that’s exactly how he ends it (only now he has a zombie horse). In between, he travels the land with a boy in tow on a mission to kill a god on behalf of the scared inhabitants of a local village. This is done to the accompaniment of some of the hardest-boiled, overwritten and overwrought dialogue I’ve ever read. I don’t doubt that this is intentional on Powell’s part, but the end result is a story that’s more dull than anything else.

While “The Goon” has become increasingly serious over the years, it’s a shift that has worked through some very careful planning on the part of its creator. Though the series started out as silly as it was ridiculous, there was “Chinatown” in the background -- a piece of backstory so pregnant with drama that it threatened to derail the comedy when it was brought up. However, Powell kept changing the tone and infusing more drama with each volume that by the time the actual “Chinatown” story was told it came off as a logical step in the evolution of the series and a great story in its own right. Here, there’s none of that buildup and the story itself isn’t strong enough to make me care.

The end result is a volume that kills a lot of the momentum the series had after the end of vol. 9. Regrettably, the two issues featuring the title character don’t advance the story in any meaningful fashion, and there’s no indication as to when Powell will get around to telling it. I wanted a lot from this volume and it didn’t deliver. Hopefully the next volume will.

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