With his signature creation, “The Goon,” appearing to have gone off the rails in its most recent outing, I was wondering if creator Eric Powell’s best days were behind him. “Big Man Plans” proves that this isn’t the case. It’s the story of an unnamed dwarf who goes through life suffering every indignity and cruelty possible, and dishing out all the anger and violence he can in response. This cycle is interrupted one day by a letter from a girl he knew back home that causes him to return to rage and get respect. What follows is a story that manages to avoid the pitfalls of being relentlessly depressing through sheer brutality, achieving a satisfying catharsis in the end.
That’s mainly due to how we see the protagonist give as good as he gets throughout the course of this story. In a very good indication of things to come, “Big Man Plans” starts off with him suffering short person jokes in a bar before he leaves and is then mocked by a kid on a bike. Said bar is then blown up through the clever use of a hand grenade in a splash page that has the kid being smacked in the jaw for his insults. This is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the suffering we see heaped upon the main character of the story, as well as the retribution he heaps out upon those deserving of it. That’s the core of what makes this story work as no bad deed goes unpunished here.
Even though he doesn’t have a name, the protagonist’s character is effectively fleshed out over the course of the story by Powell and his co-writer Tim Wiesch. We get his whole life story, from growing up on the farm with his dad and sister, to the tough times after his dad died and worse but purposeful days in the army. It’s a bleak, but insightful series of flashbacks as the writers show that the main character did receive the kind of inspirational advice you’d expect from the people who cared about him and were trying to do their best to help this kid out. Then we see that advice twisted into murderous rage that leads our protagonist back home to settle scores in wickedly brutal fashion.
That all of these scenes hit you right in the gut is a credit to Powell’s incredible art. The one thing about “The Goon” that hasn’t diminished over the years is the art, as its creator’s work has only become more detailed and effective in the way it can render gut-wrenching pain and gore. (And, uh, humor too. At least it used to be...) Those skills are on display to their fullest extent here as the protagonist inflicts and receives a lifetime of suffering in the pages of this collection. The creative punishments he inflicts on those most deserving will make your stomach crawl, while the looks of rage, anguish, and utter sadness will stick with you long after the final page. Powell also gives the story an overall grimy and messy look that makes the whole project feel like it could’ve been a grindhouse film straight out of its late 70’s setting.
Or, you could also call this the best film that Rob Zombie and Peter Dinklage have yet to make together. There’s no denying that “Big Man Plans” is a savage work about revenge whose unsparing nature and graphic violence mean that it won’t be for everyone. Yet this didn’t wreck my whole day after reading it. For all the misery at the heart of this story, it’s a gripping showcase for the cathartic power of violence and revenge as well as a compelling reason for Powell’s continued relevance as a creator. You may also expect to hear more about this in two weeks from this coming Wednesday…