Even as a great fan of Eric Powell's art, I never read much of The Goon. It wasn’t anything against the series; I just never picked it up. Recently I decided that there’s no time like the present, so I cracked open The Goon #34 and I am so glad I did. I have no idea if the other Goon stories are this good, but issue 34 knocked it out of the park for me. Powell’s world is so wonderfully creepy, so completely surreal and all encompassing that you dissolve into it and accept whatever’s happening as gospel. There’s no reality except what Powell creates, and the combination of his art and storytelling is comic synergy is very compelling.
The story here comes in two punches, which is fitting for a character like The Goon. First, it’s Powell’s attack on the Twilight-ing of modern horror. The Goon is taking a casual stroll when he’s accosted by a gaggle of vampires. Not just normal vampires, but pouty lip, incredibly good-looking vampires. The Goon is naturally disgusted, especially when the vampires pour glitter all over each other in order to “power up” for the fight. Using the classic line “Gimmie that bat you fruity bastard”, The Goon promptly beats the hell out of them. Then, on a dime, the story switches and we’re whisked to an orphanage that looks it’s settled somewhere between The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and a Scooby Doo swamp mystery.
Powell’s art once again pops here. The children of this orphanage are a mix of the Garbage Pail Kids, the 30s comic strip Little Orphan Annie, and Little Lulu if they crawled up from a level of Hell that Dante himself didn’t have the imagination to dream up. These kids live under the abusive guise of an old, ugly woman but they aren’t cowering with fear. These are tough skid row kids, pissed off and smart. When a new orphan turns out to be stretching, teeth-like-knives demon, the kids don’t cower, they head off to get The Goon. Problem is, The Goon is watching a game and refuses to leave. The kids whip up a ton of alcohol, get the Goon drunk and then promise him spaghetti. The Goon then does a drunken battle with the demon because there is no spaghetti.
What makes The Goon work, outside of Powell’s killer art and story telling ability, is his touches of old school comic classics. He tackles the sinister and weird underbelly of the comic strip era. The newspaper strips were different than the normal comics; there was something about them that darkened the stories and Powell nails that both with story and aesthetics. The twisted humor, the dark and surreal world it takes place in, The Goon’s penchant for violence and destruction – it’s a very modern version of a time when comic strips, and even comic books, scared the world. With a fuller understanding of what makes The Goon tick, I am proud to call myself a fan of this muscle bound street brawler and the sinister, creepy, and incredibly entertaining world he exists in.