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Nothin' But a Good Time

 

The Goon Vol. 1: Nothin' But Misery

Eric Powell

Dark Horse, 2004

Rating: 4.3

 

Posted: January 19, 2005

By Dave Brennan

If Raymond Chandler, H.P. Lovecraft, Mike Mignola and Bugs Bunny ever got drunk in a hot tub and experimented with their sexuality, their resulting love child would be The Goon, Eric Powell's one-of-a-kind supernatural-slapstick-action-noir extravaganza. Currently a cult favorite among fans, critics and creators alike, The Goon is a well-drawn whirlwind of madcap hilarity that no self-respecting comic book enthusiast should go without.

For the uninitiated, Powell's protagonist was first introduced in Rough Stuff, originally released by small press publisher Albatross Exploding Funny Books. He's a hard-hitting, tough-talking thug, who engages in a variety of illicit activities with his pint-sized sidekick Franky, a loudmouthed instigator with a mean streak a mile wide. Neither heroes nor villains, the partners are primarily interested in protecting their turf and spending quality time at the local pub, and though first and foremost they're looking out for Number One, they're essentially decent folk and not above saving children from mutant goblin-elves on Christmas Eve. Anyhow, what began in Rough Stuff continues in Nothin' But Misery, the second and final collection of Albatross Goon issues before the series hit it big as a Dark Horse Comics publication.

This time around, Powell builds upon the Goon's origin (which was laid out in the first volume), while adding new characters and misadventures to the mix. Fishy Pete makes a return appearance with an army of deadly fish men, while the Zombie Priest continues to build his army of undead gangsters. There's a haunted house, a stolen treasure, unexpected romance, an evil magician and best of all, the origin of Buzzard, an ancient gun-toting reverse-zombie vigilante. These early escapades are wrapped up with the Goon's first (and last) appearance in Dark Horse Presents: a three-page sci-fi story with a none-too-subtle riff on the ridiculous ending of M. Night Shyamalan's Signs. To top it all off, the stories are punctuated with satirical advertisements that lampoon everything from Silver Age comics to psychic hotlines.

Each of The Goon's issues is self-contained, and can be read without any prior knowledge of the character's background. Even so, Powell drops little references here and there, adding a rewarding element of continuity to the proceedings. There's a contagious, anything-goes free-spiritedness to the whole affair, perhaps best evidenced by a gorgeous two-page spread of a giant squid attacking the Goon's car (just another occupational hazard on Crestwood Street). Throw in a giant card-playing spider and an inflatable rubber chicken, and you'll begin to understand the kind of unconventional creativity that makes The Goon so special.

Visually, this volume acts as a bridge between earlier releases and the issues currently hitting the stands. Powell is an insanely adaptable artist, able to shift his style to match the story, whether it calls for a comic strip, realistic interpretation or a balance of the two. Buzzard's origin is told entirely with an antique, washed-out pencil technique, while "Stepping Over with Edward Johns" is rendered in simple cartoon curves. The painted covers, meanwhile, are in a category all their own, displaying influences ranging from Hellboy to Norman Rockwell.

Considering that Powell is the sole creative force behind the book, The Goon is an outstanding achievement on all almost every level -- sharp as a knife, beautiful to look at and most of all, more fun than a barrel of super-intelligent cigar-smoking monkeys from another dimension. Almost impossible to describe, it's a book best experienced with your feet kicked up and a bong hit under your belt (or so I'm told). Anyone seeking the perfect storm of action, humor and genre-twisting insanity -- in other words, pure addictive entertainment in graphic novel form -- need look no further.

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 Ratings Key:
 5.0: Breaks new ground
 4.0-4.9: First-rate
 3.0-3.9: Solid
 2.0-2.9: Mediocre
 1.1-1.9: Bad
 0.0-1.0: The worst

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