Advance Review Of The Goon #1: The Sublime, The Gothic & The Down Right Funny

by Oliver MacNamee

I’ve always been a fan of The Goon comic book and the titular hero’s escapades, and was thrilled with the news of its return with a new home at Albatross Funnybooks to mark his 20th anniversary, as well as to kick off the next chapter in his story. The heady mix of dark humour, even darker horror, and a bygone America that’s marinated in the Americana of a particular era has always appealed to me as a reader and comic book fan. The Great Depression, Of Mice And Men, Popeye; this is the world I think of when I pick up The Goon. An America in which the dream has become a living nightmare and the ravages of a broken economy and failing crops seemed to create some of the US’s most memorable newspaper strips, as well as add some tarnish to a once glowing America of the early, transformative 20th century.

It’s this faded bygone world in which I picture The Goon and his friends and foes inhabiting. Even Eric Powell’s magnificent artwork is evocative of the era, with more than a little of Will Eisner about it all. It’s a universe wherein street gangs akin to those of Gangs of New York lurk around every corner of the town with no name, and to which The Goon, Frank and Roscoe return, but street gangs with ghouls, zombies and worse amongst their ranks.

Heading straight to Norton’s bar is a great way of not only marking the return of The Goon – literally – but also a convenient and clever way of allowing him and his friend and orphan sidekick to catch up the reader and himself on affairs since he’s been gone. Turns out he wasn’t the saviour he thought he was and in his absence, new ruffians and scallywags have filled the vacuum he left. Back to square one then. Just as the bar is central to social interaction in British soap operas, here Norton’s fills this very same important function and it’s not long until we’re all caught up and defamiliarised with some of the local colourful characters.

I’ve missed this world of wonders and its feels good to be back. Like the aforementioned Popeye, The Goon’s world is a rich –  albeit threadbare –  tapestry of the bizarre and the comically horrific. For example, while looking for new digs, local realtor (for the damned!), Horace Snicklets, not only looks like some kind of groovy ghoulie, but takes great delight in showing them a series of clapped-out, rundown abodes (which Powell renders in such fine and great detail, further adding to the mise-en-scene of a rotting, once grand America) all having one feature in common; a death curse! He’s rather crestfallen when he discovers The Goon would rather not have a death curse on his new place. As you do.

Its a great first issue that catches up readers old and new effortlessly, and even has the time for a fist fight too. After all, this is The Goon we’re talking about. The guy speaks with his fists. Powell’s artwork, with its combination of ink and pencil, cannot be praised enough. I’ve enjoyed it wherever I can get it (with his ‘Escape From Bizarro World’ in Action Comics a particular favourite)and its great to see him return to his creator-owned characters. He mixes the hyper real with the comically exaggerated with a mastery of texture, depth and solidity that you can almost reach out and grab, and this reliance of pencilling really pays off in the closing pages of this first issue, which sets up issue #2 nicely.

A comic book that is both evocative of a bygone America and Americana and therefore a timeless title that feels as fresh today as it did twenty years ago. Here’s to more murky and mirthful adventures to come from everyone’s favourite hard man. To me, Eric Powell and The Goon will always be the bastard child of Will Eisner, John Steinbeck and Stephen King. And that’s a great thing to behold. Well, maybe don’t imagine this particular scenario for too long and just focus on the comic instead, which is out next week!

The Goon #1 is out next Wednesday, March 13th, 2019.

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