May 19, 2010

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Goon Volume 7

Written by Eric Powell
Illustrated by Eric Powell
Dark Horse

Things just keep getting worse for the Goon and his friends. As the old Zombie Priest reaps what he sows, old foes return to haunt Goon and Frankie. As they try to keep their heads above water in this ever-changing situation, other players make their return to town. Can even all the Goon's many resources and added allies stop the doom that's starting to pick off his friends one by one?

The darker trend of the past few volumes continues here, as the Goon spends the opening trying to take stock of his revised life and and the end builds to an imposing sense that everything he's worked for is about to come crashing down around his ears. It's almost like we're reading Goon: Disassembled.

Normally, I might be unhappy at this set of circumstances, as I tend to get annoyed after years of reading western comics that seem to think the only way to tell a new and enjoyable story is to make it darker somehow. The difference is that Goon always was a dark comedy. The idea that it's just getting a little more serious is perfectly okay with me, because Powell is taking pains to make sure that every adjustment that happens in this comic is there for a reason. No one is killed just to be shocking, Frankie doesn't suddenly start having weird, school girl on acid dreams (oh wait, yes actually he does), and every change to the status quo we've seen so far has ended up existing to prove a point.

I've said time and again that I don't have a single problem with dark comics. I love them, in fact. But if you're creating radical changes to characters we've known for decades with no point other than to goose sales or to try to get into USA Today, then I'm going to call you out on it.

I can't imagine the Goon ever making it into USA Today, or any other "nice" publication. So much the better, as I like the fact that Powell doesn't try to make something that's for everyone. It means that even those this series has grown increasingly popular over the years, we still get the same absolutely unbelievable crude ideas, such as a person who can't use a toothbrush correctly, zombies that make cake (complete with bits of dead skin), or talking bits of ripped-off face. If that's not enough, look for a closing number in here where Powell takes on Oprah and stupid self-help books.

There are times when even I blanch a bit, such as the idea of characters using slurs against transgendered folk and gays, but honestly, if *something* in a collection of the Goon doesn't offend you, then it's either missing a key ingredient in the formula (Volume 6 , the graphic novel, had this issue) or you are one disturbed and unflappable person.

As long as we have this balance between the dark parts of the book and the over-the-top crude humor, the Goon will continue to be a great read. This set of stories gets back to the pattern, and I couldn't be happier. If I can't have my overly-horny Frankie or men with one arm and a ham, then I don't want to read it!

Behind the darkness and slapstick, however, is a really strong plot that's been brewing for some time now. If you watch carefully, and as the Goon himself notes, a lot of his prior enemies are now allies, and I think we may be adding at least one more before this is all over. I hadn't noticed that until this trade, but it's an interesting touch on Powell's part. Every story that felt like a one-off now has bigger meaning, which both shocks and impresses me.

There's also the big reveal that I won't spoil here. All I will say is that's hard to keep a bad man down, especially in comics. The return we see here is absolutely brilliant, and I can't wait to see the final confrontation when it happens.

I'm a big fan of the Goon and Eric Powell as well. This series is still going strong, and keeps all the things I liked about it in place while growing as a story that can last beyond a few sets of single-issue jokes. It's one of the best comics out there--don't let the foul language and crude scenes fool you. There's a great story being told, and I highly recommend this series to anyone with a strong constitution looking for a strong story. Those who fit that description won't be disappointed.