June 9, 2010

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Goon Volume 8

Written by Eric Powell (with the Fillbach Brothers, Kyle Hotz, Rebecca Sugar, Frans Boukas, John Arcudi and Bob Fingerman)
Illustrated by Eric Powell (with the Fillbach Brothers, Kyle Hotz, Rebecca Sugar, Frans Boukas, Herb Trimpe, Al Milgrom, and Bob Fingerman)
Dark Horse

The Goon continues its move to a climax as our mob boss bruiser tries to get one step ahead of his former employer, even as things grow steadily worse. More folks die and betrayals abound as the Buzzard tries to help Goon fight off a foe that's far more than he anticipated. There seems to be no way out...or is there? The answer and choices will haunt the Goon for all his days.

Plus, a plethora of creators get together and put together a Goon story, almost entirely without the help of Eric Powell. Is nothing sacred or must I hand out a Knife to the Eye?

I'm a bit conflicted about this trade of the Goon and where the story is headed in general. There's more of the Goon Graphic Novel (aka Vol 6) brought into the narrative, making that almost humorless Goon adventure part of the big story. That means that the tone of this book gets steadily darker, with the jokes entirely removed from the plot and coming only in the dialog. We get some good one-liners, such as when the Goon gets ready to jump into the big battle scene, but the overall sense of irreverence gives way to a need to make sure that the reader understands the nature of the stakes that are on the table.

And boy, are those stakes high. Without giving away too much, I will say that Powell does a great job of ramping up the danger to the Goon and his ad hoc family bit by bit, and is not afraid to do horrible things to them if necessary. That's the best thing he does here, actually--I honestly can believe that the Goon will lose this fight. It's something that a comic with 30 years of history and multiple media tie-ins can't manage. Anyone is fair game and just might be by the time everything is said and done.

I think the most clever part of this volume, however, is the choice that the Buzzard presents for the Goon. It's handled very much in character for everyone involved, and while the final answer is probably a bit obvious, I still like that Goon made a choice and will have to live with it. No matter how callous he may seem, Goon has a heart and really does care for the town (cleverly never named) and its seemingly damned citizens. That caring may, in the end, just cost him more than he'll ever want to bear.

While it was nice to have the short stories included here, they feel horribly out of place. Written in the style of the early Goon issues, their light-hearted tone and irreverence remind me of how much I liked the first few Goon trades, even if their attempts to imitate Powell's writing style misses the mark more often than it hits. (I liked the first story the best, and they kind of progressed downward from there for me.) It was cool to see Herb Trimpe and Al Milgrom (both known for doing some lengthy work with the Hulk) do a take on Goon, but I'm not sure reminding the reader of what typified the Goon they liked in the first place while he's changing rapidly at the hands of his original creator is such a good idea.

A big part of why I loved the Goon series so much is that it never took itself seriously. Now that it does, the gross out moments (like when the kids are preparing to firecracker a monster) feel out of place, like they're relics from some of the earlier trades. These moments are shorter in nature, and ironically, it makes them stand out all the more. I'm just not sure that the Goon's origin is where a story like this one should start. It's a bit like how the major capes comics folks will take a lighthearted character and make them tragic, except that since Powell is an amazing writer he is able to pull it off in a way that doesn't make me want to stop reading the comic.

I've come a long way with Powell and the Goon, and it's been a great ride. While I can't say that I like this change in direction (I'd love to have the stupid awesome brawling and quipping Goon that fought giant, talking fish back), I find the story so compelling that I'm drawn in despite my misgivings. That's the sign of a great writer, which I think Powell is. I'll be seeing Goon off into the sunset in the next volume, and definitely recommend that you do so, too.