Written and Drawn by Eric Powell
Colors by Dave Stewart
I’m a whore. Sorry to be so blunt, but it’s what Eric Powell would have me tell you. A cursory glance at my pull box reveals my unabashed love for DC and Marvel. Indie books are merely occasional sprinkles on the diabetic cake of my nerdiness. But with great responsibility (this column…) comes great power. I think. My commitment to not review the same book in a 6 month period (don’t hold me to that, please) forced me to expand my horizons when it came to weekly reads. And Eric? Let’s be clear: Your cover, rife with every trope known-to-geeks, caught my eye. And with a promise of a new origin, multi-colored Goons, new costumes, a Number One issue, and a marked ‘Collectors Edition’ stamp, I would be a fool not to have purchased one. Suffice to say, the book earns the 350 shekel price tag through sheer force of will. Will being raunchy humor and a complete send up of current comic book cliches.
My knowledge of the Goon is pretty much non-existent. To be honest? I’ve heard great things about it, but from a few snippets of covers, and articles I’ve read over who-knows-how-many-years… in my head, The Goon is just a hillbilly Hellboy yarn with an odd looking sidekick. Well, odder than a Fish Guy and Human Torchette. I figured I had nothing to lose with jumping on this odd issue, as the cover no doubt makes clear this is either a jumping on point, or a waste of ink and paper on Powell’s part. Thank the lord he’s funny and talented.
The book itself is a light and hilarious read; albeit purposefully as shallow as a wading pool. The idea here is that Powell, desperate to move books, is willing to send up a big middle finger to the ‘Big Two’ by way of using almost every modern trope in Cape and Cowl books made in the last six or seven years. The story, if you could even call it that, is basically one set up and punchline leading to the next, for roughly 20 pages. The Goon changes origins, costumes, power sets, etc. as he fights monsters, cloned Goons, asteroids, and then his own partner… all whilst describing exactly what’s going on. Taken strictly as a waste of time? The book is perfect to read—just once. And while anyone who reads mainstream books will no doubt have little to no problems predicting what will come with each page turn… Powell knows when and how to pepper a page with a playful payoff.
Artistically, the book is as slick as a tub of brill cream. Powell’s line quality, expressive faces, and dynamic composition make every spread visually interesting. Even while proving his prowess at pumping out predictable visual cues, the Goon simply looks beautifully over-polished to prove a point. Plus one to me for using that much alliteration in a single sentence, by the way. In this instance, you get what you pay for. $3.50 worth of gags, giggles, boobs, explosions, and proof that Eric Powell would fit in ‘mainstream’ books if he so chose. But by book’s end, the original Goon returns to shun and spit on the previous pages.
Following the actual wafer-thin content comes Powell’s monologue on creator-owned comics. This is just about the place he loses me. Not only because seeing that many words on a page makes me shout “BORING!”, but because after reading it, I can’t help but shout (to no one) “Yeah. I knew this already. When Robert Kirkman said all of these things. 4 years ago.” The lengthy column he writes is sadly as cliched as the rest of the book, but without the tongue planted firmly in-cheek. We all know the drill; Marvel and DC outsell indie books, and it’s the creators fault that they are. How dare DC and Marvel treat their publishing companies like companies.
Does he make a point that books are increasingly homogenized into schlock for the masses? No. He doesn’t. The point is moot. Mainstream books have been, and will always be what they are. Commercial. But that doesn’t make them bad. Action Comics? Daredevil? Swamp Thing? Tell me those are ruining the industry. Yes, DC rebooted everything as an obvious cash grab. And yes, Marvel right now is basing an entire year long event on the concept of people punching one another. But you know what? The Goon is just another book about a blue collar anti-hero fighting off the hordes of oddities in the world. Last time I checked, that’s also the MO of Hellboy, Bob Howard: Plumber of the Unknown, the Ghostbusters, and several other books on the shelves. And guess what? They all tell similar stories. They all maintain an identifiable level of humor. And they each cater to their respective fan bases.
To bitch and moan that DC and Marvel should be to blame for the ever increasing decline of comic sales is like bitching that Bush ruined our country—we already know it’s true. And by making a book that celebrates the very tropes that are the destroying the industry (we’re DOOMED!) seems either extremely meta, or just done for the quick cash grab. Which in and of itself is meta. But I digress.
The Goon #1 or #40 is a funny book. Will it make me seek further issues of the series, to get the flavor of what we’re really supposed to be enjoying? Sure. Why not. I don’t want to seem like a corporate tool to you all. Maybe in a few months, I return to the Gooniverse to see just how original and wonderful the series actually in. In the mean time, in an effort to boost my traffic: Michael Davis is actually a white Guy. Mike Gold doesn’t keep kosher. Art Tebbel is a funny name. And I’m gay.