Monday, April 18, 2011

The Goon: Nothin' But Misery by Eric Powell

The Goon: Nothin' but Misery by Eric Powell
ISBN: 1569719985
Dark Horse Books, 2003
260 p.

Plot Summary: The Goon is the protector a small quirky town he calls home. It's populated by talking spiders, zombies, and his good friend and accomplice Frankie. A man who calls himself the Zombie Priest is working on a way to build a horde of the undead to take over the town and eventually the world. The Goon and Frankie often hang out at the local bar to get in bar fights over poker bets, make crude jokes, or to discuss their next plan of action. In this particular trade, The Goon and Frankie jump in a 30s-style car and mow down vampires with their tommy guns and murderous glee.

Critical Analysis: The best part of Eric Powell's The Goon is that the series never takes itself too seriously. However, once the reader gets acquainted with The Goon and his world, more serious and dramatic storylines come forth. This is much the same way that Jeff Smith wrote Bone, starting out with slapstick humor and minor character development, then getting more serious a few trades in. The Goon's humor is mostly crude and involves trash-talking to the various monsters that populate the town. In one particular scene, Frankie casually talks to a monster then exclaims, "KNIFE TO THE EYE!" and well, knifes the monster in the eye.

The Goon draws many parallels to Mike Mignola's Hellboy which is both good and bad. It's unfortunate that it feels so familiar and that Powell's work is often overshadowed by the more popular Hellboy. One aspect of The Goon that makes it stand out is Powell's superb artwork. He paints in dreary purples, greens, and browns to convey the mood of the story and the imminent danger. The monsters are very clearly Lovecraft-inspired with lots of demons, eyeballs, and tentacles populating the world.

Finally, Eric Powell lovingly crafts The Goon as a character, holding back details of his past to reveal at just the right time. He manages to take a character that would at best be a henchman in any other comic and makes him deeper and more interesting than most comic book characters around. Each of his scars and emotional outbreaks tell a new story of his troubled psyche. Eric Powell manages to convey this depth of character while simultaneously making crude zombie jokes, it's an impressive balance.

Reader's Annotation: The Zombie Priest is threatening The Goon and Frankie's hometown with a horde of, well, zombies. Now it's up to them to take some lead pipes and tommy guns to those brain sucking monsters.

Author Information: Eric Powell lives in the backwoods of Tennessee, where he draws most of his inspiration for his Southern Gothic style. He has done work for The Simpsons comic, MAD Magazine, and The Incredible Hulk. More recently, he began work on a new Godzilla comic.


Genre: horror, fantasy, graphic novel

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Reading Level: 15 to adult

Challenge Issues: excessive violence, language

Challenge Defense Ideas: Become familiar with the book, keeping the challenge issues in mind. Refer to the library's collection development policy here. If possible, find other opinions from reviews, recommendations, or others who have read the book.

Why I included this title: As an avid graphic novel reader, I try to keep a bead on less popular graphic novels or analogs of more popular graphic novels. The Goon also has such a sense of humor and charm that it appeals to many readers immediately. Finally, with the recent zombie trend in YA fiction, this title could appeal to that audience.

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