Comics are a unique medium for me, because I invest a lot of money into them. This means that I generally only buy comics if there is a wide consensus on how good the series is. 'The Goon' was one of those comics that I heard about, but never received a consistent positive as a lot of other series. I thought the tone and concept was interesting but put it on the list of books I'd want to give a shot, but probably never would.
One day I saw someone selling 10 Goon trades at a discount while perusing Kijiji. I jumped at the deal, thinking it'd be a decent book. Little did I know that the book would be absolutely amazing. The Goon is one of those books that is hard to describe, but I shall try my best.
At the surface, I can see a lot of readers getting turned off by the immaturity that the book is steeped in. Cheap shots at easy targets (like the Twilight saga) and crude potty humor give The Goon a surface wash of MAD magazine with dark humor. That being said, the books are often genuinely hilarious, and is chock full of crazy and wacky moments. What is great about The Goon, is how unapologetic it is, which shows a candid and creatively fulfilled artist doing exactly what he wants.
As you get deeper into the book, you realize how smart and filled with pathos the comic is. When writer/artist Eric Powell gets into the narrative of the comic, everything seems to shift. A master of tragedy, Powell contrasts the silliness of the book with powerful and touching stories of torment. The Goon is at its heart an exploration of tragedy, and sets up a world where the wounded try to get through their daily lives.
Powell's artwork at face value is distinct from most, and is pretty recognizable. With an affinity to the 30s style settings and cult-classic references, Powell's work always felt influenced by pin up girl tattoos and MAD caricature artists. Also, Powell tends to draw ugly people, which is much harder to pull off than people give credit for. There is a big difference between a character that looks ugly because it was drawn poorly, and an ugly character that was drawn with purpose. Powell is the perfect example of the latter.
What Powell does with this art is probably the most impressive aspect of The Goon. A storyteller through and through, Eric Powell truly understands the medium and uses his art to enhance all of the contrasting tones. The art ebbs and flows with the mood of the story, which guides the reader from the silly immature gags to the heart-wrenching moments of despair..
When I picked up The Goon, I went on a reading binge that lasted about a week, and I think this is probably the best way to read it. The book is already paced well between character exploration and levity, so waiting months between books makes getting to the soul of the book kind of sparse. On the plus side, there are currently 14 Goon trade paperbacks available. Also, it should be mentioned that Powell is doing his best to get The Goon movie off the ground, and released a great trailer showing what it would look like. Unfortunately, I hadn't read 'The Goon' until after the movie kickstarter was completed, but the trailer is so good that I am definitely keeping an eye on it.