‘The Goon: Once Upon a Hard Time #4’ – Advance Comic Book Review

There's only one exit from Lonely Street.

This is the last issue of The Goon.  Right?!  Me too.  When I read the notice in Dark Horse's advance notices, I was floored.  I've come upon Eric Powell's work more recently than some, but it's an incredible body of work to catch up on.  I've gone through The Goon a few times, and though this run of Once Upon a Hard Time seemed like it could be leading towards a big ending, I was desperately hoping that it would be offset with a "Frankie likes to have sex despite his hygiene/taste" gag or a finale smash from the square-jawed and scarred titular hero . . . er, defen . . . um, guy who likes to hit things.

To recap, since the witches’ coven came to town, everything has been steadily going poorly for the Goon and his business associates/family.  Enemies surround him and the noose has been drawing closer.  In typical fashion, he faces this with grit, pain, stoicism, and booze.  He's the rock the storm breaks against, and we've been starting to see the cracks.  Even Frankie's lost his effervescent tone, and this ultimate issue is what everything's been leading to.

There's no more perfect way to see this series end than exactly how it's laid out here, and that's all I can say.  You'll not be sure how things will turn out, and it's not just because we know the series is coming to a close, leaving any possibility on the table. Everything fits, and all the hard choices have already been made; now, it's time to see the results.  Powell puts the Goon where he's always been: in the path of those that would end him, and he's not going without a fight.  Everything we've learned about him has given us such a complete and tragic character, and it all falls away now. We see him in his purest form, the essence of what makes him so awesome and heartbreaking all at once.  He becomes the singularity of catharsis, and if you've been a fan, this journey will stay with you for a long damn time.

There's no way to express how masterful Powell's images are; his form is incredible, and the pencil work is second to no one working today.  I've always thought of art as a way to communicate something truly human where language alone fails, and this issue hits that mark for me. Every line is placed to highlight the story, somehow seeming delicate and devastating at the same time, and the whole of it is greater than the marks upon the page. There's a piece of soul within it, something that hits you on a level you cannot simplify to words, something you know of yourself in your heart.  It's pretty, y'all.  I have found myself staring at so many panels while writing this; I can't choose a favorite.  I could spend hours looking at every page. I may be doing that for a while.  There's one pivotal moment in a silent panel that sums up the series in its entirety, and it's the event that changes everything.

There are a lot of folks who will continue pushing, continue adding to make their art better, and in a lot of cases, it works.  Eric Powell has found the art of taking away, winnowing down the tale to its essence and communicating with us on that level.  What we're left with is the core of the work, the kernel that has grown and blossomed over the many years and issues of this remarkable run.  This is what The Goon is, and it's a fitting end.  (Oh, and there's a bit of a surprise on the last page.)


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