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‘The Goon Library Volume 4:’ Advance Hardcover Review

“I prefer not to know what it’s like to not be in awe of the stars.”

I love that Dark Horse has been collecting Eric Powell’s Goon trades into these library volumes.  It’s a great way to see how his work evolves over time and really be able to appreciate the man as an artist with a longer perspective than just in the trades or single issues.  This volume picks up right after the Chinatown storyline, and you can see the heavy influence of the story on our hero as well as the gravitas on Powell’s work.  The result?  First, we get a return to the crude humor and sensational horror that we’ve been used to, but we also get to see Powell open up more ideas, allowing himself more creative license within the framework to tell unique stories that continue the tradition of Chinatown’s growth, while still acknowledging the roots of the series as a whole, and turning it into something far greater than one may have expected from its humble knife-in-the-eye beginnings.

How does one cheer up the Goon?  Just leave it to Franky to get just enough booze, fatty food, and breasts to try.  When that doesn’t work, wailing on a hobo demon will certainly do the trick, and our normally dour, but affable, lug is back to his old self.  Powell transitions directly into a fun, little experiment, where he replaces all of the dialogue with images.  It’s a fun, sideways play on the form that provides some great laughs and a solid story.  Powell rightly feels that he has his audience’s trust after Chinatown, and he uses that trust to freely experiment in a lot of cool ways.  Once we feel that we’re back on track, he gives us a lovely western featuring Buzzard.  Buzzard’s been such an interesting character that it’s awesome to see him get his own turn in the spotlight, and the story is heart-wrenching in its execution.  These are just two of the main stories you’ll find in this volume, there’s so much goodness that comes after.

I don’t think I’d ever be able to accurately describe just how good Powell’s artwork is.  The style in consistent, and yet it feels as though it morphs in just enough ways to tell the current story.  I don’t think that there’s another artist working today that I would put in the same category, though part of that is because I don’t know anyone else who would draw such incredibly horrific and depressing thing with the graceful beauty that he manages to find within it.  It’s a modern-day grotesquerie from a deranged mind that has no problem spewing its ungainly wonders into the world.

It’s no secret how big a fan of this work I am, but there’s a reason that I’ve been so moved by it.  These library volumes are a phenomenal way to get your hands on some incredible work, and if you’re put off by the sex, violence, and crassness, just remember the five Eisner’s Powell’s received for his work on this series.  There’s a reason he’s as known as he is.  Join us to see why.

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