Chapter three of The Occasion for Revenge was my first experience with the Goon. In fact, it was one of my first assignments writing for Fanbase Press, and it opened a whole world for me. Nearly self-contained, the story of Kid Gargantuan was the kind of tragic heroism in a dark place that I’ve always found so enticing, much like Batman but with poop jokes. The pain of the characters was a visceral thing in the amazing artistry of Eric Powell, with such interesting and dynamic characters that are truly larger than life, struggling with demons (both figurative and literal) that are even larger still. I was so moved that I immediately went to a comic shop that was closing (a sad event always, but speculative realty cares not for the joy that funny books bring and I’m never one to pass on a deal when buying in bulk.) and bought every published trade to immerse myself into the town on the edge of Horse Eater’s Woods. The beginning of the series was so much different than what it became towards the end, but the same indomitable spirit was there, smashing faces and knifing eyes, albeit with more dick and fart jokes. That’s always been the beauty of this series: that you can have an idea started as a “Wouldn’t it be funny if…?” find a place where it can open itself and explore the vulnerabilities behind the laughs. Powell knows how to use his own habits to really highlight the high pitch of emotion and climax that we witness, such as cursing. Typically, he hides smutty words behind not-entirely-covered pencil scratches, but one of the last pages prints a big one right across the large panel, and it underscores the intensity of the moment. The old adage that comedy is just tragedy plus time finds its reverse in this final library volume of an incredible series that will always hold a special place in my collection.
This edition collects the last of the series of the Goon, and outside of one-offs, we’ll not see him again until the highly anticipated (at least by me) Lords of Misery which - based off of the silhouettes - will certainly be including the Goon, Frankie, and Buzzard. The finale of the series is spectacular, but I’ve been espousing that forever now, so I’ll talk about the bonus material included in this final volume. Not only are there shorter, somewhat out of continuity stories from Powell, but a myriad of guest writers like comedians Brian Posehn, Thomas Lennon, and even Patton Oswalt. They get to play in Powell’s sandbox and put their own fun spin on the world he’s built, and we, the readers, win so much in the collaboration. Additionally, there is some great sketch and pencil work included which gives us a look at the process behind this giant lug and his festering world, as well as some post-series stories that he’s made since.
I can’t talk about the artwork with any authority, but the man has five Eisners. It’s just damn good. There’s no artist that I’ve encountered who has evoked as much emotion in a single panel as well as he has, and nothing is pretty. Books like Saga have shocking moments, but the underlying structure is pleasing to the eye. In this world, beauty seems odd, unnatural, and suspicious. The Goon never looks good; he looks powerful, scary, determined, but there is no angle that derives aesthetic pleasure from the eye. Much like George R.R. Martin’s widely reported love of “broken things,” Powell buries us in his world of suffering and by the end of the ride, it feels normal. It takes you a minute to readjust to the real world when you come up, and I think that is the mark of a world that draws you in entirely.
Powell is one of the greats, and the final chapters of what has been his signature series are something incredible to behold. If you’ve become a fan of him as much as I have, check out his Hillbilly series which moves in the feel of the more sophisticated style of this volume. I love it.
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