I’d like to start today by wishing a very Happy Holidays to all my wonderful readers!
Today I have a real holiday treat to share. I’m going to be reviewing the latest offering from one of the absolute best writers in comics today. A man I once personally drove 2 ½ hour to meet. The one, the only Eric Powell!
What can I say about Eric Powell that indie fans don’t already know? 5 time Eisner Award winning author. Talented artist, brilliant writer, master of comedy, drama, and horror, and above all else, he’s a genuinely nice dude.
Powell has done some work for the big two in the past (my personal favorite being his run on Action Comics where he brought his artistic talents to one of the best Bizarro stories ever done) but today I’m going to talk about his most famous creation: The Goon.
If you’ve never read a Goon comic before, well, you just don’t have real joy in your life. Set in an anachronistic nameless city, in an era that looks like a 1920’s slum infested with zombies, mutants, and other things that bump in the night, the Goon is a former carny turned strong man turned mob boss. He’s a huge, hulking brute of a man, and yet despite appearances, and the Goon’s best efforts to let people see otherwise, he actually possess a brilliant mind and a kind, compassionate heart. Just don’t let him hear you say that or he’ll probably punch you through a wall.
The Goon, along with his diminutive best friend, the psychotic, peanut headed Frankie (think if Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes grew up to be a mob enforcer with a love for older, thicker women) and a varying cast of local drunks, hobos, murderous orphans, and societal offal, spends most of his time killing zombies, collecting protection money, and fighting evil, all under the guise of just wanting to be a simple mob boss. The thing is, though, that as previously mentioned, the Goon has the heart of a hero, and so every cruel, seemingly self serving thing he does is secretly done to protect the people of the city. While he acts like it annoys him to no end, the Goon is always willing to join a fight to protect those he cares about, and even if he complains the whole time, he’ll always risk his life to do what’s right.
He’s the most noble anti-hero in comics today and hands down one of my favorite characters ever.
The Goon’s publication history, like it’s main character, is a bit rocky, to say the least, and it’s something I don’t have time to get into today. Suffice it to say there was a long, dark span with no Goon to speak of, but by the time we reached the 25th anniversary Powell was able to bring the character back under his own creator owned label and, in my humble opinion, the stories have never been better. Powell’s wit has only sharpened with age, and The Goon continues to be, hands down, the best written comic on the market. You will never, ever, find better dialogue in any other comic than The Goon.
So, now that I’ve laid bare my love for this comic, let’s talk about today’s book, The Lord’s of Misery, an OGN (Original Graphic Novel for those who are confused) staring Frankie, Roscoe (an orphan that can sometimes turn into a dog), the Goon, and two newer characters, The Atomic Rage and La Diabla (who is definitely my new fav). But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take a step back and read the blurb:
Writer/artist Eric Powell presents a spinoff of his Eisner Award winning title, The Goon, in the graphic novella The Lords of Misery. Bridging the gap between Once Upon a Hard Time and A Ragged Return to Lonely Street, this stand alone story reveals the adventure the Goon (along with several other mysterious figures) found himself entangled in after he departed the Nameless Town.
The Lords of Misery… a mysterious organization made up (unwillingly) by history’s most notorious dregs. Through the ages they have battled an enigmatic and unstoppable force. A being whose evil makes the Lord’s crimes look downright petty in comparison. Always it returns after a long hibernation. And always the Lords have died trying to thwart it. But if generations of Lords haven’t been able to stop it, what chance does the Goon and this current incarnation have?
Alright kids, enough preamble, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty details here. Fair warning, spoilers ahead.
Honestly, a lot.
Let’s start with the art. Powell does the art himself, with some help on colors from Andrea Smith. If you’re not familiar with Powell’s art style, it has a bold and chunky form, that can go from super cartoonish to beautifully painted depending on the situation. Like most of his work this is not a particularly bright and colorful book, tending towards much more muted tones, but when he does add a burst of white or red it makes the page explode. Visually, I feel like this is some of his best work, and hopefully it a harbinger of more to come.
Narratively, this story is also great. The plot, as we read in the blurb, involves a Goon who has settled into a peaceful life as a carnie, finally freed of the obligations he had, to take care of the town he spent so much of the previous series protecting. It’s a bitter sweet feeling, and one that the reader knows can’t last. The Goon isn’t destined for peace, and like all reluctant heroes he is soon forced bid farewell to his peaceful dream.
The premise of the story is nothing new. A group of reluctant baddies forced to fight for the forces of good is a fairly common comic trope, but I really like this take on it. All three (or five, depending on how you count) heroes are, at their core, not bad people. Instead they are all good people who have been forced by circumstances into bad lives. The Atomic Rage is a failed weapon who, like Goon, just wants to live a quiet life of peace. La Diabla, a mysterious masked woman who may or may not be hideously scarred (her possible origins being discussed in a stand alone prequel one-shot that I also highly recommend) does very little, but does show kindness and compassion to young Roscoe, and I really hope we’ll be seeing more of her in the future.
Great art, great story, great characters, what’s not to love?
What’s not to love:
Really not much. There are a few speeches that feel a bit too scripted and I would have loved it if this book was twice as long to draw out the tension a bit, but other than that I really don’t see much in the way of downsides here.
I guess if you’ve never read The Goon before it’s not the best jumping on point, but really there isn’t a ton of back story you need to know to understand it. I will say that if you enjoy it, you’re going to love the series and should definitely pick it up.
The verdict: Read this book. Powell is a national treasure and deserves all our money. His label just picked up my lady love Tank Girl, and I hope that more creators join his ranks soon.
Until next time, stay safe!