Why are you not yet reading The Goon? Literate comic fans like to talk about Hellboy and BPRD until they’re blue in the face but if you like comics about meaty big people punching monsters in the face, you can find a true brother in The Goon. The Goon is a tough book to pin down and creator, Eric Powell, tends to keep things light with sophomoric humor aided by the percussive visuals of a lead pipe/wrench/broken bottle to the head. However, this new softcover reissue of the Hardcover originally released simply as Chinatown, adds a flavor previously unseen in other Goon comics. At first glance, Chinatown and The Mystery of Mr. Wicker looks like any other Goon comic with a lot of violence and pulpy dialog lifted from any Dead End Kids feature you can think of. Yet, Powell injects the usual silly antics of The Goon with real heart. Chinatown takes some time to explain a few things about the relationship dynamics of The Goon and Franky, the origins of The Goon’s facial scars and the truly touching cases of heart break in his life that sculpted the personality of The Goon.
At this point you may be asking yourself, what the fuck are you talking about? So to aid in this review I offer you this: The Goon is a comic published by Dark Horse Comics with art and writing by Eric Powell. It tells the story of The Goon and his sidekick, Franky, a pair of criminals that run the city with an iron fist wrapped in a velvet glove. The Goon is primary enforcer for a criminal that may or may not exist named Labrazio (he does). In this particular edition of The Goon, The Goon tangles with an extremely powerful and mysterious criminal entity named Mr. Wicker, a mobster made of twisted branches and surrounded by a supernatural fire. We flashback between then and now, then being a time in The Goon’s life when he was in love with a woman who broke his heart and now when The Goon tries to redeem himself in the eyes of one of the few women to ever show him kindness. In the end, he winds up ruining everything, though not entirely of his own actions. That’s just how it goes for The Goon.
The action plays out like most Goon comics tend to do but the angle of The Goon’s past and his relationships gone wrong adds this completely alien touch to the entire book. It’s a substantial sadness that The Goon typically lacks, therefore putting you, the reader, way off balance and humanizing a character that usually expresses himself strictly with his fists. Though Powell expresses some trepidation in the foreward about telling this kind of Goon story, it’s this uncommon mixture of familiar Goon elements and unfamiliar dramatic ingredients that make Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker, in my opinion, the best Goon story ever told. This special storytelling treat humanizes The Goon and it’s something that I’d like to see more of if only once in a while in order to maintain the enormous impact that it has.
Being a writer, I tend to downplay the artistic merit of comics when I review them, but Powell’s illustrations for Chinatown and The Mystery of Mr. Wicker deserve mention. His style is an original blend of cartoons and anatomy depending on who the character is. Every panel of The Goon is a treat for the eyes, but the flashback panels receive a water colors treatment and a delicious red and gold color palette that perfectly communicates the dream-like recollections set in the seedy Chinatown district of this particular setting. The book winds up with a series of sketches and pre-inked panels along with notes that amount to a director’s commentary to explain the though process that went into the creation of this stellar comic. The Goon in Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker is not, under any circumstances, to be missed.