Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Goon: Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker

If you don't already know who the Goon is, you will soon enough. Post Comic-Con 2010 the buzz is already building for the David Fincher-produced (and richly computer animated) Goon movie. And from the looks of the trailer, it's going to be a faithful translation of this singularly bizarre comic book.

Explaining The Goon is not the easiest task around. Writer/artist Eric Powell has taken pieces of multiple genres and combined them into something far greater than the sum of its parts. Think 30s-era gangster films crossed with H.P. Lovecraft-inspired monsters, zombies and a heavy dose of circus angst and you'll just begin to scratch the surface of what The Goon entails. The character of the Goon is just as complex as his namesake book. He's a heavy drinking mob boss/enforcer all rolled into one who travels throughout a mythical cityscape, eliminating those who dare cross his path. Along for the ride is Goon's sidekick Frankie, whose blank, totally white eyes should remind even a casual reader of the characters in Little Orphan Annie.

Most of the collected volumes of The Goon comics are self-contained stories. By its very nature, The Goon is episodic and piecemeal, something of an homage to its varied source material. And up until recently, the character of the Goon, while fun and interesting, has not had significant depth. That is, until Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker.

This completely self-contained story does not require that you know anything about the Goon or his menagerie of characters, so it's the perfect first read for a Goon-newbie. Beyond that simple fact, it's one of Eric Powell's most emotionally compelling works, opening doors of insight into the Goon's character and motivations. Beneath his simple, brutal and cartoonish appearance, the Goon has a heart, and it is that heart that is explored in tragic detail in this graphic novel. It's still fun, as all Goon stories tend to be, and there's still plenty of action, but underneath the violence lies a truly heartbreaking story. For me, it's Powell's best work. Read it. Telling you any more would spoil the experience.

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