Tuesday, 15 March 2011

‘The Goon Noir’ – Various (Dark Horse)

Every time I find myself getting a little sad that I’ve got no more new ‘Goon’ books to read this most favourite of comic book series loves to smack me round the head with something that’s either brand new or something that I’d totally forgotten even existed. In the case of ‘The Goon Noir’ it was very much a case of my totally having forgotten all about it. Once the main series was done I thought that was it but how wrong was I? As soon as I saw this book it was in my hands and I was on my way to the library desk to check it out for a good long read. Talking of which...

This is ever so slightly off topic but I’m going to take a few sentences to talk about how great libraries are. Seriously... I used to avoid the places as my thinking was that regular bookshops would have exactly what I was looking for and I wouldn’t have to order stuff and wait. That’s still pretty much the case but a random trip to the library the other day really showed me the light as it were. For comic book fans in particular these places are untapped goldmines. If you want to read comics but don’t know where to start, save yourself some money and check out your local library first. There’s a whole load in my library that I’ll be looking at real soon and there was also that copy of ‘The Goon Noir’ sat there staring at me and demanding to be picked up. Which brings us back to the review...

‘The Goon Noir’ is basically Eric Powell throwing open the doors and getting a whole bunch of comic book notables to show us their interpretations of the Goon and his psychotic sidekick Franky. The results are, on the whole, superb. Everyone has stuck with the Goon as portrayed by Eric Powell which is a great way to get yourself grounded in what ‘The Goon’ is all about. You could make an argument to say that maybe people should have been a bit more adventurous and gone for something a little more original. To that I’d say that there is plenty enough in the world of Lonely Street for people to go off in their own direction and still stay true to what ‘The Goon’ is all about; tragedy, lashings of violence and some toilet humour to round things off. It’s all good.

In fact, the only two occasions where writers take their tales off the beaten track (as it were) are the only two points in the book where things don’t feel quite right. Roger Langridge’s ‘Rag and Bone’ ends up being more about Peter Cook and Dudley Moore than it is about the Goon himself and the Goon isn’t a guy who takes kindly to not being centre stage. It’s a funny tale in its own way but ‘Rag and Bone’ feels imbalanced and things don’t quite gel. It’s the same kind of thing with Bill Morrison’s ‘Hey Goon, Comics!’ which ends up being more about Yogi Bear then it is the Goon. Again, nice idea but it feels like the two elements of the tale aren’t in balance.

It’s a real good thing then that the rest of the book treads the path that Powell laid out; it’s well worth the read. All of these stories were of a good quality but there were a few highlights. You’ve got zombie fighting in Steve Niles and Ryan Sook’s ‘Big Ma’s Hootenanny and Slack Jaw Fighting’ and I had to chuckle at the little twist in the tale right at the very end. Lonely Street has seen its fair share of monsters and Arvid Nelson’s ‘The Wisdom of the Goon’ not only gives us another worthy monster for the Goon to fight but nails the Goon’s character spot on in how the monster is dealt with.

Hilary Barta’s ‘Reap what you sow’ tells a tale where the impact is felt all the more as not one word is spoken and the artwork here is probably the best ‘Goon’ artwork I’ve seen apart from that done by Powell himself. It wouldn’t be a ‘Goon’ book without Eric Powell (although Dwight T. Albertross has a few words to say about that...) and ‘Peg Leg Full of Heaven’ shows off his distinctive artwork to good effect. Not only that but it also has the Little Unholy Bastards and when this gang of kids are involved you can guarantee that the violence will be notched right up!

You all know that I’m a big and long time fan of the Goon and, as always, you should bear this in mind when reading. ‘The Goon Noir’ though... As far I’m concerned, for the most part, this book is indistinguishable from Powell’s work and that’s high praise indeed for all the contributors.
Eight and Three Quarters out of Ten.

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