Friday, November 30, 2007

The Goon – Chinatown – A Review

Quick editor's Note - We will do two posts today and tomorrow.

The Goon – Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker – by Eric Powell

Wow. This book was just amazing an unbelievable tour de force by Mr. Powell.

So I gave it away in the first sentence what I think about this book, but I don’t really care because Eric Powell has taken his creation to a whole new level with this story. The Goon has always been a relatively semi-comical character to me, with excellent art and a strong sense of sarcasm. There was an underlying edge to the work, but never like it has been shown in this book.

The story itself was so well told that it was a pleasure to sit down and read the book in one sitting. The biggest struggle was wanting to read the book too fast and then miss the fantastic artwork.

First, as comics are a visual medium let me talk a little bit about the artwork. The book was almost a painting. Every page and every panel was a work of art. Eric’s deft use of shading and ability to convey texture was on full display here. His work has fluidness to it and sense of realism to it, that it is almost a mixture of Steve Ditko and John Buscema. An odd pairing, I know, but there it is and what it really is, is Eric Powell.

As no one else is credited as working on the book I have to assume that he did all the gray tones and coloring throughout the book. By use of colors we go back and forth in time telling a tale of the Goon’s early life and a tale of today. The ease in which it works without captions is a lesson that many other story tellers could use. During the current story it is essentially black and white with a sparing use of other colors. That limited usage of the full palate give the yellows and reds and other colors more power since they are hardly used.

One of my absolute favorite pages (of which there maybe 128 of them) is a flashback scene between Goon and Bella. It is an eight panel page showing that the Goon is very attracted to Bella. The last five panels are pictures of Bella’s lips, shoulder, chest, legs and an eye. This page is so damn sexy and portrays Bella as so alluring that it is a true joy to look at (all without any nudity). It captures the elegance of sexy from a bygone era and gets an old man’s pulse racing.

Last and certainly not least is Mr. Powell’s ability to convey emotion. Every single emotion and emotional nuance that you can think of it’s captured on the faces of the characters throughout this story. This is humor, fear, anger, anguish, lust, love, disappointment, heart ache, surprise and deep unabated pain.

The early age story tells of a young Goon just establishing himself as a crime lord. The modern day story is of a mysterious Mr. Wicker who is taking over all of the Goon’s business operations. The early story is told all in lighter brown tones to denote it is a story of the past. It tells us the story of how the Goon fell in love and was willing to live a good life for the love of a woman (Bella) he freed from a Chinese crime lord. When the Goon professes his love and wanting to start a new life together she tells him she does not want to be with him. The Goon reverts back to being a crime lord. He then goes to fight the Chinese criminal he had given the docks to for Bella’s freedom. It is during this battle that the Goon earns the face he has today.

The current storyline has him dealing with girl troubles and a Mr. Wicker who is a thing of the supernatural. The Goon's empire is being rapidly taken away from him and he fights back to try and reclaim what was his. At the same time he tries to reconcile with a woman he had turned away. This story also does not end well. The two stories bounce back and forth and form a perfect rhythm that develops the character of the Goon and gives us a glimpse into his psyche.

After the title page the one page “forward” states “This Ain’t Funny” and it wasn’t. It was a tragic romance in the finest tradition and an action adventure story with a bit of a buddy movie thrown in for good measure. I’m not doing the story justice, but trust me I rather leave a lot of what happens untold and have probably said too much.

Bottom line, this is a fantastic graphic novel, a terrific tale and one for the ages. Run down to your local comic store and buy a copy or buy two and give one to a friend at Christmas.

Thanks Eric for a great book that will remain on my bookshelf forever (except when I lend it out or take it down to read it again).

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