Written by Nate Derr
The newest volume of Eric Powell’s The Goon has arrived, and while the series continues to be one of the best around, this volume Them That Raised Us Lament, much like the previous one, is a bit of a mixed bag. With two great issues, a so-so and a flat-out disappointment, the lack of a story arc is making itself very apparent, and fans are likely to start getting anxious for the level of quality Powell set so high in previous issues.
The first issue in this collection is a look at the life of Kizzie, the strongwoman who raised the Goon. It’s another reminder that Powell does tragedy just as well as comedy, and is another instance where, out of a comic that is typically dark, profane, and violent, Powell is able to create a moment of transcendent beauty.
The next issue is where things start to get questionable. In this one, Powell takes (justified) shots at the world of superhero comics, and especially at the recent gimmicks the Big Two have been using to try and rejuvenate readership. It’s amusing, and many of the observations ring true, but in the end it just feels a little to gimmicky itself, and falls into the same trap as the comics it’s poking fun at. With these kind of cheap, topical stories (the last volume included Goon’s encounter with some sparkly vampires), it just feels like Powell is selling himself short, and he’d make a much stronger statement about how comics and art should be if he didn’t bother with outside trends and just kept doing what he does best.
The third issue is a glimpse into the short-lived period of Prohibition in the Goon’s town, and the ensuing chaos brought about by the lack of fine hooch. It’s better than the superhero issue, but the chapter’s narrator smothers the story a bit, and “The Goon” is best when the characters just speak for themselves.
That being said, the last chapter is worth the price of the book alone, and offers a glimpse of what’s to come in the series. It focuses on the Zombie Priest who, in his state of disgrace, is forced to eke out a living by taking magical requests from the greedy and corrupt residents of the city. It’s easily one of the darkest stories in the series, and considering everything that’s come so far that’s saying a lot. But with his masterful art and sharp writing, Powell makes it work. The end of the chapter gives a glimpse at things to come in the series, hinting at an arc that fans have been waiting on for a long time.
Overall, Volume 12 feels a bit like Powell is just killing time until he gets to the next major story arc, and with the recent announcement on his Facebook of a new arc starting in Issue 46, it seems like that might be the case. Despite being a little uneven, there’s enough here to satisfy hungry fans, and the light of a new story arc on the horizon should be enough to make the sour spots a little easier to swallow.