Tuesday, 11 June 2013

'The Goon: Them That Raised Us Lament' - Eric Powell (Dark Horse)

If you followed me on my last blog then you already know that I am a huge fan of 'The Goon'. It's a question of 'what's not to like?' as far as I'm concerned. Old time gangster takes on all comers (mostly zombies and weird Lovecraftian monsters) for no other reason than to keep the money coming in from his own rackets. Or is the Goon a good guy at heart and just trying to do the right thing? That's the question that keeps me coming back for more; that, the gorgeous artwork and the steady flow of toilet humour.

When a new 'Goon' collection turns up then it's always a question of everything having to wait while I settle down for a couple of hours of quality reading. It's a comic book that has never let me down... Until the other day when I read 'Them that raised us lament'. Don't get me wrong, it was still a lot of fun and I would recommend the series to anyone who asked. It's just that this time round...

'Them That Raised Us Lament’ collects 'The Goon' #38-41; a point in the series where one major storyline has ended and there is a brief lull in the proceedings while things gear up for the next plot arc to kick off. You can't blame Eric Powell for wanting to kick back and chill out for a bit after all of that; a lot of work went into that storyline and I think he deserves a break.
Having said all that though, you can't get away from the fact that at least two of the four issues collected here (maybe even three of them) really feel like they are marking time before the main event arrives. There is a lot of filling in backstory (which isn't a bad thing, more on that in a minute) but even that feels like a bit of a placeholder and I don't want placeholders. I'm after something that at least ties into the main plot, something that the last story does very well (although what do you call a zombie priest with no zombies...) but a little too late in the day to really make the whole book stand out. There is some interesting discussion, on the evil in the town, and it does have me looking forward to the next book though so I guess that's all you can ask really :)

That's not to say that there isn't a lot to recommend the stories in 'Them That Raised Us Lament'. I spent an enjoyable hour or two reading and I reckon most fans will feel the same. Powell's tale of the Goon's Aunt Kizzie is as heartbreaking as it was the first time I read it and the last line gives us a little insight into the Goon that you don't see very often.

'When you died I knew there was one less person in this world that really loved me.'

It's a story of how hope can just sour over time and Aunt Kizzie's first words to the Goon are even more poignant given that we know how he ends up as an adult.

The superhero pastiche generally delivers its message very effectively albeit a little too heavy handedly for my liking. I also wasn't sure if this was the right place for what Powell was saying.The message is essentially 'don't be something that you're not' but Goon is such a different concept that I was left wondering if it was too different to actually prove its own point. Some readers might say that this is the whole point, and that is true enough, but I'm still not a hundred percent sure here.

The 'moonshine runnin', zombie hot rodding' tale is a lot of fun to read, possibly my favourite out of the whole lot. It might just be back story, and not the whole story, but it has all the energy, imagination and vicious irreverent humour that I've come to expect from this title. And if anyone from Dark Horse is reading this (possible, you never know…), I want to see Goon’s hotrod race with the Hooch Monkey on a t-shirt sooner rather than later. I’d buy it :o)

A good read then but as Powell himself says, in the superhero pastiche, 'On second thought... I'll stick with this Goon.' 'Them That Raised Us Lament' does its job well but I know what I like from this title now and I'm hoping that future collections get right back to doing what 'The Goon' does best.

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