THE GOON (#36, November 2011)
Everything I knew about The Goon made it sound like my kind of comic book. I even picked up a reprint of the first issue for a dollar, and yup, it was my kind of comic book. And yet for some reason, I didn't immediately start buying up subsequent issues or even add the title to my pull list. I finally checked in with the series again with the most recent issue, number 36, and from now on, I'm mending my ways and signing up for regular installments of writer/artist Eric Powell's potent blend of classic comic strip art, pulp action heroics, monsters, zombies and sexy sirens.
The best thing about this particular issue of The Goon is that it requires absolutely no prior knowledge to enjoy, nor does it require that the reader continue buying the book – the story is over and done in a fully satisfying 22 pages (plus a bonus pin-up and text piece). Powell's writing is a perfect blend of gripping action and clever humor, and his art is pure classic comics goodness, looking like a cross between Al Capp and Will Eisner.
As for the title character himself, there's not much in the way of complicated back story you need to worry about. He's pretty much what his name suggests, a big tough guy who would probably be some super villain's henchman in another book; here, he's the hero, or at least anti-hero.
The plot concerns real-life burlesque performer Roxi DLite and her manager crash-landing their airplane in The Goon's dilapidated stomping grounds while on the run from (also real-life burlesque performers) The Pontani Sisters. While Roxi is plotting ways to make a fast buck and get out of this one-horse town, The Goon and his faithful sidekick, Franky, are busy separating the world's most valuable knick-knack from its rightful owner.
The two parties come together when The Goon goes to fence the trinket at the nightclub where Roxi is performing her striptease act. As soon as she realizes what The Goon has in his possession, Roxi figures it's her ticket out and sets about trying to get her paws on the knick-knack. Along the way, there's a lesbian human/harpy threesome, old rich people getting blown up and a giant talking spider. There's also plenty of risque banter and naughty striptease, though it's all handled in a way that's fun and sexy without being sleazy and exploitative. Think classic “pin-up” art a la Vargas and Livgren as well as 50's striptease artists like Betty Page and Tempest Storm.
There's nothing deep going on here, just good old-fashioned fun. In fact, The Goon is so old-fashioned, that the curse words are bleeped out, and any time actual nudity might show up on a page, it's covered up with a black rectangle. Which is exactly how it should be, given the book's retro vibe. Besides, I've always felt there was more of a sense of the forbidden to the tamer exploitation fare of the past than today's “anything goes” approach to sex in the media. Bottom line is, for me, this is a full 5-out-of-5 Savage's.