Goony goons.

*Say, I’ve got to get moving. I did manage to survive yesterday, which is a plus. But this is looking to be a mighty full weekend, so I’ll try and keep the updates coming, or at least updates that offer substantive content beyond what I had to eat that day.

The Goon #14

Ah look at that. Listing the Eisner wins right on the cover. That’s the spirit.

Well, troubling sales or not (and the sorry truth is that these days numbers in the upper reaches of 9000 are pretty good for a non-superhero book, even in the front of Previews), this at least remains a highly popular book among its cadre of readers, as well as various pros and industry folk. And Dark Horse is trying its best to promote it, releasing a special twenty-five cent issue of reprints and new stuff in October, as well as a deluxe autographed hardcover best-of compilation with bonus sketchbook devoted to the series’ ‘plot’ issues (as in the ongoing background plot) the same month.

Certainly creator Eric Powell isn’t one to sit around and coast - the path of The Goon has seen it pass through several stylistic changes and a whole array of story tones (broad comedy, pulp tragedy, soppy melodrama). Not all of it has been successful; I frankly think Powell’s recent taste for pressing his burnished, thickly rendered visual approach to the forefront (previously it was relegated to certain backgrounds and panels of atmosphere and import) has sapped energy from his style, coating his characters in amber. It feels a lot less direct. But you’ve got to give the guy credit for mixing things up, for using his personal book to pursue his particular muse in a multitude of fashions.

This issue sees another small evolution, though Powell only writes and draws the main story, a short 12-page thing called Nameless. It’s quite a major ‘plot’ issue, returning the focus to Buzzard, that endlessly aged gunfighter and Powell’s most effectively pained ‘serious’ character (at least as serious as anything can get in this book). Mostly, he has a flashback/hallucination, conveyed in a lovely, heavily crosshatched style, ink-washes all over the page, and an effectively minimal palette in force (the color scheme neatly carries over to the ‘real’ action, the heavy style of which now recalls its own use in earlier issues due mainly to its subordination in terms of space). Along the way, we finally get the secret origin of the zombie priest, and Buzzard exacts a certain type of revenge. It looks like this is leading into the next issue, and I’m very interested to see what pans out. Certainly as a visual exercise, this is one of Powell’s successes.

There’s a pair of one-page deals, a slice-of-life piece by Powell following the crackhead-pounding exploits of young Weitlauf, and a humorous ad for twine from Tony Shasteen. Powell amps up the humor in his script for El Hombre del Lagarto El Diablo de Pantano, with typically expressive art from Billy the Kid’s Old-Timey Oddities collaborator Kyle Hotz, raising the Spanish-speaking lizard supporting cast breakout to the level of myth. And veteran artist Neil Vokes, recently of Image’s The Black Forest, contributes some attractive cartooning to another Powell script, Under the Sink. It’s worth noting that Powell also provides the coloring for these latter two shorts, imbuing Hotz’s art with the same candied texture as was done in Billy, and giving Vokes’ work a glassy, almost simulated animation screen-capture feel. It’s odd, but effective for a 4-page short.

But really, visual mixing isn’t so odd for this book anymore. The anthology quality of this issue even offers a nice summary of Powell’s favored collaborators at the moment, kind of an index. It’s worth getting this issue if you’ve ever enjoyed Powell’s work, even if you’ve drifted off in enthusiasm over the last few months. I can’t call it a return to form, as the form remains in flux, but it’s among the stronger iterations of this title so far.