Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer/Artist: Eric Powell
Release Date: 25th March, 2015
The second part of what might be the final Goon story is not really a Goon story at all, rather it is an extended allegory for how the titular hero views himself on this seemingly inexorable journey to self-destruction.
After receiving a tip-off about the impending arrival of a couple of Don Rigatti’s thugs, The Goon heads to the bus station, buys some beer, a book, and patiently awaits their appearance. From this point on, the issue is essentially a condensed and brilliantly realised version of the Island of Dr Moreau by H.G. Wells.
Never having read the original text, but being familiar with various cinematic interpretations, the underlying message is clear. Each of us has a beast inside lurking just below the surface of our humanity, and given the right circumstances, it will come to the fore. In the case of our hero, he is mentally broken and can no longer supress the primal urges, finding himself caught in the grip of a vicious bloodlust. A state of mind perfectly demonstrated by Powell in the violently sadistic way Don Rigatti’s thugs are dealt with.
As you would expect from a book with Powell’s name on it, the issue is brilliantly illustrated. Sketchy pencils contrast with more refined, bold inks to differentiate between scenes from the novel and the present. The issue also features a menagerie of strange creatures interpreted from the novel. The ‘sayer of the law’ is one particularly bizarre character, being a kind of human/deer hybrid, and the image of it rabidly reciting beast law was genuinely unsettling.
As impressive as the book is from a technical standpoint, it was somewhat disappointing to see the overall story come to a standstill. The decision to devote ninety percent of the issue to another story felt excessive, and knowing how adept Powell is at articulating a story on the comic page, I have no doubt he could easily have condensed the allegory into a few pages and moved the plot forward in the process.
Having said that, this type of lateral step in the narrative is common in Powell’s work, and generally has the two-fold effect of enhancing our understanding of the character, and increasing anticipation of the next issue, which is still very much the case here.