Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer / Artist: Eric Powell
Release Date: 3rd February, 2016
Although it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Eric Powell’s work on The Goon, to my shame there were many stories I had not yet read. These convenient library volumes, then, provide the perfect opportunity to address that particular problem, whilst further offering a window to the character’s past and a fascinating insight into how the series has developed under the pencil of its creator.
Just like the titular hero, these hardcover editions are mighty. You’ll get one hell of a big book for your buck; so much so, you could probably use it to brutalise some slippery slack-jaw for giving you sass! This massive hardcover volume contains three complete story arcs, with a smattering of short stories from such luminaries as Michael Avon Oeming, Kyle Hotz, Neil Vokes, Mike Hawthorne, and Tom Sniegowski, who add their own unique takes on the character. Sketchbooks of the three main arcs are also included, in which Powell gives some detail into each his approach to each, and the hefty tome closes with a wonderfully varied cover gallery.
Perhaps the most significant thing about this book, though, is that it marks the transitional point in Powell’s career, when the tone of his work shifted to a more serious and sombre one. Over the course of this collection, his writing becomes more subtle and nuanced, rarely proffering a neatly packaged resolution, instead using metaphor and symbolism as opposed to more blatant exposition. In the best traditions of classic noir fiction, ambiguity, specifically moral ambiguity, becomes more apparent in his increasingly complex stories.
‘Chinatown…’ perhaps epitomises this transition, and is a wonderfully dark, emotional rollercoaster in much the same vein as his most recent work. It demonstrates the incredible diversity of Powell as a writer in how easily he is able to turn his hand to more emotionally charged tales of loss, betrayal, murder and revenge, that are so different, but not entirely removed from the colourful world of seemingly simple archetypal characters, toilet humour, robots, aliens, and Spanish speaking lizards.
The artwork, too, undergoes some revision, with his storytelling becoming more confident and measured, a change that allows the reader to fully appreciate the atmosphere and emotion of each scene. His ability to convey pathos through his artwork, for me, is the bridge to the emotional attachment I feel for these characters, and this skill truly comes to the fore in ‘Chinatown’, where he combines a classical comic book vibe with a more artistic, expressionist style seen only sporadically in his earlier work. Characters retain thick, defined outlines, but simple hatching techniques and deep shadows are replaced with delicate pencil shading throughout, all set against loose sepia and grey washes. It creates a wonderfully grim and eerie backdrop to the story, and rounds off this second volume with more than a hint of style.
As I said before, this volume offers a fascinating look at how Powell’s work has developed over the years, and as someone who wants to understand more about the medium, it’s every bit as educational as it is entertaining. Sweeping from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other, this is an essential purchase, not just for fans of the series, but also for lovers of good comics.
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The Writer of this piece was: Martin Doyle
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