2 out of 5
The Goon debuted at a good time for creator Eric Powell’s particular breed on smart / dumb humor, slotting in to the early 00s push-and-pull with advancing technology and nerd-culture edging into the spotlight and, tonally, a post-90s, pre-modern era hodge podge of growing awareness of the world that’s reactionary; partially resistant to “change” while lampshading the same. This resulted in… a fair amount of lowbrow humor, at varying pitches of self awareness.
For The Goon, there was a teeter-totter: before Satan’s Sodomy Baby, and after. Satan’s Sodomy Baby was edgelord goofiness, of the puporsefully offensive variety, layered with Eric’s penchant for nigh-naive, childish humor. After this, we’d see Powell trying to evolve the narrative of The Goon, by my opinion, somewhat beyond his abilities as a writer, and beyond the scope of what the book could successfully juggle. Also around this time, we got Goon: Noir, a three-issue mini-series in which Eric opened up the writing / art floodgates on his book to others, for a series of short stories in black and white, and yes, someone makes a joke about how this is a Batman Black and White knock-off.
Only… not quite. Because Batman lends himself pretty well to this treatment, with decades of different writers and approaches and lore making it interesting to watch others try to boil that down to
succinct moments. The Goon, though, whatever my opinions of the quality of the book after a certain point, is somewhat just a gag. If you suck out the storypoints that Eric worked in, our lead is a big
brawler who punches zombies, and who has a crass sidekick. At its best, The Goon balanced poop jokes with an odd sincerity, and then complete over-the-top randomness that could be quite funny, done up in
Powerll’s pulpy, EC-blended-with-Looney-Tunes art style. This is all very particular to Eric… meaning when others take it over, it kinda just becomes faceless; like an Archie comic book, except with a lot more sex, violence, and bodily functions-as-humor. That’s not to say some of these folks aren’t funny, or that there strips don’t deliver a punchline, but nothing about it is very “Goon”-y besides it featuring the characters.
Still, with the artistic talents here (Kevin Nowlan, Ryan Sook) and some seasoned writers (John Arcudi, ), it’s generally passably entertaining… and then we get back to the era in which it was made, when we’re quite often punching down with some jokes in a forced “risque” way, and the language can be a bit more casual than we obviously realized at the time. Sometimes this stuff is fine when you’re able to put it in context, but the problem here is that a lot of it’s rather unfunny, context aside – it’s too clear that the joke is, solely, being crude, as opposed to the crudeness being in any way some kind of attempted commentary, however ill-applied.
Double down on this with Eric’s Dwight T. Albatross persona who introduces / interrupts the book. The joke is that Albatrass is a full-of-himself cad, and some of it’s admittedly pretty hilarious (especially his “for the ladies” photos, posed in underwear), but some of it is also the worst examples of what’s mentioned above.
These aspects, ultimately, make Goon: Noir an unecessary read from a modern perspective. The contents are already average, and then your tolerance to the more willfully ignorant parts of it will determine how far that content gets. For me: not very.