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THE GOON: FOR WANT OF WHISKEY AND BLOOD Review: 13 Volumes and Still Going Strong

In the crazy worlds of comics the genres of cartoon humor, horror, and crime come together fairly often. While a number of books like this are fun, Eric Powell’s The Goon easily stands out above the rest. Powell’s creation is a mob strong-arm handling the rackets in an unnamed city beset by economic downturn, zombies, mad scientists, and other unwanted ghouls. The series pulls off such an outrageous premise and even manages to have moments of genuine drama and poignancy, while the titular anti-hero somehow remains sane and grounded (by his standards). The Goon in For Want of Whiskey and Blood is the latest collected edition of the series from Dark Horse Comics.

Stories

For this, the 13th volume of the series, longtime Goon readers can take a break from the ongoing storyline and enjoy 4 short stories from Powell. The first untitled tale involves an old crime fiction staple: a rigged boxing match. While a rival hood is busy rigging a fight that the Goon has already rigged, dark forces warn the Goon to “Beware!” True to many a horror tale, the warnings come with attempts to kill him. The boxing match goes as badly as any reader expects and the Goon gets to the bottom of things, with an old foe warning of something terrible coming that frightens even him.

The second story crosses The Goon over with another Powell comic creation, Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities. Starting in an earlier time period, the famous outlaw turned traveling sideshow boss “wins” a new curiosity for his freak show. Years later, Billy’s show rolls into the Goon’s city just in time for Halloween. Of course, things go horribly wrong with the curious specimen and the whole city is in a panic. The panic ends suddenly with everyone involved being rather baffled.

“El Bruto” features the Goon’s nemesis, El Lagarto Hombre, and is mostly in Spanish. Obviously, anyone who knows the language will get more out of the story than someone who does not. Through Powell’s illustrations, though, the story is easily accessible to those not fluent in Spanish. Plus there are two strange interludes that have nothing to do with the story that result in hilarious jump cuts.

“One For the Road” tells of an unfortunate sailor trying to find his friend. The man gets a sort of guided tour of the strangeness of the Goon’s world as the he and his sidekick, Franky, “help” the sailor by bringing him to different bars in the city. As the story is dedicated to famed caricature artist, Jack Davis, cameos by a number of celebrity spoofs turn up in the Goon’s favorite bar.

“The Bog Lurk that Lurked Like a Thing! A Bad Thing!” is a parody of swamp monster stories. Like in so many of those tales, a man dies in the swamp and becomes a monster years later What else would he do but go on a rampage? Dr. Alloy’s giant killer robot turns up, and what follows is the kind of insane comical violence as only The Goon can deliver.

Though not officially a chapter in the book, nor a Goon story, “Groundhog’s Day: The Deleted Scene” needs to be mentioned. Co-written with Mac Cushing and located in the “Sketchbook” section of the volume, it is a truly demented strip that very well could fit into the famous Bill Murray movie, Groundhog Day.

Art

Powell’s art has been compared to that of Will Eisner and E. C. Segar. Though such comparisons are helpful for description and just, his art stands apart from any other’s. Realism is not a concern at all. People, monsters, buildings, and all are drawn in harsh cartoon fashion that says “fun” and “fright” all at once. The colors by himself, Bill Farmer, and Dave Stewart are mostly dark and muted, fitting the Depression-Era look of the setting while still having the childlike fun feel of a Warner Bros. animated short.

Kyle Hotz handles the art chores for the flashback sequence in the Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities story while Mark Buckingham illustrates the black-and-white “The Bog Lurk that Lurked Like a Thing! A Bad Thing!” Both are accomplished comic book artists with their own distinctive styles who have opted here for cartoon approaches that fit right in with Powell’s artwork.

Blur Studio provides an eye-catching image of the Goon with realistic textures. Jack Davis, himself, gives us a great Goon image in his own style preceding the very story dedicated to him.

Other Content

As has already been mentioned, there is a “Sketchbook” after the stories in the volume.  Other than the “Groundhog’s Day” strip, fans of Powell’s work are treated here to a look into his creative process and a variety of images both Goon and non-Goon related. Standing out among the latter are a giant robot painting and a Sherlock Holmes drawing that stirs up a deep desire for an Eric Powell Sherlock story.

Overall

The Goon in For Want of Whiskey and Blood from Dark Horse shows that Eric Powell is not close to stopping or slowing down with this strange brainchild of his. The Goon’s world of dirty deals, supernatural threats, and all manner of the unexpected is still fertile ground for storytelling. We never know what Powell will put the title bruiser through next, but we definitely look forward to it.

4 out of 5 stars

4 out of 5 stars 

Cover image via

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Jean-Pierre Vidrine hails from the small town of Ville Platte, Louisiana. He started collecting and learning about comic books at the age of 9. He got his Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Louisiana State University. He now lives in Chicago with his wife and cat.

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Categories: Comic Reviews

Author:Jean-Pierre Vidrine

Jean-Pierre Vidrine is a Chicago transplant whose interests include comic books, nostalgia, tattoos, drag, just plain being allowed to be himself. He does his best to be a thoughtful writer.

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