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The Goon #1
story and art: Eric Powell

A few months ago, Wizard ran an article spotlighting Eric Powell's rather unique creation. What they wrote up sounded pretty interesting, but I'd never seen the book on the stands. So when Dark Horse Comics decided to bring it under the rubric of their new horror line, I was pretty happy.

And now that I've actually gotten to read it, I'm still pretty happy.

Powell fills us in on what little backstory there is; I couldn't tell you how many issues he'd self-published, but it probably won't matter much except to completists. And this issue may spark quite a few people to become such. It's a strangely original mixture of horror, mob violence, the work of Elsie Segar, and just plain odd comedy.

The Goon himself has no particular knowledge of the arcane, though his carnie upbringing has given him some unique abilities - like juggling chickens. An overdeveloped cross between The Hulk and Popeye, what the strongman does know of the supernatural is that he pretty much hates it.

In his position as enforcer for a dead mobster (he killed the guy himself), The Goon (real name: Goon) stands as the only thing keeping society at large from being overrun by zombies led by a twisted southern preacher. Or as his sidekick Frankie might put it, they spend a lot of time kacking slackjaws when they could be tending to business.

It's not that the world of the living is so normal, either. But Goon takes it in stride; after all, he grew up with circus freaks as family. We, however, have to wonder exactly how a giant spider in a black derby can be treated as just another barfly. If you'll pardon the expression.

Powell's artwork runs the gamut from comical to grotesque, and though he owes a debt to E.C. Comics, it's still a style all its own.

And did I mention that the town has been overrun by orangutans that burst into flame? That's just background detail. Powell clearly knows the secret to good comedy: monkeys are funny, but exploding monkeys are even funnier.

(A quick check of the Dark Horse website, by the way, reveals that this summer they will release a trade paperback of all The Goon's appearances up until now. I can't wait.)


Outsiders #1
writer: Judd Winick
artists: Tom Raney and Scott Hanna

One thing to be said for this fourth incarnation of this book (sort of - the others all had "The" in the title), Raney and Hanna definitely provide solid superhero art. In a few panels, they get to demonstrate a little extra imagination for a bar meant for metas only.

Clearly, too, to be an artist drawing Roy Harper, you've got to have fashion sense, because it appears he has his third different costume this month. For a character like Arsenal, that almost makes sense. Depending upon his current mission, he might want to dress differently and appropriately for the given situation. And yet Dick Grayson seems to get along just fine with the standard Nightwing togs.

The art team also has a unique and intriguing take on Metamorpho. Though his basic coloring remains the same, Raney and Hanna also make it shifting, as if in a relaxed state Rex Mason doesn't necessarily have complete control over the elemental make-up of his body. They move around some, like, apparently, his memories.

And that's where the book starts to get annoying. Winick explains Metamorpho's random appearance at the end of Graduation Day, but it's no more satisfying. Worse, it's also completely contradictory to what DC has been busily establishing for the character over the past year.

Granted, in its mystery it's a little better explanation than the one provided in the JLA/JSA Secret Files last Christmas, but not much better. What it costs Metamorpho is a family life that has clearly been central to his recent appearances in Birds of Prey.

At least with most of the other Outsiders, Winick builds from the ground up. The mysterious blue female android from the future reappears, eager to do penance for her part in the death of Donna Troy, but with no better explanation as to what she was doing here in the first place. Black Lightning's daughter Thunder has been pretty fleshed out, even though this is pretty much her debut.

Even Grace Choi, the strongman for the team, fits easily. Her connection to Roy makes sense, though she takes a cheap shot at Roy Harper for being a bigger horndog than Plastic Man. Really, if you look over their pasts, three out of the four original male Teen Titans qualify. Aqualad spent too much time in the water to try.

All the personalities are strong, which only makes sense as Winick has a gift for characterization. But the leaps in logic of storytelling and violations of recently established continuity are painful, and somewhat unnecessary.

Worse, the book resorts to Gorilla Grodd as its first major menace. I'm all for monkeys in comics (see above), but the Groddster has become second only to The Joker as an overused villain. Over in The Flash, Geoff Johns did a pretty good job of closing the door on the big ape for a while, but here he is with an armed troop, just like the JLApe crossover a few summers back.

The Gorilla City justice system is worse than Arkham Asylum.


Derek McCaw


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