Eric Powell's THE GOON: THEM THAT DON'T STAY DEAD #1 is so good, we had to have two people review it.


What in the World is Going On?

Zac: This is not our typical format at Monkeys Fighting Robots, but my lovely Editor-in-Chief Anthony Composto and I thought we would give something a go. We’re here to talk about the new issue of Dark Horse Comics’ The Goon, “Them That Don’t Stay Dead” Part 1. Anthony, you actually got me into The Goon. Have I ever properly thanked you for that?

Anthony: No, and I’ve held a grudge over that for a long while. But, now that you’ve called me “lovely” in print, I think I’ll let it go.

Zac: For those unfamiliar with this world, what would you say people need to know before diving into this chapter?

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Anthony: That’s the beauty of The Goon: I don’t think you need to know anything. Pretty much any new story arc is a great jumping-on point. This issue picks up where the last volume left off, but Powell fills you in on whatever you need to know and keeps the train running. So, new readers, dive right on in, and if you like what you see, you’ve got 25 years worth of material to catch up on.

(And if you really need some background, all you need to know is that the Goon is a gangster who fights monsters with his friend Franky—a foulmouthed little weirdo with an affinity for stabbing his enemies in their eyeballs.)

The Goon


Zac: Okay, so starting this conversation off real simply: what did you think of the plot of this issue?

Anthony: This is exactly what I want from a Goon story: a fairly simple, straightforward plot with more of an emphasis on the characters. We get some action, some mystery, and some heart that takes you by surprise (I always love when The Goon makes you feel something). We pick up the Duck Boy story, which made me very happy, and it takes a super interesting turn. In many ways, this issue felt like a marriage between the original Dark Horse run and the more recent Albatross run—did you get that impression?

Zac: I’ve got to be honest, in my reading of The Goon, I don’t think I ever became aware of the different runs that were going on. I binged all of those great “A Bunch of Old Crap” omnibuses they came out with. But I can definitely see how there are different eras of The Goon that seem to be colliding.

I’ve got to say, the first two pages of this issue are stunning. They’re mostly silent, except for one line of dialogue, and they just drip with a sense of mood.

Anthony: Powell is one of the greatest visual storytellers in comics; I will stand by that. His dialogue is hysterical and his narration is always spot-on, but when I look back on all the Goon that I’ve read, the most memorable moments for me are purely visual.

Also, I love that in those moody, fairly serious first two pages, we still get a great background gag with the “Fine Premium Opium” billboard.

Zac: “For the discerning gentleman.” Just so funny. Powell is one of those people, almost like Chip Zdarsky, who just fills his panels with amazing little jokes. He really rewards you for taking the time to notice all of the details.

I also love so much of how Eric Powell does satire. This isn’t something that you read and go “Oh, I wonder what he’s trying to say?” Powell holds nothing back, but he also isn’t witty or deep in his commentary. He has these dumb looking characters wearing hats that say “Make ‘Merica Stupid + Mean” while they talk about wanting to have relations with sheep. It’s almost like he’s saying that these political beliefs are as dumb to him as advocating for sheep shagging.

Anthony: It’s “almost” like he’s saying that??

Zac: Okay, okay, you’re right. “Almost” isn’t the right word to use there.

Anthony: He’s very much definitely saying that, haha. Powell is very outspoken in his comics, or on his social media, or pretty much anywhere he has a platform, and I also love how blunt his commentary typically is. The people he’s targeting don’t deserve nuance (also they might not get it if Powell did go the subtle route).

Zac: It’s like he’s saying, “this is the only language you’ll understand, the glaringly obvious.”

Anthony: But I also love how, as direct as he can be in his satire, Powell can absolutely do subtlety and depth. He just reserves it for his characters. There’s so much left unsaid between Goon and the unnamed lady he meets in this issue, which also harkens back to old storylines to reward longtime readers.

Zac: Yes! Powell’s versatility is incredible. I still remember the first page to the “Chinatown” story arc being a page that just said “This ain’t funny.” There are so many joyfully stupid jokes in The Goon, but they’re all offset by Powell’s subtle, eloquent, and often heart wrenching storytelling. In this issue in particular, he is constantly going in and out of being poetic and using low brow humor, which is probably best displayed by the first caption we see: “As the Goon has spent many a day slamming his fists into the orbital sockets of frightful monstrosities, it may be of no surprise to you to see him pummeling a bunch of schlubby vampires.” It’s just so good.

Anthony: And I think that versatility is why this series has endured. The Goon isn’t a straight comedy book, nor is it a straight crime noir, nor is it a straight horror story. It’s all of these things and more, and Powell is always keeping you on your toes so you never know what to expect. I mean, the freakin’ Duck Kid turned into an archenemy figure—who saw that coming?

Zac: I saw that coming from a mile away. (I did not, dear reader, but there’s no reason for Anthony to know that.)

The Goon


Zac: I feel like Powell’s art feels less painted – less textured – than usual. But I think it really works for this issue. There are moments where Powell really dives back into that textured look to highlight important details and turning points in the plot. What do you think, is this all in my head?

Anthony: It’s not in your head at all. If you look at The Goon over the years, you can see Powell experimenting with different styles and techniques all the time. I love when he started incorporating uninked pencils into his work; it adds such a unique quality to the book. I think that’s another piece of how the series has remained fresh and interesting 25 years later.

Zac: Those first couple of pages are just so brilliant, too. I can’t quite put my finger on why they work so well. Maybe it’s that Powell focuses us in on all of the right details? It feels so cinematic.

Anthony: There’s definitely an economical use of panels, but I think even moreso, Powell understands how to keep the story flowing. If you look at the first few panels of that second page, the momentum of the woman’s foot pushes you directly from the first panel to the second, and then back down to the third panel below. There’s an brilliance to that which works on a subconscious level.

Zac: Oof. Yep, I see that. Such good details you pointed out there.

I think the same thing that’s true of the writing is true of the art. You get these moments that are cartoonish and over the top – like the blathering “HARRUMPH” ralliers – that lead right into images that work so well because they hold themselves back – like Vinnie Nosferatu and his vampire henchmen interrupting the rally. It’s a simple image of them just standing there, looking more annoyed than threatening. And then the next panel is even better, because it shows someone standing in the background as the vampires attack. Almost like Powell is making the decision for us that we should avert our eyes.

Anthony: And then, in the very next panel, we see Franky defecating on someone’s head, making us wish that we had heeded the warning to avert our eyes.


Zac: What would you say is your favorite lettering choice in this issue? I think I know mine. I definitely don’t want to give any context spoilers for this one, but there’s that one piercing “BLAM!” that shows up right near the end of the issue. Something about the lettering matching the silhouette in the panel just makes that story beat sing.

Anthony: That “BLAM!” definitely stood out to me; it’s very reminiscent of a moment from “Occasion of Revenge” that sticks in my memory.

Zac: I’m learning through this issue and through our talk that I’m overdue for a Goon reread.

Anthony: Maybe it’s a cop-out, but my favorite lettering choice might be the choice to lack lettering in the very first panel. We see the woman crashing through a window (again, her momentum leading us into the next panel), but there’s no giant “SMASH!” that accompanies it. I love Powell letting his art speak for itself.

Zac: You’re so right. There’s a missing sound effect there, but it gives that moment space to breathe.

Anthony: I’m actually kind of surprised there’s any dialogue in that sequence at all; can you think of a reason why he chose to include that small bit?

Zac: I’m not sure, but in some ways it feels like that first line almost acts as a starting pistol. Page one, panel two, and we’re already in the thick of the action. There’s an efficiency to the storytelling there, where it might otherwise have taken us another couple of panels to be sure the woman is being chased by those henchmen, rather than running away with them. With that one line, we’re immediately up to speed in a single panel.

Powell’s dialogue in this issue is interesting to me. There isn’t a ton of rhythm or cadence to how it’s parsed out – there aren’t many tiers or connectors used when it’s one person talking – but I think that really works for these characters. They feel like the kinds of people who would almost breathlessly word vomit everything that they have to say. There’s a specific moment where the Duck Kid goes on a rant in answer to a question, and I just love that Powell chose not to break up that section at all.

Anthony: I think what really makes this work to even greater comic effect is that, in those moments of word vomit, he chooses to use big words or complex sentence structures. It’s like Powell is trolling us as readers.

Zac: “Trolling” to those who aren’t familiar, is a term that refers to an ancient form of seduction. Powell is a master at it.

Anthony: You’re like a real-life Franky, you know that?

Zac: That may be the kindest thing you’ve ever said to me.

Anthony: Anyway, normally those big blocks of text can really slow down a comic, but I think because Powell understands “flow” like we’ve mentioned, he can afford to mix in some bigger text blocks for effect.


Zac: I, for one, am not happy at all. Sure, this is a brilliant comic. But it’s part one of four? Only four?? That’s really my only complaint about this. I love Eric Powell. I love The Goon. This latest issue is just a reminder of all the things that roped me into this world in the first place. I can’t wait to read more.

Anthony: It’s classic Goon and I’m so jazzed this series is back. You’re welcome, by the way, for introducing you to this horribly beautiful world.

Zac: I’ll have to repay you sometime. Maybe with a knife to the eye?

The Goon: Those Who Don’t Stay Dead #1 is out from Dark Horse Comics now, at a comic shop near you. You definitely want to check this one out!

Zac Owens
Zac Owens
I'm a world traveler. I've lived in Australia, Canada, Tanzania, Kenya, and the United States. I studied theology in Switzerland and did humanitarian work in Egypt. I first got into the medium through DC Comics, but now I read everything under the sun. Some of my favorite works include HELLBOY, FRIDAY, ON A SUNBEAM and THE GOON. I currently live in Reykjavik, Iceland. That is, until my Green Lantern ring comes in...
Eric Powell's THE GOON: THEM THAT DON'T STAY DEAD #1 is so good, we had to have two people review it.A Conversation About THE GOON: THEM THAT DON'T STAY DEAD #1