- The Washington Times - Friday, October 24, 2003

This chronic feature lets me review what’s recently passed my bloodshot pupils.

So pull up a chair, break out the sarcasm filter and welcome to:

Mr. Zad’s Halloween comic critique

The Goon: Nothin’ but Misery, trade paperback (Dark Horse Comics, $15.95) and The Goon regular series, Nos. 1 and 2 (Dark Horse Comics, $2.99 each). Creator Eric Powell brings his monstrous 1930s gangster universe to Dark Horse Comics in a new series that’s one of the more disturbingly funny sequential-art happenings since the debut of Evan Dorkin’s Milk and Cheese.

The story of an ugly mob enforcer who actually is the mob, and his homicidal, Tex Avery-fueled pal Franky — trying to rid their beloved town of an assortment of strange creatures and zombies — will never get any parental seals of approval. However, the mature comic-book reader looking for a well-drawn tale combining Monty Python mirth with George Romero horror has come to the right place.

I admit to being a bit disappointed at first with the “Misery” trade paperback, which compiled the first four issues of the Goon, previously published under Mr. Powell’s Albatross Exploding Funny Books imprint, only because of the author’s inability to commit to a long-term story arc or an extended explanation of the Goon’s origins.

It’s not his fault, I reminded myself. Self-publishing is a brutal business, and not knowing whether a book will sell enough copies to justify printing it leaves little room for long-term growth.

Yet as I giddily flipped through 136 colorful pages of deviant humor, never knowing when a Terry Gilliam “foot of god” might intervene to crush the plot into another direction, my admiration swelled as I looked upon the Goon’s good but green, gooey struggles to keep the undead confined to Lonely Street along with their leader, the nameless Zombie Priest.Mr. Powell gleefully makes a habit of adding faux advertisements to the proceedings that will elicit guttural chuckles of disgust for the likes of a Billy Lobotomy Kit or the Mega Body Pill with side effects that include vomiting, loss of primary motor skills and tooth decay.

The stories’ appeal will be much like man’s fascination with gawking at automobile accidents as readers are introduced to Buzzard, who wants to take revenge on the Priest and has a taste for zombie flesh or a band of merry, big-headed green elves who swallow children whole until the Goon and Santa intervene.

With Mr. Powell’s regular series for Dark Horse Comics, his work appears to teeter even more on the absurd with such silliness as a scathing 10-panel strip titled All the World Is Wonderful When You’re an Idiot, from his second monthly issue. It leads to a Goon story in which he takes on the diabolical Dr. Alloy and his robotic cyclops Bruno, climaxing with a can of cream corn settling the bloody fight.

Mr. Powell’s art style maintains an amazing amount of variety and complexity throughout as he displays the gruesomeness of a ghoulish family H.P. Lovecraft would appreciate as easily as a sultry nightclub singer in red named Mirna.

Much like the zombies he concocts, which require a steady diet of the living to survive, I now require a steady diet of Goon to sustain my macabre fix.

Bottom-line rhyme: Eric Powell has created a gem about a thug who talks with his fists, and the series should make plenty of horror-comic-book top-10 lists.

To the point

A selected peek at titles that didn’t inspire a bloated evaluation:

• Boneyard, Volume 2, trade paperback (NBM Publishing, $9.95). The complicated chronicle of cemetery owner Michael Paris continues in this latest 96-page compilation offering issues five through eight of Richard Moore’s humorous homage to monsters.

The unassuming Mr. Paris finds himself in quite a pickle when an entity worse than any unleashed by hell, the IRS, knocks on his door demanding an obscene amount of taxes on his inherited graveyard. His pals — Abbey the vampire, Nessie the mermaid, Ralph the werewolf and Glump the pizza-loving demon — try to help the cash-strapped landlord not only by promoting good will in the town by taking part in a boxing match, but by trying to publish a swimsuit magazine issue to make some cash.

It takes the rich stranger Roxanne Allen to intercede, but Mr. Paris may be in for more than he expected.

Yes, Mr. Moore has quite a vivid imagination, and his excellent black-and-white illustrative styles combined with a biting sense of sarcasm and the absurd make for quite a ghoulish evening of chuckles.

• Star Wars: Clone Wars, animated short (Cartoon Network, free to cable subscribers). The home of the JLA (Justice League of America) and Teen Titans debuts an epic micro-series relaying the civil war between the old Republic and a vast separatist movement led by the forces of evil.

Consisting of 20 two- to three-minute cartoons developed by the creator of “Samurai Jack,” Genndy Tartakovsky, the event will begin airing Nov. 7, with new shorts being interspersed between the network’s regular programming.

Featuring a host of familiar characters from George Lucas’ far-away galaxy — with only actor Anthony Daniels reprising his earlier role, as the voice of C-3PO — the series picks up where the “Star Wars” prequel “Episode II” left off: with appearances from Anakin Skywalker, Yoda, Mace Windu, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Count Dooku and Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, along with thousands of Clone Troopers and droids.

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016, fax 202/269-1853,

e-mail jszadkowski @washingtontimes.com or write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington D.C. 20002.

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