Evil Geek Book Report – The Goon: Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker
Happy Sunday Evil Geek Nation! Just because it’s the weekend, it doesn’t mean we can’t take the time to learn ya’ about some funny books. Actually funny books isn’t the term I’d use for the subject of today’s Evil Geek Book Report, as it’s a heart-breaking tale of love lost twice over. In our latest installment, we’re going to be delving into The Goon: Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker, with words and pictures by series creator Eric Powell. This book is a steal in the Dark Horse Digital store at only $4.99!
I’m still fairly new to the world of The Goon, but so far I’m loving everything that I’ve seen so far. For a little additional back story on The Goon, you can check out my review of Powell’s early Goon works collection “Rough Stuff”, right here. This is actually my second foray into the universe that Powell has created and while I’m usually a stickler for reading books in chronological order, I”m not going to lie: the thing that drew to this book was its bargain basement price tag. I’m cheap, I’ll admit it. A low price point can get me to ditch my chronological morals at the drop of a hat.
The main story of Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker takes place well into the continuity of the character, but it’s a standalone story and not much background information is necessary to enjoy it. Also, about half the story is told in flashback sequences, so all the back story you really need is provided. The flashback story deals with an incident from The Goon’s early days as an enforcer for Labrazio and involves, Bella, the exotic dancer who “made a man” out of the the Goon when he was just a little bruiser living the carny life with his Aunt Kizzie. The main story deals with The Goon’s criminal empire being threatened by a mysterious wicker man.
In the flashback story, The Goon is having some trouble with the Triad gang which is run by a mysterious, Asian, wizard looking guy named Xiang Yao, who is seemingly surrounded by scantily clad prostitutes at all times. While arriving for a meeting one day, The Goon sees a familiar face working among the women of Yao’s harem. It’s Bella, the dancer he knew as a kid. Brushing off the incident, Goon continues on to the meeting, but things don’t go nearly as smoothly as the Goon hoped they would. It seems the Triads want to control the shipping operations at the docks, but they are firmly controlled by the Goon. Yao demands that Goon relinquish control of the operations and hand them over to the Triads. the only thing the Goon would get in return is “opportunity to avoid pointless conflict”. In other words, he ain’t gettin’ squat outta the deal. The meeting ends when Goon tells Yao and the Triads to “Go screw”. Later that night Bella seeks out the Goon and tells him that she is enslaved to Yao. The Goon tells her that she’s the only woman he’s ever been with and the only woman he’s ever loved, then offers to help. She tells him that her deal with Yao is unbreakable and that he should just forget about her, but of course they end up doing it again. Bella skips out in the middle of the night, but the Goon sees her on the street the next day…well he actually sees about 95% of her on the street the next day, because Yao has cut off one of her fingers for talking to the Goon. The Goon immediately heads to Yao’s and demands that he release Bella from her indentured servitude. That negotiation goes about as smoothly as the first meeting between the two. The only thing Yao will accept in return for Bella’s freedom is the criminal operations at the docks. The Goon agrees, setting off a chain of events that ends with the Goon left broken and scarred both physically and emotionally (the incident is the origin of the Goon’s facial scars).
Back in the main story, the Goon’s got 99 problems, including a sultry lounge singer named Mirna, whose heart he broke a while back. We never find out what happened between Goon and Mirna, but we do know that whatever it was, it was the Goon’s fault and that he deeply regrets it. Aside from his pining for Mirna, it seems the Goon’s… er, excuse me Labrazio’s criminal operations are coming under attack. Several of the Goons enemies are being released from jail and they are joining forces with someone named Mr. Wicker, who is aggressively targeting the Goon’s business’. Upon finally meeting Wicker, it seems that he is a supernatural monster made of branches and thorns. The look of a character is actually very reminiscent of the Electric Monster from Scooby Doo.
Mr. Wicker beats the holy snot out of the Goon after their first encounter and things only get worse for our hero after that. Soon all of his friends and the members of his crew go missing, including Frankie, all of which leaves the Goon looking weak in the eyes of his criminal empire. Turns out Frankie and the others didn’t so much leave… as they were kidnapped. Eventually the Goon figures out Wicker’s identity, but not before getting it wrong first. In the end, the Goon beats Wicker, but it’s something of a Pyrrhic victory as it costs him yet more heartbreak; this time at the hands of Mirna.
This book truly read like a 40’s, Noir detective story and for that reason I really loved it. It’s very dark and populated with seedy characters. There’s a mysterious villain in play and their true identity isn’t who you think it is. The hero triumphs in the end, but the cost is so great that it doesn’t feel like a victory at all. There’s two parallel stories being told, across two different times and while the stories aren’t directly related to each other, they are still similar in a heart-breaking way. In one story the Goon loses the love of his life because he is too trusting and kind, while in the other he loses his love because he’s become the complete opposite of trusting and kind due to the emotional trauma of the first story. This was truly a brilliant story by Powell with artwork that compliments it incredibly well. Towards the end of the flashback story, there’s a series of panels that are close-ups of the Goons face as he is breaking down after losing Bella. To watch the progression is to see him have his soul totally crushed and I can almost guarantee you’ll have shed a tear by the end of it. This was a great read and I’m without a doubt recommending it to the Evil Geek Nation. At only $4.99 you can not pass up on this story! Even if you haven’t read any of the other stories about the Goon, this would still be a great jumping on point for new readers.
That’s going to wrap us up for today Evil Geeks! Stop by the Evil Lair again for another Book Report soon!
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