Last time out in The Goon #37, Eric Powell departed from the twisted horror comedy tone that this book is known for to give us an allegorical education about The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911 and a history lesson in the value of labor unions that get so villified today. The Goon himself was only tangentially involved in the story, as a stand-in for organized crime in general, and the story was a really dark tragedy.
In The Goon #38, Powell once again brings us a moving story, but this one is more personal – dedicated to his late grandmother. This is the life story of Kizzie, a girl who was picked on in school long enough for her no-account brother Rooney to get overzealous in defending her, thus forcing her to help her cover up a murder. Pretty awful start, made worse when Rooney lit out of dodge in their teen years over some trouble he caused, but Kizzie grew up strong as an ox working the farm in his stead. She got engaged young, but wanted to see the world, so she let herself be seduced by a suave trapeze artist in a traveling carnival, which she ran away to join, disowned by her father, under the delusion that they were in love. Which, of course, he wasn't, but when she started to kick the shit out of him for two-timing, she got the break of her life when the carnival owner decided to make her Kizzie, The Iron Maiden, the show's strongwoman.
The happiest time of her life is something she has to throw away once she gets pregnant, much to the chagrin of her cad paramour, and feels pressured into getting an abortion she doesn't want to get – which completely mars life in the carnival for her. She retreats into a factory job, resigned to that existence, when Rooney shows up again and drops his own bastard kid in her lap, saying if she doesn't take him, he's just gonna kill the little goon. So she rejoins the carnival and finds her way again, determined that the child will not grow up like Rooney, and his place is wherever she is.
Of course, it turns out that little goon was The Goon, and on the last page, he shows up to give us a gut-punch of a line that'll make even the hardest man misty-eyed.
Early on in The Goon series, despite his flair for dark comedy and stellar artistic skills, one could have made the mistake of writing Powell off as just some shock writer trying to gross people out in inventive ways, and that this world he's created couldn't last very long without becoming pretty repetitive. How wrong you would be. These last two issues have firmly established that anything can happen in The Goon. Powell can make you laugh, make you squirm, make you cry and make you hurt. You never know what you're going to get anymore, and that's something to be truly admired.