Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Darick Robertson
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
It’s a rare occurrence in comics when concept AND execution can be considered flawless. Grant Morrison is the modern master of concept, but there are times when his big comic brain confounds us lesser plebeians from an execution standpoint, especially when he resurrects forgotten lore when working for the big houses.
Fear not, HAPPY is no FINAL CRISIS. The clarity with which he delivers this tale of an ex-cop turned mafia hit-man who is haunted by a child’s “imaginary” friend is as clear and concise as a story can get. While the juxtaposed interchange between the bawdy as fuck Nick and the “imaginary” winged-donkey HAPPY is a dialog delight. If you find humor in the schadenfreude of childhood disillusionment, read on, HAPPY is for you.
Issue one was a slight exercise in confusion, since ¾ of the book was anything but HAPPY. The book initially read like a Garth Ennis tale as we learned of Nick’s work for the mafia and the ultimate set-up that would put him on the run. It also felt like a Garth Ennis book because Ennis and artist Robertson became fused as one in the minds of the comic community throughout the course of THE BOYS. While Robertson is in full swing in both issue one and two with his panache for making the ugly side of life even uglier, issue 2 leaves no room for doubt that Morrison is definitively in the dialog driver’s seat on HAPPY.
The key in transcending this title from an exercise in simple ultra–violence and debauchery is the eponymous HAPPY. Robertson and Morrison combine to make this blue winged donkey an adorably goofy street smart sensation. HAPPY’S main goal in this book is to get Nick to help HAPPY’S owner who has been absconded by a disheveled and disgusting Santa Claus. When HAPPY first appeared in issue one, Nick’s initial reaction was that he had a stroke or HAPPY was the result of a tumor growing on his frontal lobe. But issue 2 cements the fact that HAPPY is no mere conjuration of childhood fantasy or brain deformity as he helps Nick escape a mafia run hospital, his former partner on the NYPD, and serves as an earpiece of fortune during a poker game – feeding Nick the cards of the other players.
There are moments that simply made me laugh out loud in this book and it really was the result of art and words working together in pitch perfect harmony. When Nick is using HAPPY to give him the goods during the Poker game, the goofy as shit look on HAPPY’S face while he spews his street savvy words made the grin on my face grow with each panel to Joker proportions by the end.
HAPPY simply put is sugar coated creepiness. It’s a tale ultimately of innocence lost, found, and then lost again. Every time Nick stops believing in HAPPY, the little Ass disappears until Nick once again believes. It’s a very nice nod to and mockery of the Tinkerbell game, where kids were told to clap their hands so the little bitch lights up again.
Morrison also leverages a countdown as the sage like HAPPY knows exactly when his master will meet her untimely demise at the hands of Santa Flaws. If the dialog and art don’t compel you to turn the page, this convention of so many hours left until the end of a young life definitely will. I don’t foresee a HAPPY ending here (not the Asian massage variety, I have no doubt we’ll get there), but I don’t care. The mystery of whether Nick will save the little girl or redeem his soul combined with the moment-by-moment delights of this book will keep me more than HAPPY until the very end.