“Happy #1”

This week sees the debut of Grant Morrison and Derrick Robertson’s much-hyped new series from Image. Morrison is currently writing the Superman-centric Action Comics, and this comic features a whimsical, feathered blue donkey that talks. So naturally, this is 100% adult comic. Except I’m serious. Don’t even let the kiddies near reviews of this one.

This isn’t surprising with Derrick Robertson attached to art chores, considering he had a pretty lengthy run on Dynamite’s controversial title The Boys. Also not surprising, this being a Grant Morrison title, is that this book is fucking bizarre as fuck. Sorry, did my coarse language surprise you? Get used to it. Happy! has a mouth so foul it makes your typical Garth Ennis dialogue look like it was written for Sesame Street. Morrison is a poet with curse words.
It’s pretty impossible to do a spoiler-free review of the plot, as all of the actual story takes place at the end of the issue. Most of this issue is setting up said plot. This next paragraph won’t ruin anything, per se, but does detail what happens a bit, so yeah, you’ve been warned.

Happy! is about mob hitman Nick Sax. After a hit goes slightly awry, Nick becomes the only man to know a password to a massive fortune. As he lies in a hospital bed, he’s visited by his daughter’s imaginary friend, who says he’s Nick’s new partner, just in to time to warn him that some bad guys who want that knowledge are closing in.

This book is Who is Jake Ellis? as written by Grant Morrison. I feel like I’ve been makinga lot of comparisons to that book lately, but the similarities are hard to ignore. Both books focus on a male protagonist with a shady past who is being hunted by trained killers, relying on their skills and advice from their imaginary friends to survive. It’s not Morrison’s most original idea, but it’s a great fit for his sensibilities. If you’re interested in Happy!, it’s probably because you already know Morrison has an incredibly unique voice in comics. That voice is front and center here.

The art from Derrick Robertson is phenomenal. I hadn’t had too much exposure to him before, but I knew the name. I’m not the best art critic, so detailing what makes it so good is difficult for me. The people look real, and the attention to detail is jaw dropping. It’s like a grittier Steve Dillon (of Preacher fame) or like Steve Dillon and Sean Phillips (Fatale,Criminal) had a lovechild.

Overall, the creative team brings an insane amount of technical skill to this book. It’s dark and twisted but consistently interesting and cohesive. Morrison’s script is great. I wasn’t really joking when I said he was a poet with curse words; it feels gratuitous in a perfect way. It gives the book an edge that isn’t just cheap. The dirty dialogue is perfectly complimented by the grimy visuals in Robertson’s art. These two are running at the top of their games.
That said, I’m going to flat-out say that you should wait for the trade on this one. It’s a good issue, but it will be far, far better as part of a collected storyline than it is as a standalone. The abrupt ending comes as soon as the issue starts to really, really hit it’s stride, and it feels like it ends when they hit the page count rather than a cliffhanger or teaser. It reads like a portion of a graphic novel more than an issue of a comic book. Definitely check out that collected edition, though, because it reads like part of a really good graphic novel, and I predict the full thing will go down as another solid addition to Morrison’s impressive library.