Review – HAPPY!
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Darick Robertson
Colourist: Richard P. Clark
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Release Date: September 2012
Happy! tells the oddball story of Nick Sax, an ex detective who is now a burnt out hitman who spends his days drinking and his nights killing mobsters. When one of those nights takes a wrong turn and Sax almost dies, his daughter Hailey’s imaginary friend Happy The Horse, appears to him and tells him that Hailey needs his help.
Getting to revisit Happy! for review was a treat as I have always been a fan of Grant Morrison’s work outside of The Big Two. I remember reading this book for the first time a few years ago and absolutely loving the eccentricity of it all. I also enjoyed the first season of the TV adaptation of this book and thought that Chris Meloni absolutely nailed every facet of the character of Nick Sax.
I love the way that Morrison opens the book with the two mobsters talking about Sax whilst on their way to kill him. Hearing someone else’s perspective on a character before meeting them is always an interesting technique for a writer to employ. It allows reader to pre-emptively form an opinion on the character based on their reputation and it’s always interesting to see if they live up to that reputation after they are eventually introduced.
Nick Sax lives up to his reputation and then some as he is like a barely functional Punisher allegory, except for the fact that Sax has a better sense of humour. Some of his lines are hilarious in this volume and really give you an idea on how Sax sees the world. One particular highlight of mine from his dialogue is; “My eczema flares up in the presence of sanctimonious assholes.”
Something that I also really found unique when I first read the book, was the distinctive amalgamation of juxtaposed themes that Morrison uses to tell this story. In what other example can you say that the plot takes elements from mob movies in the vein of Scorsese and elements of kids cartoons such as Barney the Dinosaur?
Another thing that I enjoy is the setting that this volume takes place in. The decision to set the story at Christmas is an interesting one and although Happy! is not exactly as wholesome as It’s A Wonderful Life, the fact that it takes place at Christmas and features a jaded, bitter protagonist that learns to turn his life around through the help of an imaginary friend, means that Morrison’s homage to the Christmas classic is not lost on me. Then again, I don’t remember George Bailey swearing quite as much as this.
Darick Robertson’s artwork is phenomenal in the volume and really helps to emphasise the juxtaposed elements featured in the plot. As soon as Happy shows up in the issue, the reader can immediately tell that he is out of place in this world, simply due to his character design in comparison with everyone else on the page. There are also a few examples of striking splash pages where Robertson’s pencils and inks really get a chance to shine.
Something else I appreciated was Richard P. Clark’s approach to colouring the artwork. The world of Nick Sax is a cold and dreary one, devoid of masses of colour, instead consisting of mostly greys and blacks, – that is until Happy shows up in dazzling, vibrant blue, standing out unmistakably from all of the other elements on the page.
It was an absolute joy getting to go back and review Happy! as it still stood up as a phenomenal example of Grant Morrison’s seemingly endless creativity and is still a brilliantly original concept. The excellent artwork in the book also helps to make this a must read for anyone looking for an oddball story that follows an unlikely partnership and is full of heart.
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