Review – Happy #1 (of 4)

Grant Morrison channels Garth Ennis in the first issue of Happy, a bizarre, ultra-violent Image mini-series.

I can promise you this: you haven’t read anything like Happy #1 yet this year. Now, whether or not you would want to is a whole other question…

Besides, that’s not quite true.  Break Happy into its component parts and you’ll find a lot of familiar influences – most notably, and most surprisingly, Garth Ennis’ The Boys – but while I doubt the way Morrison brings these influences together will surprise many readers, it’s sure to leave a smile on their face.

If they get through the first few pages, that is, which includes some of the most violent, bizarre, sexual, gross, and/or disturbing content I’ve seen from Morrison in years, but without a clear narrative hook to help keep my interest up.

There are some plotting issues – the main plot, which finds a group of assassins hired to kill someone who has been hired to kill them while another group operates from the shadows to set it all up, is needlessly complicated and drains the middle of the book of a lot of its energy.  Morrison can generally get away with weird, gross, creepy and odd because books like The Invisibles and The Filth have a manic energy that keeps you engaged.  Happy #1 has no such liveliness.

Darrick Robertson (The Boys, Transmetropolitan) is perfectly suited to this combination of violent pulp grotesqueries and bizarre fantasy.  Even cartoonish Happy comes off just as creepy and menacing as anything else, and characters like Jack the Hammer come off as legitimately chilling.  Some of the characters look unfortunately samey, though the issue’s high body count suggests that this won’t be a problem for long.  Still, Robertson acquits himself as well as you’d imagine, and I can’t wait to see what else he has in store for us.

While Happy could easily grow into something genuinely fascinating in the coming months, this was easily my least-favorite Morrison launch in recent memory.  While Morrison infuses the story – particularly its final pages – with his own sensibility, it’s very much channeled through Garth Ennis’ hyper-masculine style, a style I happen to find dreadfully dull.  Right now, this seems like the kind of book that will appeal to a lot of readers, viscerally repel just as many, and live on as a cult hit for years to come.

– Cal C.


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