While I love Grant Morrison I really have to wonder just why on earth he is so popular as a writer. His works are purposefully perplexing, psychedelic, perverted and never really very pleasant. It seems to me that if anyone should suffer from poor sales and be stuck with a slight, cult audience it is him but instead he is a hit and perhaps the biggest name still writing today. So when he announces a new creator owned title the news makes ripples and the first issue itself is sure to sell well (comparatively), that is why I love comics. So this here is said series, known ironically as Happy!, I just finished reading said first issue and I have to say… how the hell is Grant Morrison popular as a writer? This book is everything that he’s ever been accused of come to life: it’s creepy, crazy and confusing and I loved it.
Happy! tells the story of Nick Sax, a hard on his luck ex-cop turned hit-man whose criminal endeavors have earned him the ire of both sides of the law and a bullet in his literal one. So far it’s sounding like sort of standard Parker/Phillips-Brubaker crime comic stuff right? Well then comes the introduction of a serial killer dressed as a cockroach and being blown by an angel (perhaps in reference to The Filth) , who would normally be a weird enough character to warrant a major mention but here he simply falls short of the titular Happy, a tiny blue winged horse that seemingly only Nick Sax can see, a horse that may or may not have his best intentions in mind.
The issue begins with a page packed full of everything that you could ever be offended by, every word, every fluid and every orifice makes a disconcerting cameo or two and yet it ends with the focus on a character that can only be described as cute. Morrison has taken the two most disparate types of comic story – the crime noir and the children’s story – and combined them into one organic whole. It’s a hazy mess and yet the way that these two worlds combine is seamless, a true feat given their sheer difference in tone. The most interesting element though is the latter, specifically the character that is taken from those children’s books, Happy, so why don’t you meet him:
A lot of the credit for this combining of concepts should also go to artist Darick Robertson and colorist Richard P. Clark. The gritty noir world that they create in the early pages is utterly believable and so when the barmy cartoon character comes on stage we too can see just how alien he is even here within an animated medium; Who Framed Roger Rabbit had it easy in comparison, try making a drawing look like a cartoon inside an animated movie ey Zemeckis? The execution of the action scenes, the facial expressions, etc. are all great but boy if the design on Happy isn’t the only thing you see on the page; he is easily the most exciting visual element that i have seen in quite some time.
What Happy does to the story is also immensely intriguing. The character that we are going to follow here, Nick Sax, is only chided by those he meets during the day but by the end of the book he is saddled with a quest that can only be described as heroic and it is all because of this horse. How he reacts to the idea after he is freed we’re yet to see, similarly why he is the one able to see Happy is also a mystery (though I expect that the drugs pumped into him probably have a lot to do with it) and though I can already see the fourth issue’s finale in my mind, with its focus on the power of the imagination and storytelling in our culture I am absolutely fascinated to know how we get there.
Is Happy the best book currently on shelves? Does it have the smartest script or the cleanest lines? No, probably not but by god if it isn’t the most mouthwateringly mad, if it isn’t the one book I want more than any other to see the next issue of. This I think is the reason that Morrison is such an icon in the culture: he is interesting. Say what you will about his work, good or bad, but just try and tell me that its bland in any way. Morrison to me is very much like the little blue horse in this book, he doesn’t quite belong, he shouldn’t quite exist, he doesn’t fit and yet his presence makes everything else so much better. Like Happy he makes me Happy.