By Steve Morris
Happy marks the first creator-owned story from Grant Morrison in a while, with the writer busy reworking Batman and Superman over the past few years. A miniseries for Image, the book sees Morrison collaborating with Darick Robertson for a crime serial set at Christmas. And based on the first issue, this feels a lot like a hyper-sweary Morrison version of Fatale.
I’ll get to that in a moment. Happy is a gorgeous looking book, despite being set in a low rent skag-end of a neighbourhood, filled with drunks and gangsters. Richard P. Clark’s colouring in particular really highlights the tone of the book, dashing bright colours against the grime and snow to beautiful effect on every page. His work makes each panel pop from the page while Robertson remains, as always, a consummate storyteller, conveying the story with ease. The mix of the bright and the dull also marks out an important motif within the central narrative, which goes to show how carefully the creative team have designed this series.
There are a few issues. For narrative reasons, Robertson struggles to differentiate the appearance of his central characters here, which means readers may be unnecessarily confused by which character they’re following at any given time. And Morrison does lay on the swearing a little bit thickly. Despite this though, Happy makes for perhaps the least confusing Grant Morrison story in quite some time, with not much demanded from the readers at this point. The story is pretty simple so far, with the plot taking a backseat to the entertainingly vulgar dialogue spouted from a mixture of fun characters. In fact Morrison seems to be revelling in making the story as dark as possible, with an assortment of bodily fluids making an appearance in this first issue.
There’s something grotesquely entertaining in seeing him indulge his grosser side.
Partway through the issue, the comic starts to resemble Fatale in style. Not only in that it’s a book toying with noire and fantasy at the same time, but also in that the way Morrison presents his narrative. Although Happy starts out as a fairly simple crime story, the narrative smartly gives way to something much deeper and bigger than first expected, allowing the writer to take something routine and make it unpredictable and bizarre. Much like Ed Brubaker uses of horror to keep Fatale readers struggling to keep up as the book twists; here Morrison also plays around with genre in order to make his story more intriguing.
Overall, Happy is a gross, funny, entertaining comic, which veers away from typical Morrison styling. The book doesn’t offer an intricate web of narratives, which all bounce meaning off each other. It instead offers a fun, silly take on the crime genre, with lovely art from Robertson and sterling work from Clark and letterer Simon Bowland. This is a professional piece of work, done by a load of professionals. In other words — it’s very very good.