Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Darick Robertson
There are essentially two sides to Grant Morrison. There’s the borderline incomprehensible side that writes from the depths of comics history and makes work like Batman RIP and Final Crisis that you know is good, you just don’t know what the hell is happening. Then there’s the side that makes more comprehensible stuff that is easier to identify as good, like All-Star Superman, Batman Inc., and Happy! But just because he’s writing something comprehensible doesn’t mean it isn’t a little bit insane.
Happy! is about Nick Sax, a former detective who’s now a hitman. He’s hired by a mysterious figure known only as Blue to kill off a trio of mob brothers, but he also kills a fourth brother there who turns out to have the only password to get a mob fortune. And he’s passed that password on to Nick, who’s now being hunted down for it. Oh, and also, Nick has started seeing a small, blue, flying, talking horse. Did I forget to mention that little detail?
Yes, by most of the story, Happy! is a fairly standard mob tale. The world is full of dirty cops, disgusting crimes, and a ton of language. This book doesn’t so much use F-bombs as an F-machine-gun. It’s easily passed twenty uses of it by the first three pages, not counting all the other language it uses. This is a dark, dark book. That happens to star a cartoon horse named Happy. Robertson captures this perfectly in his art, making Happy look notably out of place in the dark world he lives in, but no less important to the story. Nick just wants to get away from the city as fast as possible before he’s tortured or killed. Happy wants him to save a girl named Hailey. And yes, it does feature some of the standard redemption tropes, but this is not a tale of redemption.
You ultimately get the feeling that Nick can’t really be redeemed. And this has nothing to do with his actions in the world so much as it has to do with the world itself. One particularly effective scene has a flashback that goes from the beginning of Nick’s cop career to the wreck that he is now, and we see exactly how he became himself. He has choices to change along the way, but he’s stuck in a crapsack world and there’s no getting out of that. And ultimately, the final choice he has to make is doing one good thing that will ultimately make the smallest of differences in the world, but it’s what he has to do. And if he has to do it at the urging of a cartoon horse, well, so be it.
Grant Morrison has been writing relatively lighter fare in recent years, since he’s been doing work at DC, but with Happy! at Image, he is unleashed. Maybe not in the full-on craziness that he’s sometimes shown, but in terms of making an oppressively dark world, oh yes. Happy! takes a standard premise and makes it madcap and memorable. This is the Grant Morrison I love.