Image Comics’ Happy! #1 marks Grant Morrison’s long awaited return to creator owned material and from the first page, we’re reminded why we’ve missed pure, unadulterated Morrison so much. Morrison, who one would think was being paid by the F-bomb, ventures into a genre that’s been done to death and still manages to make it feel new and exciting. He does so by introducing a bright-blue flying unicorn into the hardboiled-ex-cop-single-handedly-takes-on-the-mob formula and it is delightfully twisted. Darick Robertson’s art, combined with Richard P. Clark’s expert coloring, creates a world that is so vividly grimy that you can almost feel the squish of filthy gray snow beneath your feet.
WRITTEN BY: Grant Morrison
ART BY: Darick Robertson
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
RELEASE: September 26, 2012
The title’s main character, Nick Sax is introduced by a pair of largely disposable mobsters, who are discussing the protagonist in less than glowing terms. “Nick Sax,” one of them mutters, “is a cunt… a professional cast-iron cunt.” It’s exactly the kind of irreverent, brutally honest style of writing that we haven’t been able to enjoy in Morrison’s recent work for DC (can you imagine the Man of Steel calling someone a See You Next Tuesday?). It’s also worth noting that this same page includes a foregrounded hobo vomiting while being urinated on by a small dog.
Our first formal introduction to Nick Sax occurs when the anti-hero rescues a hooker from the clutches a hammer-wielding serial killer. The moment is significant, not simply because it’s our first glimpse of Nick Sax in all his trench coat-wearing, gun-slinging glory, but it’s also the first time we see a female character. The first woman we meet in “Happy!” is a scantily clad prostitute who has clearly spent some time at the bottom of a Victoria’s Secret bargain bin. The reduction of a woman to her most sexualized body parts is an unfortunate trope of the genre and it does little to inspire confidence that we’ll be getting a nuanced handling of gender in the pages of “Happy!”
While Morrison does have something of a spotted history when it comes to portrayals of women, he doesn’t leave readers hanging without a substantial female character. The next (and last) woman we meet in this issue is Maireadh McCarthy, an ostensibly crooked cop who knew Nick Sax during his days as a detective. The nature of their shared past isn’t revealed in the first issue of this mini-series but the level of vitriolic disdain McCarthy holds for Sax seems to imply a relationship that extends beyond merely professional.
The pair of mobster redshirts unwittingly come face to face with the man of the hour, disgraced detective Nick Sax. Turns out Sax has been playing the mobsters for the fools they are. Blood is shed, guns blaze, and people die leaving Sax in a vulnerable position.
McCarthy takes an inordinate amount of pleasure in verbally tormenting an injured Sax while he recuperates from the lucky shot that one of the interchangeable thugs got off before biting his own bullet. While McCarthy waxes poetic about the former detective’s fall from grace, the eponymous character finally makes his appearance. Happy is a pint-sized pegasus who claims to be the imaginary friend of a girl named Hailey and promises that he’s there to help Nick out. While Nick assumes, as any sane person would, that Happy is a hallucination and it is left largely open-ended in typical Morrison fashion.
The level of perfectly-paced badassery in “Happy!” is more than enough to overshadow the book’s flaws and with a epically deranged setup such as this one, we can’t wait to see what Nick Sax and the disturbingly cheerful Happy get up to next month.
Reviewed by: MelissaGrey