I spent most of Happy!‘s first three issues under the assumption that the man who kidnapped Nick’s daughter was a loner, the typical crime drama sicko, until the end of last issue, when it was revealed that Nick’s former boss, Mr. Blue, had orchestrated the kidnapping as part of a child pornography operation. I should know better than to expect such a simple story from Grant Morrison. Here’s the official description of Happy! #4 from Image:
Christmas is here and the bad men are about to open their presents! It’s showdown time but can Nick Sax save the day without Happy to help him – or will he screw this up like everything else? You must not miss the blood-drenched conclusion of our heartwarming Yuletide classic!
SPOILERS>>> The juxtaposition of Happy!‘s ultra-violent, foul-mouthed “realistic” elements with its more innocent imaginary friend has been a major theme of the book. Unfortunately, Morrison spends far more time on the business of child pornography than I would like. Obviously, there’s no graphic detail (even a book like Happy! can’t go that far) but it’s unnecessary to brood on such subject matter when not making a point.
That lack of purpose is ultimately the book’s greatest failure. For no reason that I can discern, we never see Mr. Blue’s whole face. The purpose of Happy’s blue feather is never fully explained, left up to inference on the reader’s part. Finally, the ending, while ostensibly happy, certainly didn’t leave me with that feeling. In fact, I wasn’t left without much feeling at all. Not happy. Not relieved or fulfilled. Not satisfied.
Darick Robertson‘s an old hand when it comes to drawing violence such as we see here, and after three issues of imaginary blue horses, we know he can ably draw the more fantastical imagery as well. The most memorable scene of this final issue comes when Happy recruits a host of other imaginary friends of all shapes and sizes to distract the evil Santa, who can see them, thanks to all the drugs he’s doing. It’s all in one single, oversized panel, and Robertson pulls out all the stops in drawing a beautiful array of imaginary creatures. (One, a superhero figure, has a letter “g” on his chest. “G” for “Grant,” perhaps?) Robertson’s facial work, particularly on Nick, is great for the most part, but Maireadh’s face is an exception. Hers is consistently less detailed than the other faces we see and her forehead occasionally reaches space alien proportions.
I dearly hope that Happy! will function better in a collected format. Such presentation should certainly benefit some of the plot elements that spend most of their time on the back burner. The choice of Darick Robertson as artist for this series was inspired. As a solitary offering from Morrison, however, it’s an interesting exercise, but is ultimately neither as impressive nor as powerful as some of his other creator-owned work.