Writer Grant Morrison is a divisive figure at the best of times, garnering passionate fandom and fervent derision in equal measure. For some he is the psychedelic master of twisted fairy tales, the writer of The Invisibles, Doom Patrol and Animal Man who is so adored he warrants his own convention. For others he is a pretentious, egomaniac whose long winded, rambling writing lacks the depth and subtlety of his big name contemporaries like Mark Millar Brian Bendis or Garth Ennis.
As with all ‘celebrity writer’ books, your opinion of Happy will be shaped by your opinion on Morrison. For those in the former camp it will no doubt be viewed as another tour de force that exhibits the same anarchic sense of wit and invention that have instilled his other titles. However for those, who fall into the latter camp it is much more of a challenging read, but one that may surprise even his most ardent haters.
It sets its stall out early with a foul mouthed tirade of obscenities from its main characters, which are no doubt intended to mark the title out as edgy and cool, but just ends up as a parody of what has become the ‘angry young Scot’ style of writing. When done well this writing is dynamic, exciting and incendiary, but when done badly (such as parts of Garth Ennis’ recent The Boys and much of Mark Millars Kick Ass 2 run) it can feel more like naughty school boys shouting rude words in class just to get a reaction.
All this is a shame as once you get in to the book it begins to take on a much more interesting and surreal shape. After a job goes wrong, ex-cop turned hitman Nick Sax wakes up in hospital with a bullet in his side and a new guardian angel in the form of a shiny blue horse called Happy which only he can see. Although far from a new idea, (we’ve seen this idea in stories as varied as James Stewart’s Harvey to Mark Millar’s Superior) but Happy’s combination of gritty angry crime drama and psychedelic cartoon definitely gives it an edge. This is in no small part thanks to Darick Robertson’s fantastic artwork that takes Morrison’s psychedelic musings and gives them life and depth. Showing his versatility by merging the gritty realism of the crime scenes with the child like cartoonish horse without it ever seeming incongruous, it really helps make a book, that in lesser hands could have been a cliched mess.
With only a 6 issue run to play with this should keep Morrison’s meanderings to a minimum and could well give us a focused and tight crime drama with a twist in the style of Fatale. However we’ll have to wait and see what direction Morrison and co takes us in before giving our final verdict on the book, but based on this first issue it will be a dark, twisted and intriguing journey getting there.
Happy is available on ComiXology or via the Image Comics app for £1.99