“Unreal”. That’s the first word of the long awaited Grant Morrison/Darick Robertson Image collaboration Happy out September 26 and as far as word choice goes, it’s apt. Not that Morrison has ever had a problem choosing his words. Not that Morrison’s work has ever been considered realism. But when you realize that Happy is penned by Grant Morrison you might think exactly the same thing, “unreal”.
Grant has always worked hard to keep himself at arm”s length from pointless, ultra-violent tough guy comics, even saying in an interview with The Mindless Ones,”As you know I always prefer to do stuff that’s symbolic rather than gritty and realistic.” and speaking out against a culture where men writing the characters prove a striking contrast in health, temperament, lifestyle, etc. He’s never been one for macho posturing, so when you start reading Happyand suddenly “cunt” is being tossed around by tough guy, mafia cliches you might get nervous. I know I did. But don’t worry because this isn’t that comic.
Morrison is at a stage in his career where decades of mind warping, reality shaping, chaotic insanity in his comics could make a casual reader believe that surely, he must be running out of stories to tell. Surely he can’t make every single different project a beautiful, bizarre and rare thing. Surely he’s got to be getting stale eventually! Again you hypothetical doubting Thomas, you are incorrect with your emotions and presumptions. Happy is in fact something new and different for Morrison and it’s not that now HE’S the one using a Millar script.
Grant may be a ghost of a presence on the internet, in the first person, but he’s never been super secretive about the driving forces behind his stories. Fans know when they’re reading Morrison comics around the time his father died, as well as they know what he’s on about when Sir Miles is torturing King Mob. What then is going on with Happy? I mean, did you read those solicits? About a hitman and a flying, talking blue horse? What is going on with him now?
Happy, so far, is not playing out like a meta-textual genre experiment (though, that wouldn’t be surprising if it did) and it’s not playing out like a veiled surrealist autobiography either. What it feels like is one of those scenes, where Professor X and Magneto sit down across from each other, one of the good old scenes from the bad old days, where Charles would say something like, “Erik, why do you persist in these violent machinations that you know will leave you bereft and alone?” and Magneto would answer, “Charles, you are the fool who…” and then on and on and on, neither one changing the others mind, but really providing some long-winded pomp and vocabulary between the two. Happy feels like Grant is trying to avoid one of those stale scenes and is instead, trying to reach across the table, between him and, maybe not Millar specifically but to those comic creators who work in the ultra-violent, foul mouthed, blood and cum comics (like Millar, for example). Happy as an attempt to say, “Are you happy with the way things are? Is this what you feel? Is this all you think there is?”.
Happyspeaks the violent, tough guy lingo, but only to attempt to dismantle it. What do you need to have happen to you before you finally listen to your flying, blue horse? How many mob tough guys and crooked cops have to beat and harangue you? How many times do you need to get shot before you realize you’re in the long line of work? Happy says, “This is my impression of you. And this is what I would do if it was true.” Although with Morrison, we know that nothing is true (and everything is permitted).
All this talk about Grant and I haven’t mentioned the flawless pencils of Darick Robertson, who shows that whatever issues prevented him from working on The Boysare put to bed and he’s in fighting form, no, actually, he’s past fighting form, he’s in nation conquering form. From trashed Santa’s to stoned serial killers to bloody hitman to flying, talking blue horses, Robertson is drawing with the versatility and passion of an artist who’s still out to make a name for himself. He’s drawing like he hasn’t already done pencils on ground-breaking, genre defining comics. He’s drawing like an artist who’s had all the rest he needs and is now back and ready to work. And are we ever ready to have him back.
If you don’t know what the comic is about, then good, because the less you know the better. Simply put, following a job gone wrong, a hitman encounters a flying, talking blue horse that only he can see. Is that enough for you? I’m sure the book contains all the classic Morrison elements that his eager fans will dissect and interpret with reckless intellectual abandon and joy. I’m sure that the number of brothers is significant as well as the costume the serial killer wears, are references to Gnostic mysticism or Tibetan voodoo chronal hyper magick. And that’s great, that’s part of the ride, but that’s not the whole ride, so don’t put up your “HE MAKES WEIRD HARD TO FOLLOW COMICS FOR WEIRDOS” walls already. You know who you are. Final Crisis was a work of art! And you- No. This is not the place for that screaming match, let’s keep it to the forums please.
What I’m saying is that Happydoes the impossible and does it easily. It wears the skin of its’ enemies but only to undermine and subvert them. It dances like they do only to show the ridiculousness of the dance. And like most Morrison works, it also offers them a better way. The book is funny, smart, quick, different and absolutely beautiful. Robertson has always excelled at drawing the horrifically disturbing with stunning refinement, putting him in that league with Quitely and Cassaday as artists who can’t help but show all the angles of all the stories they draw. Throw in the fact that the comic is $2.99 and your officially out of excuses for missing out on it. When Morrison works with a relative newcomer (like Stewart, Burnham or Irving) the result is captivating, but when he’s working with an old pro like Robertson, the result is nothing short of pure Happy. They got happy, will you?
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