Review: Grant Morrison Makes His Image Comics Debut With The Deliriously Surreal "Happy"

Review: Grant Morrison Makes His Image Comics Debut With The Deliriously Surreal "Happy"

In a tight economy, it's not always clear what you should spend your hard-earned money on, and with comic books getting more and more expensive, your dollar doesn’t go as far at the comic shop as it did in the past. We here at Complex feel your pain, so we're providing you with a rundown of the best comics coming out on September 26, 2012.

Reviews by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)

Happy #1

What it’s about: After spending the last few years over at DC Entertainment on books like Batman, Batman Incorporated, Action Comics, Final Crisis, and All-Star Superman, Grant Morrison finally makes his way over to Image Comics with his fantasy noir tale, Happy. Set during the Christmas season, the book follows the character of Nick Sax, an ex-cop turned amoral hit-man for the mob, but after a gig goes wrong, Sax is left gravely wounded. Upon waking up, he's greeted by a talking blue cartoon horse named Happy that only he can see.

Morrison is a writer known for his high concepts and post-modern ideas, and this opening issue fits in perfectly with the rest of his bibliography. The characters in Happy range from criminals to sadists with pure malice and filth running through their veins. Yet there's a layer of dark humor over the entire issue that makes these reprehensible denizens of New York much more palatable as we follow them through the story.

The character of Sax himself isn’t necessarily a hero, but his nihilistic attitude and intimate knowledge of the seedy underbelly of society turns him into a compelling figure. He’s the type of character you hate to admit that you like because he’s just so damn scummy. The first three-quarters of this issue move along like a Christmas-themed installment of Sin City; however, when Happy, the cartoonish blue horse, makes his startling debut, the whole story shifts into a completely different, and welcomed, direction.

As Morrison usually does, he uses Happy to employ the grittiness and overt violence that have become clichéd in comics as a way to satirize the industry. Until its eponymous character debuts, the issue moves along like so many comics we have seen recently with its morose tone and gore, but that flying blue horse introduces a Looney Tunes quality to the issue that's almost poking fun at the current state of dread and violence in comics. It’s almost as if Morrison is daring creators to liven up and add a little blue horse of their own into their books.

For this series, Morrison is teamed up wit the perfect artist to really pull this off, Darick Robertson. He's a man who has made a living drawing beautifully violent series like The Boys and The Punisher over the years, and now he's bringing that gritty style to this book. But, of course, he's also tasked with giving life to Happy as well. His version of New York is the squalid hell hole that we all recognize, and the human characters are all repugnant in one way or another. Happy himself, meanwhile, looks like he stepped right out of a Tex Avery cartoon. The clash of styles and tones is brilliant as both Morrison and Robertson seem to be enjoying the hell out of bringing together the cheerful and repulsive all in one read. Unfortunately it makes the wait for next issue that much harder.

The Goon #42

What it’s about: If you’re a fan of dark humor with a repulsive, sadistic edge, then Eric Powell’s The Goon is the perfect alternative comic for you. Filled with the type of unbridled imagination and atmosphere that most comic book creators won’t touch, The Goon tramples on the norm and provides us with some of the freshest comics whenever a new issue hits the stands. As far as the character of the Goon himself is concerned, he’s a foul-mouthed roughneck with a brutal right hook and very little tolerance for others. Somehow, though, he's still lovable. 

What to expect this month: Last we saw The Goon, Eric Powell provided us with an issue that was more of a morality tale than a typical installment of this series. In The Goon #42, balance is restored and the Goon is back to cracking skulls and ruffling the feathers of enemies everywhere. The action starts with a spurned boxing promoter who fears that the Goon is looking to get rich off of him. In order to get even, he feeds a prizefighter with a mysterious serum that makes him strong enough to take down the Goon’s fighter.

The plot ties into what we saw last time with The Zombie Priest as Powell seems to be setting up for something much larger in the title’s future. But even if you’re not interested in long-running storylines, this issue of The Goon also acts as a self-contained story with the type of stunning art and nasty disposition that has made the title work so well.

The Goon continues to be a twisted fairytale that mixes the paranormal, the bizarre, and the grotesque into one gorgeously nasty story. And just like in the last issue, this one features another backup tale written by Powell with art by Mark Buckingham. It's a bit more over-the-top and nostalgic than the main story. It does give us more Goon, which is never a bad thing.

 

BPRD Hell on Earth: Return of the Master #2

What it’s about: As the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense continues to move on without some of its most prominent members (such as Hellboy, Abe Sapien, and Liz Sherman), they are unaware of a threat by the Zinco Corporation that could wipe out the entire human race.

What to expect this month: BPRD continues to slowly build up to its most important storyline in years as the conspiracy of the Zinco Corporation continues to unfold. They have people everywhere, and as the Bureau is at its weakest, it's the perfect time to infiltrate and take advantage of them. Meanwhile, a squad of Bureau agents goes looking for the mysterious Dr. Lazar in Scotland, only to get jumped by a very unfriendly ghost.

More or less, this issue serves to stir the pot as writers Mike Mignola and John Arcudi continue to unearth layer upon layer of this vast story. Unfortunately this issue is also a bit on the slow side, but it features some necessary plot developments. Things are building and the pieces are being moved into place, especially with that last page, which should have fans frothing at the mouth for the next issue. Mignola and Arcudi have done some tremendous work in the past, so it’s impossible to think that they will deliver anything less as we get closer to the monumental hundredth issue of this title.

The strongest aspect of BPRD continues to be the art by Tyler Crook. Whether he’s detailing horrific ghosts and monsters, or just bringing us his version of Scotland, he’s completely on his game here. He’s adding his own style to Mignola’s world, while also keeping true to the pre-established look of the franchise. BPRD might require some extra patience for some, but once the gloves come off, the payoff is worth the effort.

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Reviews by Jason Serafino (@serafinoj1)

Tags: image-comics, dark-horse-comics, happy, the-goon, bprd, grant-morrison
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