The headline of this piece might be a tad misleading. Happy! is not the comics equivalent of A Christmas Story or Miracle On 34th Street. The title is hardly an indication of the story the reader is in for. This one is closer to It’s A Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol, as presented by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. Happy! is a tale of reluctant redemption…with generous helpings of profanity and violence. Elements of this four issue miniseries would be gratuitous (maybe they are) if they weren’t in the hands of Glaswegian genius Grant Morrison.
Happy! gives us the tale of Nick Sax. Sax is a disgraced former police detective turned killer for hire. He’s contracted by a man called Mister Blue to kill three criminals. Those three men happen to be Mister Blue’s nephews. Sax dispatches a serial killer and the three Fratelli boys (Goonies shout out?) in diabolically hilarious fashion. The problem? A fourth Fratelli comes along that Blue and Sax were not expecting. In a him-versus-me standoff, Sax chooses himself and shoots Mikey Fratelli. When the authorities show up, Sax is unconscious from a heart attack and Fratelli is severely wounded. Blackmailed detective Maireadh McCarthy gives Mister Blue the sitrep and lets Mikey talk to his uncle. Mikey reveals that he tried to barter with Sax. He gave him a password to an account that only his brothers knew. With the other three dead, he was the only one that knew this password, giving him access to a fortune. With his dying breath, he tells Mister Blue to “get Sax”.
In the hospital, McCarthy visits Sax and tries to extract the password for Mister Blue. Ever defiant, Sax gives her two words that I’m sure you can guess. She decides to leave him for the creepy Mr. Smoothie and his torture team. Things gut surreal from here. Whether from the morphine drip or paranoid delusion, Sax is visited by a small blue horse with a horn. It isn’t really a unicorn since it looks too ridiculous. The design by Darick Robertson sticks out in stark contrast to the rest of the dark, gritty world of these characters and the result is wonderful. As it turns out, Happy the Horse is the imaginary friend of a little girl named Hailey and he is there to recruit Nick Sax as her savior. With the horse’s help, Sax manages to escape the hospital.
The ex-cop is still an ornery jerk bent on self-preservation (also self-destruction) and uses Happy to help him win a high stakes poker game for him to afford to leave town, away from the iron fist of Mister Blue and his minions. After a series of unsuccessful attempts, Happy gives Nick the one piece of information that he can’t ignore in order to agree to save Hailey. Many more killings follow and we see a shell of a man rediscover his talents and put them to noble use. Hardly wholesome, family friendly fun, Happy! is an astonishing account of a man’s journey to rescue a young girl and a bit of himself…with the help of an imaginary blue horse.
The trade paperback from Image Comics will be available on Apr 17. The individual issues are available now at local retailers.