Meet Nick Sax, the ex-cop turned hitman with a death wish.
Happy! is the strange story about a depressed ex-cop contract killer who has to team up with an imaginary horse to find a kidnapped young girl. It comes from one of the wackiest minds in comics, Grant Morrison, with great art by Darick Robertson.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Meet Nick Sax: a corrupt, intoxicated ex-cop turned hitman, adrift in a stinking twilight world of casual murder, soulless sex, eczema, and betrayal. With a hit gone wrong, a bullet in his side, the cops and the mob on his tail, and a monstrous child killer in a Santa suit on the loose, Nick and his world will be changed forever this Christmas by a tiny blue horse called Happy…. This deluxe edition of HAPPY! includes 10 extra pages of story by creators GRANT MORRISON and DARICK ROBERTSON. Collects HAPPY! #1-4
What’s the story?
Happy! tells the story of an alcoholic, drug addled ex-cop turned contract killer who is hired to take out a hit on three brothers. The hit goes wrong and instead Nick Sax kills four brothers, one who has a password that opens the way to a fortune, and gets shot himself. Found bleeding out in the snow, he is rushed to the hospital and revived where he meets Happy the horse, the imaginary friend of a little girl named Hailey.
Happy tells Nick that he needs his help to save Hailey who has been kidnapped by a man dressed like Santa Claus. Nick refuses to help Happy and instead tries to flee the city due to the fact that he’s being hunted by the mob for the password to the money. After beating away a hit squad sent to the hospital, he escapes to a poker game where he uses Happy to his advantage to win money, however the men within the game refuse to let him leave due to the hit on his head so he kills them and flees.
Nick hops on a train out of the city and ends up in the bathroom with a newspaper while he talks to Happy. This is when his past is explored. It’s revealed that Nick was a star cop on the force and was happily married, however the constant death and exposure to the horrific side of the world leads him down a path of drinking and causes a rift between him and his wife. He finds that the only person he can confide to is his partner, Maireadh McCarthy and an affair starts between them. A criminal group led by the mysterious Mr. Blue starts to try and get Nick and McCarthy to work with them by blackmailing with evidence of the affair. Nick refuses with a simple “fuck you” and they send the evidence of the affair to his wife who leaves him, with a positive pregnancy test shown in the trash. Nick is then fired from the force and he spends his days drinking until he is approached with an offer to kill someone for money which leads him down the path to where the story starts.
Happy is horrified but soon after the train stops and a member of Mr. Blue’s hit team comes to the bathroom and is shot by Nick then drowned in the toilet, Nick snaps at Happy and causes him to leave with one parting request that Nick looks at the newspaper on the floor. Nick spots the last name of Hailey and realises that she is is daughter. He then escapes from the train and heads to a bar looking for clues. After beating up some men looking to collect the bounty on his head, he follows a feather from Happy to a church where he finds a priest watching a livestream of where the kidnapped children are. Using his detective skills he works out where they are and makes his way there. With help from Happy and an army of imaginary friends he overpowers the pedophile Santa Claus and more of Mr. Blue’s men but not without being stabbed. As he goes to help Hailey he is shot in the back by Mr. Blue who is in turn shot by McCarthy. As he lays there dying he gives McCarthy one last request: that she use the password to get the money and support his ex-wife and daughter before he finally passes away.
The sideplot of the book is McCarthy being forced by Mr. Blue to track down Nick by threat of an attack on her mother, however she is always one step behind until the end where she ends up saving the children by shooting Mr. Blue before he can finish off Nick, therefore getting her revenge and saving Nick.
The extra pages at the back show how Morrison’s style of storytelling for the artist by drawing out storyboards as well as the design process of the teaser and the covers. It’s interesting to see how one of comics’ greatest minds develops a story with the artist.
How was it?
Happy! is a book with a lot of character. It’s a noir mystery book with a twist — the fantasy element from the presence of Happy. It deals with a very dark side to the world while being set against the typical cheery time of Christmas. Morrison’s storytelling is great as he is able to build Nick’s character in the first few pages before fleshing out his backstory.
And the art?
The art by Robertson is great and reflects the very noir and dark theme that the writing has. He draws Happy as very bright, contrasting to the dark world around him and shows Nick as a man truly in a downward spiral with very few attractive physical features.
Happy! is a ride and a half. Morrison writes an incredible story as usual that is backed up by Robertson’s art which fits the book perfectly.