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Happy #1
posted April 4, 2003

Creator: Josh Simmons
Publishing Information: Top Shelf
Ordering Numbers:

This is one baffling comic. Josh Simmons follows up his narrative-dense, interesting and admirably grotesque Small Batch effort Cirkus New Orleans with Happy #1, the first issue in a new ongoing series. Yet it's this effort that feels like the one-shot. Many of the best elements from CNO have been subverted here, perhaps intentionally. Instead of letting a single story unfold without trying to force the reader into a specific reading of the lifestyles portrayed, the charged short pieces in Happy #1 come across like highly-manipulative polemics directed against broader than broad mainstream culture notions of cuteness, happiness and social order.

The question isn't whether or not Simmons does this effectively. Happy drips with venomous bile, the art is properly leering and excessive, and the stories are fair to middling jackboot dissections of the belief systems being assaulted. Yet the whole comic feels dated and easy, the computer-aided smile from that silly "Black Hole Sun" video of years ago spread over 32 pages. Does any potential reader doubt for a second that schools are a scary training ground for Darwinian inequities that continue into adult life, that cute can be horrifying, and that love as presented through various media is divorced from reality and icky besides? Beyond a Comics Buyer's Guide roundtable almost certainly not, and any deeper reading seems like a dodge. Only "Classroom Hi-Jinx" comes close to making a more profound point about the nature of satire as a tool to absolve the shittier aspects of a culture while doing almost nothing to change it. Simmons' furious cartooning is wasted spread out over the flat striking service of such a giant two by four. Let's hope Happy evolves.