What do you call it when a clown loses his job? Your Major Spoilers review of Haha #1 from Image Comics awaits!
Writer: W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Vanesa Del Rey
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Ol’ Neon
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: January 13, 2021
Previously in Haha: HAHA peeks under the big top, over the rainbow, and even inside a balloon to tell a wide-ranging slew of stories about “funny” men and women, proving that some things are so sad you just have to laugh.
BARTLEBY REJECTS THE PREMISE
This issue opens at the kitchen table, as Bartleby the Clown once again faces the derision of his wife, Brenda, who doesn’t appreciate his life as a clown. For his part, Bartleby is upbeat, even hoping that his work life will get better when new investors arrive… and then, he gets fired. Worse still, as he makes his way out of the soon-to-be shuttered amusement park, his best friend mugs him for his last paycheck, the desperate act of a desperate clown. Fortunately, he stuck his check in his sock to keep from just such an emergency, and sets out to deposit the money, knowing that it will only keep his family for a couple of weeks, at best. That’s when the bank gets robbed. When he is ordered by the robbers to sit down and shut up, he calmly replies “I’d prefer not to” right into the barrel of a gun…
…and then, a bullet enters his brain.
“IT COULD BE WORSE!”
I’ll be honest: I don’t know that I would have noticed this comic if not for W. Maxwell Prince’s exquisite work on ‘Ice Cream Man’, also from Image, and this issue did not disappoint. Bartleby’s predicament may lack the existential horror of Riccardo’s horrific adventures, but the same quality is here, and the narration by Bartleby as a bullet enters his brain is some of the most chilling stuff I’ve read in a long time. And yet, somehow, this book feels like a celebration, even leaving me smiling at the end. Part of that is the lovely art of Vanesa Del Rey, making even the darkest parts of the story beautiful, aided by the bright coloring of Neon. It’s a strange dichotomy, but it drives the story and undermines Bartleby’s refusal to give in to despair, even when he absolutely should. The ending doesn’t leave him in a better situation, and yet it’s somehow an uplifting tale in the end.
BOTTOM LINE: I HAD NO IDEA WHAT TO EXPECT
Walking into Haha #1 blind, even with my knowledge of Prince’s previous work, did not prepare me for what this comic book ended up being, and the combination of beautiful art and a truly engaging, tragicomic story makes for a well-deserved 5 out of 5 stars overall. I don’t know what upcoming issues have in store, but I’m absolutely ready to sign up now based on this book’s combination of mundanity, tragedy, optimism and black comedy.
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Is there a word that means both "bleak" and "uplifiting'? Maybe "bleaklifting"? Or upbeatdown? I don't know, but this is an impressive reading experience.