By Will Holden
Writer: W. Maxwell Prince
Artists: Vanessa Del Rey, Nimit Malavia, Zoe Thorogood, Roger Langridge, Patrick Horvath, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Martin Morazzo, Chris O’Halloran
Publisher: Image Comics
I first started this article with Haha #3 but, after struggling to start, I eventually gave up and resolved to wait for the trade to be released. I felt that this was a series that needed to be seen as a whole, rather than in short bursts. This may be so true of this series that I am not even sure the first volume is necessarily enough to judge what this comic really is.
I don’t really like buying my comics on a monthly schedule, I don’t like the sense that if you miss a beat you could be left behind, or that, due to the soap opera nature of monthly series, something that happened a year ago in publication isn’t really important any more. This is just a personal preference about the industry as a whole, but more and more I believe we are being treated to an increasing number of comics and graphic novels that shrug off the binds of having to tell a neat little arc every 22 pages and indulge in a longer form of storytelling.
Haha fits that mold for me, in spirit at least. In truth, each issue is a single story, following a day in the life (often the last day) of different types of clowns (circus, mime, sexy, you get the gist). This continues an odd format seemingly created by Prince himself in his previous series, with artists Martin Morazzo and Chris O’Halloran, Ice Cream Man. An anthology horror series, linked by the titular Ice Cream Man is replaced here by each story featuring a clown. The stories also happen in the same town at about the same time. There are references to other issues, such as characters from an earlier issue nearly hitting a different clown with their car or a quick money making scheme, sifting through the dump for scrap metal, being recommended to two different hard-up clowns.
Individually, each issue is thematically and visually unique. The art duties rotate with every issue resulting in that anthology feeling, but there is a vague notion that all of the branches will at some point meet. Each artist brings something entirely different to the table, from very stylistic cartooning to highly detailed realism, each excellent in every instance. So varied was the art, that sometimes it was hard to remember these comics were somehow connected. They appeared to exist entirely in their own world, but the frequent small nods to events happening elsewhere helped to re-establish the consistent “universe” (clowniverse?).
This is my slight reservation with Haha; Ice Cream Man had the title character appearing in every issue, and providing the anchor from which the other stories were tethered. Haha doesn’t have that same narrator/observer character and so the connection between the stories is simple proximity and the theme of clowns.
I could imagine some readers bouncing off this series because of that lack of obvious forward narrative, but personally, I found the individual issues to be engaging short stories. Covering such topics as delusional positivity, capitalism keeping the poor down and self realisation while being weightless.
I would recommend this comic series to people who enjoy anthology style storytelling and varied art styles. This comic truly offers something different in the comics spectrum and I reserve a lot of appreciation for comics that are trying something new. Other than the sense that all has yet to be made clear, I enjoyed my time with this comic and I believe it will only improve on rereads.