Furthering the theme of the sad clown paradox in W. Maxwell Prince’s Haha anthology is chapter four, Gustav in the World of Floating Objects. Ticking off the previous installments, we’ve had a miserable amusement park clown, a murderous sideshow harlequin burlesque dancer, and a depressed mime.
In this month’s installment, Prince and artist Patrick Horvath visit one of the saddest possible clown tropes: the alcoholic birthday party clown.
It’s too easy, seeing a comic like Haha, with its goofy title and colorful covers, to dismiss it as nonsensical fluff. This book is anything but. Prince has been exploring themes of mental health, family, and responsibility, hidden behind layers of grease paint.
The two intertwined stories Prince delivers in chapter four barely seem related, but that really just demonstrates the connections we can all draw between our individual brands of brokenness and the people around us. Gustav experiences a level of quiet introspection that people rarely reach on their own, and Chris’ story with his Paw Paw wraps up about the sweetest way it possibly could.
Reading that back, I’m starting not to trust it, like I missed something. Did the clown die? Gustav’s dead, isn’t he? Dammit.
I’m a sucker for watercolors in comics. Tyler and Hilary Jenkins’ work in Grass Kings, Tyler Crook’s in Harrow County, and now Patrick Horvath’s in Haha. Absolutely gorgeous. Last month’s installment was the (mostly) silent chapter, but the story comes through in the imagery so well in this month’s, it would have played almost as well without any dialogue at all.
Haha is the sleeper in my review queue. I snapped it up to fill a slot, thinking there would possibly be some nice bits of horror and dark humor, but I wasn’t really sure what else it might hold. I am very pleasantly surprised to learn that Prince and his rotating cadre of artists are offering up some very deep and pointed commentary on mental health and human interaction.
Not at all what I expected, in all the best possible ways. Deep and pointed commentary on mental health and human interaction, hidden under layers of grease paint.