There are a few things that scare most people at some point in their lives, and Haha is taking the creepiest one of them all: Clowns. This new Image series written by W. Maxwell Prince aims to deliver a new story and artist with each issue. When announced, Prince said, “I don’t like clowns, so I thought it’d be a good idea to write about them.” This new series opens with a story that’s part horror and part exploration of how society fails us. Sometimes good clowns go bad…
This first issue opens on a quaint suburban town. Pushing into one of the homes, we meet a woman and her two children playing a board game when daddy enters the room. Dressed to the nines in clown makeup and clothes, we quickly learn his wife is not pleased with his profession, but he takes it deadly seriously. So seriously that when the makeup is on he wants to be called Bartelby. It’s hard to knock someone who has a passion, though, and soon we’re rooting for him even though the carnival may shut down and put his family in the poor house.
That’s where things go from bad to worse. Prince writes a narrative here that shows the slow slide of a man and his passion for being a clown into the ditch. It goes from bad to worse, to worse still. The entire issue takes place over a single day, but by the end, you’ll be right there with Bartelby and in his headspace. It’s not a healthy place to be. By making Bartelby a victim of his surroundings and situation, Prince explores the failings of the American dream.
One reason why this book works is Vanesa Del Rey’s pencils matched with Chris O’Halloran’s colors. There’s a dirty and realistic vibe to the book thanks to Rey’s style. The world is lived in, the corners dark with shadow, and even Bartelby’s makeup is subdued and not so bright. Real life can feel like we’re just getting by, a smudge on the face of the Earth, and you get that with how everything is rendered. Rey also does well to tap into Bartelby’s humanity.
Another reason is how Prince and Rey never belittle the character and instead show a man with a passion who is doing what he loves. There are cheap ways to delve into this character’s madness by making him “crazy,” but here the narrative is mature and takes him seriously. By issue’s end, you feel for Bartelby and his family — not because he is a madman who needs to be stopped, but because the world has made him into one. He may be bringing madness into his home that endangers his family, but it’s society that is at fault.
Haha is an exciting new series launch from W. Maxwell Prince that takes a steady and serious look at how a single person can break under the pressures of an unfair world. This is a story about alienation into ourselves when a broken and terrible world becomes too overbearing. Somewhat more sadly, it’s a story many will relate to and connect with.
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