Review: Bartelby’s Having A Bad Day In ‘Haha’ #1
by Brendan M. Allen
‘Ice Cream Man writer W. Maxwell Prince brings his signature style of one-shot storytelling to the world of clowns—and he’s invited some of the comics industry’s best artists to join him for the ride.
Haha is a genre-jumping, throat-lumping look at the sad, scary, hilarious life of those who get paid to play the fool—but these ain’t your typical jokers.
With issues drawn by Vanesa Del Rey, Gabriel Walta, Roger Langridge, and more, 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.’
In this first chapter of Haha, W. Maxwell Prince offers up the story of Bart, a barely employed amusement park clown whose wife hates him. Bart’s day starts off with a marital spat over the breakfast table. He heads off to work, only to get pink slipped before getting mugged by his best friend in the parking lot. That’s only the setup. It gets much, much darker before the day ends.
There’s going to be some comparison between this story and the 2019 Joker movie, and that’s fair, I guess. Bart and Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck both take healthy doses of abuse. They both appear to be afflicted by the Pseudobulbar Affect. Their make-up design is similar. That’s about where it ends.
The main thing here, and this is important, is that no matter what happens to Bart, he ends up on the right side of the line at the end of the day. There’s actually no point where he even waivers, though he has multiple opportunities. He’s a good dude, just trying to make his way.
Each of the one-shots in this anthology will feature Prince’s scripts, but the artists will change each month. In this opening installment, Vanessa Del Rey is on line art duties, with Chris O’Halloran pulling color. Del Rey does a fantastic job portraying the utter desperation of Bart’s situation, while he does his best to keep his spirits up. O’Halloran’s palette is appropriately depressing and bleak.
I was actually taken by surprise here. There’s a shocking amount of emotional depth to this story, since we were only given 24 pages to get in, get invested, and get out. This thing is absolutely brutal, but it’s a complete story, told in three very short acts.
Haha #1, Image Comics, 13 January 2021. Written by W. Maxwell Prince, art/cover by Vanessa Del Rey, color by Chris O’Halloran, letters by Good Old Neon.
The opening installment in W. Maxwell Prince’s clown themed anthology kicks off with the ridiculously dark story of an amusement park clown whose marriage is falling apart. Prince is able to squeeze an amazing amount of emotional depth into these 24 pages. Absolutely brutal, shamelessly funny. I’m here for it.