Haha: Happy Hank the Very Happy Clown (#6) – W. Maxwell Prince

5 out of 5

I guess the joke here – the final issue of Haha, and did we know this was a limited series, or is that part of the joke…? – is that this is a perfect Ice Cream Man issue.

I don’t think it was necessarily “hidden” that Haha was related to ICM, it was just a matter of whether or not you wanted to consider that a thematic relation, or just one acknowledged by some visual nods, or that the stories were actually linked in some way; W. Maxwell Prince has just confirmed the latter, essentially, and it’s cute that he’s brought along his ICM art team of Martin Morazzo and Chris O’Halloran to do so. This gives the book, within context of Haha, another edge, in that it no longer has to pretend to be some type of parallel or juxtaposing shtick to the everyday horrors of Prince’s mainline series: Hank, our suicidal clown, is stuck in the terrifying mundanity of the stories in ICM, with the point maybe being exactly that of crossing the two series over – open your eyes, and you’re still in Haha.

The thing is, Prince has been playing with this theme of life encompassing all goods and bads simultaneously all throughout Ice Cream Man, occasionally overplaying his hand while doing so, and sometimes without the exactitude of some earlier issues. It’s understandable: a series of horror one-shots that are also intended to have emotional impact (i.e. they’re not just scary images and jumps) is a nigh impossible thing to maintain as poignant for more than a few issues for a good writer, and I would rate Prince as a great-and-getting-greater writer; the hits in ICM absolutely outweigh the slight misses, and so this aside to perhaps give that distillation a rest and also some random-ish focus – clowns – has wrapped back around to one of the most impactful representations of ICM’s themes.

Hank is a sad clown, that most typical of cliches, but he’s sad in a modern way: perpetually anxious, despite therapy and CBD gummies and anti-depressants and swear words and snark. He lives in a modern world, where his boss has got his own problems too, ya know? And then he has an incident involving some ice cream, and suddenly he’s seeing things: little demons and unleashed madness; the world going to ruin around him; plenty of story and visual details from Ice Cream Man’s various entries. And that running commentary in his head is suddenly “visible” – another Morrison-y trick, but Prince makes it his own – and Haha enters into the fourth wall breaking, staring-at-the-reader vibe of ICM, ending with a request to embrace the inherent, never-ending ridiculousness of life.

It looks amazing, it reads amazing. It’s a perfect ICM issue, and also a perfect way to cap off Haha.