4 out of 5
Everything about this issue feels a little forced – something that’s been plaguing Haha’s loose “must contain clowns” mandate nigh from the start – but it ends up working because writer W. Maxwell Prince sticks to his guns, sort of self-correcting that forcedness through will, and also because of Gabriel Walta’s brilliant linework and pacing.
Pound Foolish was a circus clown, but has now made it to grandma age, old enough to complain about it not being How It Was Back Then, when, apparently, you couldn’t buy cut cauliflower at the supermarket (i.e. you had to cut it yourself). This seems like an odd “advancement” to harp on, and though I understand it’s meant to be a humorous affect – she complains about everything – it’s also the first forced bit, as I have a really hard time accepting that pre-cut veggies are an “advancement,” though maybe this was taken directly from a real-world conversation / experience Prince had. To me, it was dialogue shoved in to match the story template.
…Because Foolish is making a cauliflower-based casserole, and that gives our narrator an omniscient chance to explain the “symbolism” of the casserole. This winky narrator voice (being aware of the reader and 4th walls) has definitely worked for Prince in issues of Ice Cream Man and elsewhere, but for Haha’s generally more personal approach, it’s not the best match – it’s also forced.
While Pound thinks back to when she used to make her casserole for her travelin’ carnie friends, a group of young kids are planning out the latest antics of their club, which involve each member doing something that scares them. Billy is tasked with stealing something from the old clown lady’s house.
From here, everything streamlines perfectly into a twisted, feel-good, coming of age (young and old) story: the grumbling “back in my day” references are better juxtaposed against Pound’s joyful construction of her casserole, and the narrator’s all-knowing voice has a better time talking us through Billy’s part of the adventure. Walta’s loose but assured linework and gorgeous water-splashed colors complete the picture, shuffling through all sorts of “traditional” panel layouts that match the story one-to-one – we never feel subject to an overt “style” as we sometimes do with these artsier types, rather fully enmeshed in pure comicdom – and the story completes with that same mix of sadness and soulfulness that’s marked the best issues of this series thus far.