Haha: Rudolph on the Road to Funville (#2) – W. Maxwell Prince

4 out of 5

While not as emotionally and conceptually pummeling as the first issue of Haha, ‘Rudolph’ is an interesting extension of the concept. It’s rough around the edges, but by sort of forcing the clown theme atop, W. Maxwell Prince adds new dimension to a spin an old story. That “old story” could be said to boil down to not being able to run away from your past: dancer Rudolph reflects on the events with her mother – who often sported clown makeup and took her daughter on a cross-country roadtrip – that led her to her current lot in life.

The clown conceit doesn’t necessarily hold up, in the sense that there’s no real need for it as tied in to the story’s themes, and it almost seems like Prince purposefully made things anticlimactic – the framing of the tale, with Rudolph preparing for a dance routine while seated at a makeup mirror, withholds nothing that’d prevent one from knowing how we’ll wrap back around to that frame – but this isn’t as showy of a tale as the first issue, and rather seems more intent on adding its quirkier details to underline how these are really stories of the everyday. (The bits that nod to the previous issue could also be read in this way: that this is not the fantasy of Ice Cream Man.)

This is also a good example of an artist helping to prop up a solid, if somewhat unremarkable story: Prince’s narration is well affected, but without Zoe Thorogood’s art to set the pace and tone, it wouldn’t come across nearly as strongly as it does. Zoe’s backgrounds and settings are all loosey-goosey, hand-drawn lines, while her figures are grounded, and humanistic. It makes for an excellent juxtaposition of “reality” against a shifting, dreamy landscape, the long and thin lines preventing the dark realities of the story from seeming exploitative.

I’m somewhat hard-pressed to figure how far this clown thing can be perpetuated, but I trust Prince has it mapped out far enough to keep me surprised, and, as a reader, challenged.