Ahoy Comics Review: Happy Hour #1
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Peter Milligan
Art: Michael Montenat
Colors: Felipe Sobreiro
Letters: Rob Steen
Reviewed by: Matthew B. Lloyd
Welcome to a world in which everyone is happy! And, it’s the law! But, there’s a revolution coming, and this is how it begins….
Right off the bat, this feels very much like an episode of The Twilight Zone. And, that’s a good thing. The Twilight Zone television series was groundbreaking in its time. It told stories of science fiction and horror in an anthology format with an emphasis on character. Happy Hour #1 uses these same techniques. The issue opens in a world that is very familiar to the reader. There are no alien landscapes or bug-eyed monsters to alert the reader that this is unlike the world in which the reader lives. However, what happens in the first few pages reveals that this world isn’t exactly like our own.
We see this world through the life of Jerry Stephens. Stephens is easily relatable. His experiences in this issue will resonate with everyone. Without spoiling things, let’s just say Stephens experiences a tragedy and ends up in a readjustment center. There, he meets a fellow inmate, Kim and at this point there may be a bit of influence from George Orwell’s 1984 creeping in to the mix. While it’s not love and sex that are forbidden, it’s unhappiness. Nevertheless, Jerry and Kim bond over their shared unhappiness.
There’s a third player in the readjustment center, Agent Hamm. He’s a government agent who’s been turned and has his own brand of unhappiness. These three agree to fall in with Hamm and at it’s going great at first, until…well, …..
Even though the tenor of the issue promotes the full range of feelings, there is that one moment early on where the idea of always positive attitude is put forth. Even though it’s not what the story is about, acknowledging it is important, because a positive attitude is important, one cannot realistically always be happy, nor can one realistically always be miserable. The ability to feel range of emotions describes our humanity.
Milligan leaves lots of room to explore the world he’s building. It’s more interesting as we discover it through Jerry’s eyes and experiences. This goes hand in hand with Hamm’s story and his heretofore unknown interaction with the fugitive, Cohen.
Montenat and Sobreiro are a solid team on the art chores. Montenat uses a straightforward approach as he describes what should be the real world. His story telling is clear and engaging. Sobreiro gets to be a little more creative with colors as he washes a background red or blue to provide an emotion to the scene, even if it’s unnatural. Bottom line- it’s effective.
Lastly, Milligan pokes a little fun at editor Tom Peyer as he invents the Peyer unhappiness scale as a form of measurement used by the government. It’s one clear laugh in the issue. Interestingly, one of the features of Ahoy Comics is the inclusion of a few text stories. I suggest not skipping these. Like the old days of comics, these flesh out the issue. They are clever and entertaining, even if they don’t relate to the main story. It’s also a nice reminder that you are reading a magazine.
There’s not a real negative with Happy Hour #1. The premise is intriguing and the execution is well done. No capes and long underwear here, if that’s your thing…but, in some cases that’s a positive….
Happy Hour #1 is a strong start for Milligan and Montenat. There are allusions to some deep questions about the nature of humanity in this inaugural issue. There is fertile ground to explore as the surface of this world is only scratched. Using Jerry Stephens as the protagonist and guide through this world, the reader will be able to relate to his travails. Go buy this comic.