Dark Horse Maverick:
Happy Endings

by various writers & artists
(Dark Horse, 2002)

Dark Horse has a good eye for anthologies and a knack for assembling disparate talents in the industry. Happy Endings is proof of both.

Sam Keith opens the book on a bright note. "Happy Ending" ranges from the Outback world of The Maxx to his editor's desk to a minor, personal happy ending. The story is loose and free, and Keith's usual lovely fluid artwork is packed with fun detail and side commentary. It makes an inviting doorway into the collection, and Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming keep up the lighthearted tone with "Only In...," a story of madness at the San Diego Comic Con. Bendis and Oeming carry the good-natured mayhem of the convention onto the page intact.

Mike Mignola teams with new writer Katie Mignola, age 6, for a koanlike tale of "The Magician and the Snake." Too light for his Hellboy universe, it still has the usual just so pacing of Mignola's work, and plenty of unnoticed strangeness in this land of monkey kings. The book ends with another comics star, Frank Miller, delivering page after page of "The End." Each of his happy endings has a wary, cynical humor familiar to those who know Miller's work.

One of the joys of anthologies like Happy Endings is discovering new artists. Bernie Mireault has a too-real story of a cat, a girlfriend and a domineering mother. Mireault's odd dependence on ziptones, combined with his heavy black linework and cartoonish style, give "The Cat" a comfortingly retro feel that works well with this story of minor liberations. Craig Thompson packs a novel's worth of childhood memories in the thin pages of "Barnard Animals." Thompson's art is smooth and lively, and his creative, whimsical page compositions let the tale wander easily from inner dreams to outer reality.

Jim Mahfood's aggressively alert Grrl Scouts star in "Just Another Day," which has the most quotable scenes in the book. "Paper Airplane" is a sweet, understated bit of nostalgia from Leland Myrick, both highly individual and universal enough to reach anyone who ever had a free childhood afternoon. All these artists have their own devoted but too small followings; if you aren't part of them, Happy Endings provides a great sample of their works.

The stories already mentioned would make a worthwhile anthology on their own, but there's still a very fat handful of tales fleshing out the novel. Tony Millionaire's Sock Monkey adventure, Peter Kuper's adventure in "Wild Blue Yonder," Jason Hall and Matt Kindt's strange murder mystery "January," all would be enough for an individual comic. Dark Horse has packed all these treats together for the price of two or three lesser comics. Happy Endings is a great gift for an established fan, and a good beginning to indoctrinate a newcomer.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 26 July 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.