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Zdarsky and Quinones Welcome you to the Quackshow With Howard the Duck #1 (Review)

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If there is any pair of humans qualified to continue the legacy of Howard the Duck cultivated by the insane Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik: it’s Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones. Anyone curious as to why need only know that Zdarsky draws a comic entitled Sex Criminals and see Quinones’ excellent rendition of the titular hero. The leading quackshow is no stranger to debauchery, and openly welcomes a life of rancid sin if the George Lucas produced 80s film is any indication of the current status of the character.

This first issue is built mostly off of the interactions of other people in the Marvel Universe and Howard. This gives readers a gateway into the absurdist nature of this title.

The conflict starts with a burst of intergalactic lunacy laced with some endearing speech patterns from our frontman. It’s a problem that pays off a certain plot thread from an incredibly successful film later on in the issue. This moment also serves to widen the scope of this tale considerably.

This leads into a conversation with She-Hulk that is both inappropriate and hilarious. If the protagonist of this series was any other species, he would likely get slapped across the face. This comic also bears something important in She-Hulk land – it could possibly serve as the spiritual successor to the female jade giant’s cancelled title bearing a high amount of the supporting cast from the comic.

The author takes an opportunity to expand the supporting cast and world of the Duck with some added characters. To flesh out these characters and concepts further, there is an ample process of exploration within the medium. A big piece of this is owed to collaborator Joe Quinones, who perfectly plays off of the energy and concepts utilized within the story.

Spider-Man is also captured with a voice that suits the hero. Peter Parker is extra whimsical here, but who wouldn’t be in the case of talking to a certain duck. This leads to the danger that could be involved in the sheer silliness of this story, could the novelty of Howard’s species fade?

With the incredible facial expressions and bombastic work from Quinones, readers of this title are in good hands. There’s a lot here asked of the illustrator, who’s tasked with bringing, comedy, space drama, and a female jade giant to the absurdist comedy genre. With so many different Marvel characters populating this short tale, the toss-up of random Marvel heroes brings an endearing element to the story.

Quinones and Zdarsky even manages to touch on some influence of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Howard the Duck #1 is a Marvel comic that peppers just the right layers of comedy on top of an engrossing lead character to forge a new incarnation of the hero. Long live Howard the Duck, and long live Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones’ tenure on the adventures of the world’s most irreverent quack show.

4 COMMENTS

  1. This duck walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, but it’s not Howard the Duck.

    It was probably a Sisyphean task to begin with. Steve Gerber’s duck was Steve Gerber’s voice as an author — quick-tempered, in-your-face, opinionated, passionate, angry. If you had to cast Howard, he’d be Lewis Black (before there was Lewis Black). As drawn by Frank Brunner, and then by Gene Colan, he exploded off the page with all of Gerber’s emotional vigor. And both artists gave the comic an additional visual joke: a cartoon duck illustrated in a “realistic” style in the “real” world. All the better for Gerber’s satiric point-of-view to bounce off the 70’s real world’s politics, pop culture and social mores.

    This new version of the duck doesn’t seem “trapped in a world he never made”. He just seems trapped. He seems to suffer from ennui instead of anger — on simmer instead of boil. Howard was always boiling. Maybe it’s the full suit that’s making this new version of the duck so stiff. You figure with Disney now owning Marvel, they’d let Howard drop the pants (so to speak.)

    And the jokes and references seem more like a checklist to show how the strip has been updated, than anything organic to the character: texting jokes, check; tatted lady with attitude, check. On the other hand, some elements are totally anachronistic: the whole page devoted to a workout montage joke was puzzling (that was an old joke years ago) and — of all the things Howard can be, he ends up being the cliche of all cliches — a private investigator? That ground has been worked over so many times there’s hardly any ground left. If you want to make Howard contemporary why not have him unemployed (again) or working at Walmart or railing against the one percent or being a victim of TMZ? Not incredibly awesome springboards, but a bit fresher than having him work in an office at a job that wouldn’t have been out of place in a movie 70 years ago.

    The writing and art are both totally professional. It’s just not in the service of the character called Howard the Duck. The writing doesn’t bite like Howard use to. And the cartoony, but stiffly stylized art, unfortunately misses the unique trappings of the original. I guess they’re going for dry and ironic. Mission accomplished: this is one dry duck.

  2. Agree 100% with Charlie’s review. The script didn’t seem fresh or particularly amusing. It was well drawn but that was it – nothing about the art made the book unique. Looked like a typical modern superhero book with a short man wearing a duck head. Not much energy to the art. Give it a couple years then try again, Marvel.

  3. Charlie Ryan said: “As drawn by Frank Brunner, and then by Gene Colan, he exploded off the page with all of Gerber’s emotional vigor. And both artists gave the comic an additional visual joke: a cartoon duck illustrated in a “realistic” style in the “real” world.”

    Agreed. Howard should have been retired with the passings of Gerber and Colan, but I assume there are financial reasons (licensing? a movie or TV deal?) why he has to return. The current Howard is drawn in a generic modern cartoon style. I won’t be buying.

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