Comic Book Review: Howard the Duck #1
Howard the Duck #1 is part fast-paced stand up comedy, part sci-fi adventure, part superhero parody, and part… You know what, it’s a mess. But it’s a glorious mess from writer Chip Zdarsky, who brings his keen and sophomoric sense of humor from background images to script and words in this comic. Joe Quinones uses a clean superhero style of art that contrasts with Zdarsky’s wacky dialogue and the outlandish events of the story. But he jazzes things up to with homages to Charles Soule and Javier Pulido’s She-Hulk run and a straight out of the 80s movie montage towards the middle of the book.
Howard the Duck #1 is really all over the place in tone, character and even genre-wise. Zdarsky maybe tries a little too hard on the first issue to make it the most outrageous thing from Marvel. Howard the Duck’s characterization fluctuates from page to page as he goes from smooth wannabe womanizer to social justice warrior and even a superhero stalker. But Zdarsky’s silly dialogue and pop culture jokes keep the story moving and a hilarious reaction panel from Quinones is always a page away. Quinones even brings in some “feels” in an early one of these; something that might’ve been lost in all the hijinks.
Zdarsky actually does a decent job developing a relationship between Howard and one of his fellow convicts Tara, a tattoo artist who came to New York to beat up bad guys. She shares his distaste for humanity, even though she is a decent person and helps him go after the Black Cat. The rest of the characters, who show up are there for comedy and/or cameo purposes. Zdarsky puts some of the filthiest innuendoes in Spider-Man’s mouth even if his subplot goes nowhere. Quinones uses this scene to parody and homage some of the cheesier parts of the Web-slinger’s history in comics, cartoons, and film.
Not since the early issues of Brian Posehn and Gerry Duggan’s Deadpool has a comic had more jokes per moment. Comedy is a tough balancing act in comics, but Zdarsky writes some genuinely funny pop culture jokes beginning with a riff on one of the formerly beloved/currently despised bands from the 90s. However, the duck jokes wear a little thin by the end of the issue. Hopefully, Zdarsky has gotten all of them out of his system.
Quinones does help prop up a lot of Zdarsky’s jokes with the Guardians of the Galaxy inspired redesign, which allows for clearer faces and body movement while losing some of the surrealism of Val Mayerik’s art. The new design also makes sure he fits in with the rest of the Marvel Universe while Rico Renzi’s rainbow color palette in some of the early scene keep some of that old surrealism.
Howard the Duck #1 hops all over the place in its plot, humor, and characterization, but it’s fun ride and different from most Marvel books not named Deadpool.