Howard the Duck‘s new tagline: “trapped in a world he’s grown accustomed to” has multiple meanings—the series’ first tagline was “trapped in a world he never made!”. Fans will understand it as an evolution of the character, one that will not mimic Steve Gerber’s original series. The slogan also hints at a personality that is torn between comfort and obligation: Howard may not love the Marvel universe around him, but a duck has to eat. His detective service shares an office building with professional lawyer/She-Hulk, Jennifer Walters, and he texts Spider-Man with the typing finesse of a preschooler, but he’s not happy about any of it. Still an immigrant from his duck civilization, Howard would rather not bother with the ridiculousness that surrounds him, even though his existence is a stellar comedic addition to the mayhem.
Credit the hilarity to Chip Zdarsky, a long-time key collaborator on the adults-only Sex Criminals series, allowed to let his wisecracks fly free herein. Zdarsky loves poking fun at superheroes and Howard is the perfect mouthpiece for taking the wind out of others’ noble sails. In fact, everyone Zdarsky pens seems to have some degree of self-awareness that turns them into imminent punchlines. For example, Spider-Man’s tragic past becomes a quick joke about how he over-dramatizes everything, while Black Cat’s bookshelf includes The Cat in the Hat and Charlotte’s Web. Joe Quinones is an excellent pick as artist and illustrator, giving Howard’s world the legitimacy of style Quinones has brought to other Marvel titles. Likewise, Rico Renzi’s colors make every page vibrant and attractive, so that even Howard’s drab gray and brown office environment pops with characters’ colorful wardrobes and skin tones.
This is really a perfect beginning to explore how Howard operates in default mode, bungling his way through detective jobs that probably require much more skill and professionalism than crashing through doorways dressed as a pizza delivery duck. It’s also a perfect companion piece for Ryan North and Erica Henderson’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, another Marvel comic that explores the expansive cast and universe through the prism of an absurd character.
It’s time to get down, readers! Although Howard has seen several incarnations in print and on screen, the introduction to this comic makes clear that “he’s not just a duck! He’s a duck who talks! And displays a remarkable amount of common sense in a world gone mad!”. Let’s all go mad for his latest outing, shall we?
Howard the Duck, iss. 1
by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Joe Quinones
Publisher Age Rating: T (12+)