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Howard the Duck gained a lot of popularity in the 70s and 80s as a subversive, almost counter culture comic. Then there was a movie! Then there was pretty much nothing. Well, that’s not true. He still existed in the periphery of the universe, like a memory of another time. A time most people would like to forget.
Then last month he came back! Why? Who knows for sure. After he was featured in the post-credits sequence of Guardians of the Galaxy, an omnibus of his older comics went on sale and made a tidy profit. Maybe that’s it.
Regardless, you should know: it’s pretty good. Mind you, we’re only two issues in, so it’s not like there’s a wealth of stories I’m going from. Still, it has joined the ranks of Sex Criminals as the only other comic to make me laugh aloud. Yeah. Think on that!
Which kind of makes sense. Howard the Duck‘s writer, Chip Zdarsky, is the artist on Sex Criminals and great friends with Matt Fraction. They’re funny dudes. Funny friends. So I assume that the same sense of humor is shared between them.
And humor is the biggest plus it has. On its first issue I was worried that this would be some kind of stand-in for Deadpool now that he’s “dead”. I mean, the humor was kinda similar is a few respects. It took time to lovingly rib the Marvel universe and play within its tropes. It broke the fourth wall.
However, now that we’ve had the second issue I’m thinking it’ll stand on its own two webbed feet. Because, while Deadpool is more a madcap rocket-sled ride through the Marvel Universe, Howard seems more like… a farce, I guess? The story knows what it is, it knows how silly the idea of Howard the Duck is, and it accepts it. It runs with it. You’re not here for complex drama or action, you’re here to watch a duck-person detective solve crimes and laugh. And that’s what you get.
But what about the subversion present in the earlier, simpler days? Good question, me. There wasn’t really a lot of that there in the first two issues. Yes, in fairness, two issues isn’t really a lot to go on. So the simple answer is: who knows? We could see it next issue or in five. Tough to say.
However, my gut is telling me no. There is a certain level of seriousness needed for satire. Especially the subversive kind. From what I can tell this series doesn’t take itself seriously enough to do that, and if we’re all amongst friends here, I don’t think it needs to.
Subversive humor is great, and would be welcome here, but I’d rather have a comic that just aims at being funny than one that feels the need to try and be this big cultural shocker. Though I do think that we could stand to see more of that from the Big Two.
I do want to say, though, the Guardians of the Galaxy influence is really apparent. The obvious being that the first issue ends with Howard meeting Rocket Raccoon only to have the next issue feature the rest of the Guardians. And they’re 100% the movie Guardians. They have their appearance, their personality, even their weapons, which are almost all different from their previous appearances. More subtly, Howard is dressed the same in both issues as his MCU counterpart is when he appeared in the post-credits scene of the movie.
I get the need to take advantage of the branding, but it was a little gross. It feels cash grabby and that’s never good, Marvel. Maybe that’s just it, a cameo to get the title off the ground. One can hope, at least. Still, even with that blatant case of marketing, Howard the Duck is a solid recommend.