I have to admit that I was wrong about this series after reading the first issue. I thought the first issue of this comic was a funny and clever little story, but I thought that it didn’t quite live up to the heritage of Howard the Duck. The Duck in the ’70s presented a savage satire of so much of the pomposity and insanity of the era, as filtered through the odd mind of Steve Gerber. It skewed targets as diverse as the insanity of Presidential politics, the craziness of a popular Chicago journalist, and the excesses of that era’s Marvel Comics. Gerber’s original Howard series was a real classic, but it was also intimately tied to his career; without Gerber, none of the subsequent takes on the series even approached the greatness he delivered. But I was wrong about this series. It turns out that Ty Templeton has delivered a terrific comic book that stands on its own as a wonderfully clever satire.
Of course, thirty years have passed since Gerber first took on the Duck (he did do a terrific six-issue series for MAX Comics about five years ago), and a lot has changed. One thing that’s changed dramatically is the incredible pervasiveness of the media, and the media’s collective obsessions with particular stories, be they Natalie Holloway, Britney Spears or Sanjaya. Well, in Ty Templeton’s wonderful revival of Howard the Duck, this media obsession comes from a particular evil force: MODOT, Mobile Organism Designed Only for Talking.
That’s right, there’s another MODOK out there, but this one just talks. And talks, and talks, and talks, as a way to destroy our national psyche. And of course MODOT is succeeding in these plans beyond the wildest dreams of its creators.
This is a damn clever idea, and a perfect modern take on the spirit of Howard. It’s hard to think of an industry more ripe for satire than the news media, and Templeton does a very nice job of skewering it. In the mini-series, it seems that Howard outsmarted some gun nuts (no offense to gun lovers – these guys really are nuts) and thus has become an extremely controversial figure. The media covers him round-the-clock, to the exclusion of real news, and Howard and his girlfriend Beverly become celebrities of a sort. Events tumble upon themselves in a crazy, madcap manner that stays just on the good side of being realists. The result is a story that is bright, silly and satirical.
Juan Bobillo’s artwork really adds to the silliness quotient of this comic. Howard looks appallingly awful. He’s an incredibly ugly duck creature, with giant eyebrows and awful looking bags under his eyes. In other words, he’s perfect for this series. Bobillo’s MODOT is awesome too, with his Liefeld-esque mouth stuffed full of sharp, spiked teeth. Fans of the recent She-Hulk series will be happy to see Bobillo’s take on Jen Walters again.
Ty Templeton seems to have done the impossible; he’s taken a comic that has been mainly associated with one creator, made his own unique take on the original series, and still has remained true to the original comic. This comic is lost on the stands at many comic shops because it’s not a mainstream hero book, but this is a surprisingly terrific comic book.