Spider-Man meets S.O.O.Ph.I.--the Service Organization of Philanthropic Individuals--and their two newest mascots, Swizzle and Cynical Duck. Spidey quickly realizes they're Beverly Switzler and Howard the Duck, brainwashed by S.O.O.Ph.I. to recruit people with empty rebellion and catchphrases. Spider-Man has to make Howard realize who he really is before he’s lost in a world of bland smiley faces. And in the back is a story about a returned soldier facing the fear of losing his wife. But fear can be a killer in the swamps of the Man-Thing.
Ever since creator Steve Gerber left Marvel comics and his “Howard the Duck” series in 1979, I’ve seen many stories by writers who just didn’t get what Howard was about. He wasn’t just a talking duck, he wasn’t an excuse to make duck-based puns. Nor was he a cranky, angry fowl raging against every popular trend he found. Stuart Moore understands that. He knows Howard is more complicated than “the angry duck.” He’s a unique individual who’s too smart for the doubletalk and BS that rule our lives. Howard’s not cynical because he’s angry. He’s cynical because he’s smart. Moore says as much through Spider-Man. It’s nice to see a writer finally understand that.
Brook’s has an unusual take on Howard. He looks more like a man/duck hybrid than the traditional cartoon-animal duck. He literally looks like he came from a world where ducks evolved into human-like creatures. It’s a little disconcerting at first, but you quickly get used to it. The overall look of the Howard story is bright with some weight. Andres Mossa colored everything like the sun was shining on the scene. Brooks and Wong create a hyper-realistic version of our reality that seems both natural and improbably. (Hey you try describing art in new ways every week. It looks good and a little weird is what I’m saying.)
The Man-Thing story is the weaker of the two. The internal dialogue of the husband torturing himself over his wife’s insults before her injuries will cut to your heart. His fears turn into a violent paranoia. It has the makings of a good Man-Thing story. Then a doctor yells at the Man-Thing and it leaves. Yeah. The creature that is driven by other peoples emotions walks away when a doctor tells him to do so. The artwork on this story is a little too vague. It wasn’t always clear where people were or what they were doing. And it looked too bright for the story’s mood. Sadly, another forgettable Man-Thing story for the pile.
Fans of Howard the Duck will enjoy this story as much as I have. It’s easily the equal of Ty Templeton’s 2007 mini-series and compares favorably with Gerber’s original. I am looking forward to more stories by Moore or Templeton in the future. Maybe regular mini-series. Maybe recurring appearances in comics written by Moore. God willing, maybe even another monthly series.
Maybe I should take a cue from Howard himself and not get my hopes up.
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