(Chip Zdarsky; Joe Quinones; Rico Renzi; Travis Lanham)
Jamil Scalese: I thought about starting us off with a duck pun but instead I’ll admit a shameful truth about myself: I like the Howard the Duck movie.
I’ve always loved comics, even before I was reading them, and anything that derived from comics was something I generally enjoyed. The George Lucas movie was something my cousins and I watched many, many times in our preteens, and even though I knew the quality lacking I still enjoyed the pure snarky absurdity of a humanoid duck existing in our world. Yes, I’m even a fan of the awkward oddity of Howard almost banging Lea Thompson.
It wasn’t until years later that I discovered the late, great Steve Gerber and read Howard in the preferred medium of sequential storytelling. Since this isn’t a review of that comic, I’ll get to the point: holy quack (there’s that pun), Howard the Duck #1 is a really great first issue.
Chip Zdarsky is a bit of an unknown commodity. While he’s piloted himself through a pretty good career as a cartoonist I believe this is his first mainstream writing job. I’ll admit I was a little skeptical, while he’s a funny guy on Twitter I wasn’t sure if he had the chops to give us a fully formed story. Not only is the plot on point, but the dialogue, and maybe more importantly the humor, is fantastically executed. There’s a perfect balance of sarcasm and earnestness here. Zdarsky manages to both poke fun at the Marvel Universe but at the same time revere it. I’m really impressed with what’s going on here, it slots in perfectly in the Marvel lineup but somehow stands on its own in term of style.
Michael Bettendorf: Oh I would have been fine with the duck puns, Jamil. I might get a few off my chest before I start:
This comic is quacky, er quirky…this creative team fits the bill…ok…that’ll do.
Anyway, my first exposure to Howard the Duck was through the 1986 film, which sure, isn’t worth it’s weight in stale bread, but that’s where my first memories lie: a friend’s sleepover, lots of pizza, and waiting for the cursing and duck-breasts from Howard’s duck-porn that eight year old boys apparently thought was funny.
This is my first reading of Howard the Duck in it’s truest medium and I absolutely enjoyed it. Zdarsky’s wit and cleverness fits this comic very well and Quinone’s art looks great. Even though I enjoy this #1, I may as well play devil’s advocate. Fellow Bulletnineers, is Howard an interesting enough character to hold onto a solid story? In this first issue we’ve seen Spider-man, She-Hulk and Rocket Raccoon, do you think his character will need other heroes cameos to stay interesting?
PJ Hunsicker: Okay, so…hang on…What are we doing? Terrence the Goose? No, wait, sorry. I’m working on my own “50 Shades of Grey” fan-fiction, “50 Shades of Quack”. Is that a pun? I can’t tell because when it comes to puns, I’m a feather…weight?
So anyway. Howard the Duck. By the guy that talks to an Applebee’s and does the art for that comic my priest said I would burn in Hell for reading. Sure. Let’s dig in.
I may actually have the least exposure to this character than the rest of you, considering I have, at best, witnessed about ten minutes of the movie in the entire history of it happening to be on as I’m flipping channels. I haven’t read the older comics either. So I demand I be treated as an expert.
I’m not sure what to say at this point that wouldn’t just rehash the previous two (only better). I think it’s safe to say, at this point, that this is a very funny book. I may have read the movie advertisement scene five times over when I first picked this up. This is a gag that I haven’t really seen since the “Otm Shank” bit from The Simpsons.
The whole rhythm of those panels with the one jack-ass audience member commenting on Howard’s scrambled name out loud was so perfectly executed. And Spider-Man’s Spider-Light bit was priceless. I, too, was worried that Zdarsky’s Twitter wit (witter?) might not translate into a long form style, but I’m happy to say I was very wrong about that. The private detective thing may be a bit clichéd, but I think it’s the perfect spring-board for what is first-and-foremost a comedy series. I’m definitely excited to see more of this.
Have I said anything profound yet? I don’t know. Somebody else go.
Jamil: We’ll you’ve pretty much agreed with me on the quality and strengths, so yes, the whole thing is profound. (Insert appropriate emoji here.)
What’s weird about the private detective thing is that is just crazy natural for Howard, from his disposition to his outsider role in the Marvel Universe (which Zdarsky executes perfectly through the prisms of She-Hulk, Spidey and the Gatherer) it’s an occupation that I actually thought was a throwback to yesteryear until I was told otherwise.
My candidate for funniest scene? When Tara Tam and Howard frantically bust into
The Cat-Woman’s Black Cat’s apartment and run around like headless fowl trying to find a stolen bracelet necklace. The line “Am I…being robbed by…a talking pizza duck?” made me chortle loudly on the bus and I probably looked like a loon. (Hah, loon.)
The art is slick and smart. I find it interesting that Marvel is currently pushing out three dedicated humor books in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Ant-Man and Howard the Duck and all of them work in the same visual wavelength. I think the critical success of Superior Foes of Spider-Man has created a whole pseudo-subgenre with its own look. Anyway, yes, Quinones does some great things in this first issue. He pairs with his collaborator well, a quirky approach that still works within the house style. His acting and face work, crucial to funny books trying to be funny, is the key to making this all work.
Michael Bettendorf: Thank you for indirectly answering my attempts to play devil’s advocate. It was hard to even pose the questions because as you’ve both mentioned, up to this point, the book oozes charm and humor. The art plays into the humor very well and…I ‘spose that’s it really. I mean, I don’t want to repeat everything that’s already been said. Howard doesn’t have to work well alone, because his interactions within the Marvel universe work well with the type of character that he is and the type of story that this team has put together. Sure, it might be cliche to have a private-I sort of story, but Zdarsky, Quinones and Renzi are an able team to create something through the cliche.
I think it’s safe to say that Howard the Duck #1 is a solid debut issue that everyone should be flocking to. I’m down with this book.
PJ Hunsicker: Give me a second to just place this gun on the table, pointed at Michael. Okay, done. Thin ice, buddy.
We can make all the puns we like, but I think it’s time to really buckle down and give this book its due credit. Seriously. This thing is poetry, almost mallard-ic in the way it flows from page to page. Zdarsky isn’t just winging it here. It’s a spec-quack-ular debut. There’s nothing hollow about these bones. When it comes to this duck, I’m declaring it open season…for buying future issues. Don’t wait until winter to start migrating to your nearest comic shop. There’s nothing to pond-er when it comes to this purchase. Take flight…with your wallet. Get this in your pull-fowl. Truly, this is going to be a whale of a series…