Welcome to The Pull List, a weekly column where we check out a first issue of a new series and tell you whether or not to follow the comic based only on that. Today ushered in a brave new era for comic book fans: The return of Howard the Duck in his very own continuing series! But could it possibly live up to the hype? Find out!
For those unaware, Howard the Duck is a rather unassuming Marvel “super hero” who is, in fact, a talking duck. He’s probably best known for the 1986 live-action, George Lucas produced adaptation Howard the Duck, which, as of this writing, currently sits at 4.5 on IMDB. Or his brief post-credits appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy. Sorry, spoiler alert.
Howard has popped up here and there throughout a couple Marvel comics since his creation in 1973, but most would agree that he’s at his best when utilized as a bit of a joke, which is how he mostly has been utilized. Chip Zdarsky’s iteration of the character also holds true to this, and is all the better for it.
The first issue presents us with a down-on-his-luck Howard who’s trying to make it as a private detective. When a client comes in asking him to reclaim a prized family heirloom recently stolen by Black Cat (whom the elderly client mistakenly refers to as Cat-Woman (because who hasn’t made that mistake before, honestly?)), Howard is on the case!
Being written by Chip Zdarsky, one half of the creative force behind Sex Criminals, I expected the comic to be funny, which it is – I quite audibly laughed out loud several times while reading through it. But what I was really surprised by was how it manages to both lovingly endear itself to Marvel fans while also taking shots at some of the comics company’s biggest names.
Howard has his office in the same building as Jennifer Walters A.K.A. She-Hulk, who here appears in much the same fashion as she does in her latest Marvel Now iteration, as a freelance crimefighter and lawyer. It’s clearly a reference that only those currently on the up-and-up with Marvel’s latest would understand, but at the same time Howard isn’t afraid to make a couple jabs at her expense.
And don’t think it’s just She-Hulk that ends up in Howard’s crosshairs. There’s plenty of jokes about and involving Black Cat, Spider-Man, and even The Collector. It’s a book clearly written by someone who’s a big fan of Marvel comics, but doesn’t take it too seriously, and that’s the type of audience that the comic is going to land with best. I know I certainly fall into that category, and I loved the comic.
The art, too, is bright and bold, almost feeling more like a Sunday Comic strip rather than a Marvel comic book, but it fits in with the style and tone of the story, underling everything with a sense of silliness. The art reminds the reader: “hey, don’t take this so seriously, yeah? It’s supposed to be funny, remember?”
Honestly, I haven’t had as good a laugh from a comic book in quite a while, and for that alone I would recommend Howard the Duck. However, I recommend it with the caution that if you’re not a big Marvel fan, and you’re really only familiar with the character through his film appearance(s), you might not get the joke.