Howard the Duck #1 review

Way back when, Disney forced Marvel Comics to change the design of Howard the Duck so he didn't look like Donald's bad-tempered brother. And Howard stopped seeming like Howard, de-feathered by the big corporations he'd spent a comic book lifetime kicking against. He was a dead duck. 

More recently, that very same Disney bought Marvel Comics. Surely, now, Howard could get his original look back? But no, he remained a shadow of his former feisty self, not a cigar to be seen and forced to cover his cute DA with trousers. The only interesting thing to happen to him in the last two decades was a  post-credits cameo in last year's Guardians of the Galaxy film. 

I don't know what plans the Marvel Cinematic Universe has for the duck 'trapped in a world he never made' (a comic book cliche that sounds impressive yet remains meaningless). Whatever's coming, before that we get the first ongoing Howard book in years. He still looks useless - which is a shame, because I don't doubt series artist Joe Quinones could do wonders using Val Mayerik's original design - but he reads great. The twist on the original cover line is a great gag which acts as a declaration of intent - to amuse and intrigue. 

The first page had me worried, with writer Chip Zdarsky wittering on about how Howard is full of rage, but as the book goes on we see it's more a case of Howard being Howard, permanently peeved, annoyed by the stupid little injustices of life. He's fighting them, and scratching a living as a private eye (ducktective? Howard the Dick?) on the streets of New York. His office, as readers of the recent final issue of She-Hulk's series know, is in the same building as Jennifer Walters' law practice, which makes for some fun moments. I'm especially delighted to see Jen's associates, the mysterious Angie Huang and her pet Hei Hei (probably a long-lost super-ape of the Red Ghost) are still around. 
This debut issue sees Howard make a new pal after a night in the lock-up, courtesy of a police detective who's not keen on Howard's sleuthing. Tara Tam is a tattoo artist who's up for any adventure life has to offer, making her a useful accomplice when Howard is hired to recapture an amulet supposedly stolen by the Black Cat. Knowing of Spider-Man's history with Felicia Hardy, Howard seeks him out, and hijinks endue. 

Zdarsky soon gets me on side with his appealing take on Howard, new character Tara and the borrowed supporting cast. And his Spidey is simply hilarious. 
And Joe Quinones' cartooning is appealing enough that I can get past the anodyne duck design - I'll just think of this as the New 52 Howard. Quinones certainly puts some convincing expressions on Howard's beaked face, and I love Easter eggs such as the Master of Quack Fu suit and visual callback to a rather well-known Marvel death scene. 
Duck Phoenix?

The colours of Rico Renzi and letters of Travis Lanham only add to the fun. 

Old squeeze Beverly Switzler isn't around, 'mentioned' only by implication, though it seems Howard is missing her. I certainly don't want the spirited Tara to become a love interest - too obvious. Can't a duck and a woman just be friends without sex getting in the way?

Under co-creator Steve Gerber's pen, Howard was at his best satirising the Seventies; I don't know if Zdarsky plans to find a 21st-century equivalent for the duck's outrage, but I'd love to see him make the attempt. 

For now, though, I'm incredibly intrigued by the book's cliffhanger, which is something I really didn't see coming. Pick up this entirely entertaining first chapter and see if you don't agree that the new Howard the Duck is far more fair than fowl. 


  1. Don't know of you've seen this yet, but here's a link to a column talking about the Top 10 moments in Howard the Duck history:

    Nobody's really going to voice Howard like Steve Gerber could, and with Disney now owning Howard, I wonder what Gerber's thoughts on that were.

  2. Thanks for the link, Dale, it'll be fun to see how many I've read.

  3. I'm always so excited and so nervous when I see a new Howard series. The original is one of my all-time favourites, and nothing's ever really lived up to it. Always nice to see someone try though. As for the MCU, my vote is that Howard show up in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Might just break the Internet.


Post a Comment