BIN SIFTIN’ with Rene LeClair: HOWARD THE DUCK #1 vs. HOWARD THE HUMAN #1

Both by Marvel Comics.  Writers: Chip Zdarsky & Skottie Young  /  Artists: Joe Quinones & Jim Mahood.

My brothers and I have watched a load of movies over the years. VHS cassettes could be rented at almost every cornerstore when we were kids. Nadeau’s in Eel River, the village next door, had a huge selection of movies and junk food.
Oh, and Nintendo games, too, but that’s a whole other topic. There was also the Corner Convenience video store for a long while in town, but it was one of the first places I remember going out of business. We rented Goonies from there.

We loved watching movies. Fully placated in front of the boob tube, we would be engrossed for hours on end watching cartoons or action flics or comedies. We also loved horror movies, and we probably watched way more of those mondo-goonies-posterthan anything else. Looking back, I can’t believe the stuff our parent let us watch. Scanners, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Sleepaway Camp, Return of the Living Dead; The list goes on. We turned out okay, I guess.

On one fateful night, I ended up hanging out at a friend of a friend’s place and the dad had rented Howard the Duck for us to watch. I don’t think any of us really enjoyed the movie, but we were certainly not ready for the onslaught of strip clubs and hookers, raunchy human/duck relations and overall insanity that was Marvel’s first movie in like 40 years. Produced in part by George Lucas (yes, that George Lucas) and starring Lea Thompson (Marty McFly’s mom in Back to the Future), Tim Robbins(!) and Jeffery Jones (the high school principal in Ferris Bueller’s day off.) Terrible movie. I’ll always remember the part in the movie where Lea finds a little duck condom in Howard’s wallet. At the time, I had no idea what that was. She sleeps with him. What the heck?

Predating this horrible movie, Howard the Duck has been hanging around the Marvel Universe for quite a while now. He’s a fowl-mouthed grump struggling to survive in a world of humans after being brought to earth through “the nexus of all realities.” One of the last comics I remember seeing him in was Marvel Zombies 5 where he and Machine Man fight zombies across the multiverse. That is a creative team-up, right there. It came as no surprise to me that once we all saw Howard make an appearance in the end credits of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, he would soon have a comic of his own again; And here it is.

Howard the Duck #1:

It’s outer space and an alien get’s zapped by another alien. He then sets his sights on our planet. Back on earth, Howard contemplates his place in the universe.

Things start out pretty bad for Howard the Duck, as usual. This time he’s in a holding cell in a New York police precinct. They don’t really specify why he’s Howard the Duck #1 (1)there, but he’s a private eye and probably got hauled in for overstepping his authority and mouthing off. All this is no surprise as Howard is perpetually surly and acts like he’s from the 40’s, calling every woman “doll” and getting put in his place for it.

Once released from custody, he heads over to his office, which is in the same building as She-Hulk’s law practice, and meets up with a potential client looking for help tracking down a stolen necklace. He accepts the contract, but we also find out that the Black Cat is the thief responsible for jewel heist. With his wits about him, Howard heads over to She-Hulk’s office and annoys her just enough that she can’t stand being in the same room. This gives him the time needed to peruse her Rolodex for Avengers phone numbers.  He calls Spidey due to his history with Black Cat, but he’s no help, since he and she don’t get along at the moment and he doesn’t want to get involved. Spider-Man does warn Howard to stay away and that she is trouble.

Ignoring the advice and using his keen detective skills to find the Black Cat’s lair, he infiltrates and finds her stash of stolen loot. Howard attempts to make his way out with the prize necklace, but is discovered by the Black Cat herself and her goons. She gets ready to pounce, but the building shakes, knocking her and entourage to the ground. Howard escapes out the window and up the fire escape, coming face to face with the alien from the beginning of the story. The alien exclaims that he is “a Gatherer” and that he “gather[s] unique items and species for the Collector to safeguard when the universe is destroyed. It is an honor to become a part of his collection. Congratulations.”

Black Cat saves Howard from being zapped and in swings Spider-Man to help, but too little, too late; the alien gets in a good shot , and Howard is vaporized and the alien escapes in his ship. The next few panels we’re too funny as HOWARD2015001-int3-2-c30b9Spidey falls to his knees, weeping at the scorched earth where Howard was standing and says: “… Oh no oh no oh no…u…u…u…un… Un…Uncle Bennnn nooooo uncle Ben I’m sorry uncle Ben…”

Hours later, Howard finds himself in a jail cell yet again, this time owned by the elder being known as the Collector. Howard, ranting in his cell, to no one in particular, un-lovingly calls his captor the “Hobbyist or whatever [waiting] to put us on display like garden gnomes?” A page turn reveals Rocket Raccoon in another cell saying: “Well, YOU can just sit here… me, I’ve got other plans.” Sweet.

Overall, it was a pretty decent book, but Zdarsky’s writing feels a little rushed, and propels us through the story a little to quickly. Some of the “getting from point A to Point B” are explained away too easily. There’s a lot of good one liners from Howard and he’s a neat character to follow around, so I hope the story will pick up. It doesn’t seem to be a very deep type of storyline, but more of a fun romp in Marvel land. I was ok with Joe Quinones art, but it seemed rushed as well, coming off as an unpolished Mike Allred. It fit the vibe of the comic, so it worked, but I wasn’t extremely wowed by this one. It was still good, mind you and worth a read.

This particular Howard the Duck series is ongoing, after a fashion, but will be coming to an end shortly as Marvel winds up it’s Secret Wars event. Not to worry because Howard the Duck will relaunch with a new series starting at #1 in the “all-new, all-different” Marvel Universe come November.

Howard the Human # 1

This comic is pretty cool and I really enjoyed it. I’ve always been a fan of “what if” type stories and Marvel has always been pretty good at it. Even DC has dabbled with the “what if” idea in their Elseworld titles.

This comic situates itself in the current Marvel Universe and that means it takes place right in the middle of the current Marvel event: Secret Wars. Howard the Human #1 (1)Marvel is experiencing its own “Flashpoint” which was the DC event that preceded and springboarded DC into the “New 52” current DC universe.

With this new Secret Wars, the multiverse has been destroyed. The superheroes failed to save it and now all that remains is a patchwork planet “earth” with territories composed of alternate, past and future realities smashed together. All these realities are happening at the same time and this outer dimensional cataclysm is “maintained by the iron will of its god and master, Victor Von Doom!”

I was drawn to this comic because it flips the Howard the Duck story around. In this case, Howard is a human in a city/world of anthropomorphic animal beings. He’s a foul-mouthed grump struggling to survive in a world of animals. He’s a private eye looking for his next gig’s pay-off so he can get a literal vulture named Toomes, AKA: the Vulture, off his back, but he is tracked down to a local bar in New Quack City. Cool under pressure, even with guns pointed at his face, Howard attempts to explain to Toomes why he doesn’t have his money.

Howard essentially regales Toomes and his jacked-up goons, who are chickens, to a great crime story that takes us through his day’s misadventures, complete 1p5s4iwith encounters with the Cat Lady, Aka: the Black Cat, a blind mouse lawyer by the name of Mouse Murdock and a baboon named Wilson Fisk.

As a one-shot, this comic was really fun. So fun that I sort of wished that it was ongoing, but I don’t think this is going to happen since it’s pretty much a “what if” story and once the Marvel Universe snaps back to “the new reality”, he will probably cease to exist. That’s ok, I guess. It’ll make this story that much more special.

Thumbs up to Skottie Young. I know him as an artist and didn’t realize that he also wrote comics, but he did great work with this one. I’m impressed to say the least. I know Jim Mahfood’s chaotic art from his stint on some later Tank Girl comics and his angular, uneven lines and wacky perspectives were a great fit for this story.

If you like wacky stories with wacky characters, this is for you. Howard the Duck should be collected in trade paperback format soon and, well, I imagine the Howard the Human one-shot will be featured in a collected volume tie-in to Secret Wars. Don’t quote me on that though, because if it isn’t, you’ll be stuck looking to track the single down as a back issue at your local comic retailer. – RENE

(Rene LeClair is an avid comic book reader and works at Comic Hunter in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, spreading the word to all who love comics as well.  He is also a fantastic musician who currently plays with a great band called FEAR AGENT.  Rene has been at his music for years, including stints with Longtimers, Four Frames, and the amazing Dead City Rebels.  At the Comic Hunter (Moncton/Charlottetown) they easily have the biggest selection in the Maritimes for all your nerdy needs. They specialize in comic books w/ over 250k back issues, an immense library of graphic novels as well as a seemingly endless selection of board/card games. Whether you find yourself that side of Quebec or not, they’ll ship anywhere. Visit their website and contact them here.)