As someone who screamed in terror when Howard the Duck made an appearance during the post-credits sequence of Guardians of the Galaxy, I can’t believe I’m recommending the character’s standalone book. But such is the quality of writer Chip Zdarsky (the artist on Sex Criminals) and artist Joe Quinones’ work that after just four issues, the book has already become one of the comics I look forward to most each month.
The plotting is fine, but what makes the book enjoyable is the humor. Other than Deadpool, Howard the Duck is the most self-aware comic on the market. It mocks society, itself, other comic books, even the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While that threatens to make the comic somewhat inaccessible to readers without deep wells of comics knowledge, most of the references are fairly broad.
For instance, this issue revealed that the reason a Skrull (a shape-shifting alien race not unlike the Kree from The Avengers movie) called Talos the Untamed originally tasked Howard with finding a lost necklace is because it contains a powerful gem that can create a weapon that could destroy Earth—but it’s not the Infinity Gauntlet. As Dr. Strange explains, this gem is part of the Abundant Glove. Forget things like Power and Mind, this includes not one but TWO Dance gems.
Given that the MCU now basically hinges on getting audiences to care about a diamond-encrusted glove gauntlet, it’s surprising that one of the company’s characters would point out how stupid the concept is. However, that’s kind of Howard‘s thing. The book is all about what Brits would call “taking the piss.” The all-powerful Dr. Strange kind of hates his butler, but is afraid to tell him. Johnny Storm is himbo with no game. Jason Latour’s variant cover has Howard dressed as Spider-Gwen.
The series’ biggest target, however, is Peter Parker. Its best running joke is Peter–dressed as Spider-man–arriving too late to save someone he cares about and subsequently falling to his knees in anguish. It will never stop being funny. In fact, it’s the only thing this issue is missing, but it’s bound to happen again. In Issue #1, Peter thought he failed Howard. In #3 it was Aunt May. If the pattern holds, it’ll happen again in #5. These next six weeks until the new issue are going to suck.
By day, Marisa Carpico stresses over every detail of America’s election system. By night, she becomes a pop culture and celebrity obsessive. Whether it’s movies, TV or music, she watches and listens to it all so you don’t have to. You can find her risking her life by reading comic books while walking down the crowded streets of New York City, having inappropriate emotional reactions at her iPad screen while riding the subway or occasionally letting her love of a band convince her to stand for hours on end in one of the city’s many purgatorial concert spaces. You can follow her on Twitter to read her insightful social commentary or more likely complain about how cold it is at @MarisaCarpico.