Monday, June 27, 2016

Howard the Duck #8 Review and **SPOILERS** - Marvel Mondays

Mallard in Maine

Written By: Chip Zdarsky
Art By: Joe Quinones, Joe Rivera, Jordan Gibson
Lettered By: Travis Lanham
Cover Price: $3.99
On Sale Date: June 8, 2016


I saw the Steven Spielberg-produced Howard the Duck movie in the theater. My parents took me, though I’m sure my mom didn’t know who or what Howard the Duck was. I certainly had no specific idea, but I clued right into the fact that this was a send-up of Donald Duck in specific, and Disney’s saccharine, white-washed world in general. Even at this young age, I thought Mickey Mouse would have gotten his meat lumped by Bugs Bunny. And forget it if Tom Cat from Tom & Jerry entered the fray, that round-eared mouse would be so clobbered his whole head would look like a black-and-peach cauliflower. Am I allowed to denigrate Disney in a Marvel Comics review? Well, I’ve done it. And Walt Disney World is a load of bullshit. There, I said it. I hated all that crap, and so I embraced Howard the Duck as a satire of Disney at the tender age of eight. Later, I would come to learn that the comic book was more a pot-fueled fantasy romp through various arcs of unsubtle social commentary, but I wasn’t so sophisticated in the third grade. I saw the movie, had a crush on Lea Thompson, and moved on to playing with my Transformers. And look at me now! I’m reviewing Howard the Duck #8 by Zdarsky and Quinones. Dreams can come true, if you read on!

Explain It!

Sigh. Okay, so full disclosure: I read and enjoyed the heck out of this comic the first time around, before Secret Wars happened. I hung in for an issue or two, found it was getting a little too space travelly for my tastes, and dropped it. So now I’m back to ride this comic to its end, but I find…so much stupid shit has happened. And bless this book for its easy-to-understand first page recap, which really drove home the fact that I just do not care about it when it rubs up against the rest of the Marvel Universe. It looks like this book is in its final arc, so let me stop my whining and get to it: Howard was made the Nexus of All Realities at some outer space graduation ceremony or something, and though he avoided making a ruckus at the resultant kegger he was able to open a portal to his homeworld where talking ducks are normal, and they probably hunt flying humans, using human calls that go “Big MAAAC! Big MAAAC!” So now we’re going to recap a series that I was lukewarm on to begin with, and there will be touching scenes between Howard and everyone’s he’s interacted with along the way, except for this issue where he visits a character that wasn’t featured in this volume of the series at all.

Why is this happening? Who demanded this? Well, I’m sure there are a few dozen old farts that bristle at the fact that the tale of Howard’s one-time companion Beverly was never resolved. But don’t you understand that by acquiescing to their obsessive-compulsive disorders, you only make them worse?! Howard visits Beverly out on some farm in Maine, where she lives with a dog, and immediately gives her shit for abandoning him. Through some cool-looking fake pulp comic flashbacks, Beverly remembers what a self-involved jerk Howard was and how afraid she was of him dying. So that’s her gripe. How are your heartstrings? Tugged on yet? Beverly got sick of the craziness in Howard’s life, so she moved to Maine. Howard claims that it’s not his fault, that craziness follows him, and to punctuate that thought a Sentinel robot in a black outfit with a shoulder-mounted gatling gun shows up.

The Sentinel is weird because Scarlet Witch taught him to know fear and terror during a previous battle with the Avengers, so now he’s on a mission to kill everyone with super powers. Howard tries to explain that his ability to sheet water off of his feathers is not a super power, but the Sentinel keeps trying to kill them anyway. Then Scout, a golden lady on a stylized surfboard who once sought to be Galactus’ herald shows up to save the day. Her point made, Howard and Beverly part ways, but not before Scout just talks and talks and talks. I bet she’s one of those people that gets like super hyper after an orgasm, just jumps up and starts doing the dishes or talking about her time in summer camp or something. Scout takes Howard back to New York City, and after they depart we see Beverly walk outside and levitate with a purple glow, a super power she got from being doused in some chemicals during an adventure with Howard the Duck.

Huh? Oh yeah, at the very end there’s a teaser where Lea Thompson wants to hire Howard to find a missing person. Yes, the real Lea Thompson. I’m not going to reveal who the missing person is. We’ll all figure it out next issue, or not.
Sheesh lady. Give it a rest, already!

This was a dull, self-referential issue that advanced a plot from thirty years ago, instead of the story at hand. The art by Quinones is, as always, fantastic, but they are mainly fantastic renderings of a woman and a humanoid duck talking. I found myself really disinvested in the story, and when the Sentinel showed up I felt like there was nothing really at stake. I didn’t care about this failed friendship, and I didn’t really care what happened to Beverly, who I’d only just met for all intents and purposes. I mean, she was perfectly nice, and I certainly got her point about Howard being an abrasive jerk, but it wasn’t like I was gripped to know whether or not this veritable stranger would be okay. Frankly, I was more interested in the dog. What’s his story?

Bits and Pieces:

If you thought the love between a man-duck and his estranged companion a thing of pure beauty, well you might be right. But it's also very boring. This issue is an awkward back-and-forth between a narcissist and a dilettante, and I'm not sure whose side I care about less. The artwork is really solid throughout, though there's not much of interest to draw until the final panel. I enjoyed the flashback scenes done in the pulp paper comics style, a Marvel mainstay. And I like it every time I see it!


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