Sunday, 2 May 2010

Howard the Duck #22. "May The Farce Be With You!"

Howard the Duck #22, Man-Thing, May the Farce be with you, cover
Thanks to George Lucas, we all know Howard the Duck was a new breed of hero. We also know he was box office poison, his movie instantly becoming one of the most notorious flops in cinema history.

How could it not?

How could a live action movie ever hope to capture the feel of the most cartoony of comic strips?

Still, we can hardly hold that against the comic that inspired it. So, what to make of the mag itself?

As a kid, I only had two issues of Howard the Duck, and this, Howard the Duck #22, is the second of those. Reading it now, as an adult, I'm not totally sure what to make of it. It's a comedy title that's humorous but isn't actually ever funny - although it does have one or two amusing moments, not least Howard's soliloquy on a castle's battlements while the Man-Thing makes unlikely gestures behind him. On top of that, it's a tale where the stakes are high but the drama low. It's also by Steve Gerber which means that, although it's never quite as clever as it thinks it is, it has a randomness and a determination to avoid the conventional, which means you can't help warming to it even if you're not totally sure whether it's actually any good or not.

So, what's the story? Well, in this tale, our anti-hero's lounging around on the roof when he's attacked by a giant salt shaker with a gorilla's arms and legs. Next thing he knows he's being whisked off to another dimension by the ghost of Dakimh the Enchanter, to be reunited with the Man-Thing, Korrek the Barbarian and Jennifer Kale. I have to admit that, Man-Thing aside, I don't actually know who any of these characters are but it seems there's a depressive-but-mad villain called Bzzk 'Joh on the loose and only the combined joyousness of Howard, Man-Thing, Korrek and Jennifer can stop him. Clearly this is the equivalent of drafting in the Carry On gang for their karate skills.

Needless to say, by the end of the issue, Bzzk 'Joh has shown up and is threatening a whole heap of non-threatening trouble for our cast. The story's thin and some of the jokes, including the title, are terrible but Howard the Duck's personality is what carries it through. Never impressed with anything, never sold on anything; like Donald and Daffy, our feathered friend complains his way through everything that happens to him. Praise should go to Val Mayerik who draws the tale beautifully and manages to bring a level of personality to a duck that can only be admired.

Circumstances dictated that I never got to see the second part of this tale.

Do I feel a need to track it down and read it?

No.

Did I enjoy re-reading this issue?

Yes.

Would I read another issue of Howard the Duck if it was placed in front of me?

Yes I would.

Would I save up my money to buy The Essential Howard the Duck?

No I wouldn't.

Would I be happy to take it if it were offered me for free?

Yes I would.

Granted, it's hardly an unequivocal declaration of enthusiasm but, knowing Howard the Duck, I don't suppose an unequivocal declaration of enthusiasm is a thing he could ever respect.

2 comments:

cerebus660 said...

Steve, I'd recommend you do save your money and buy The Essential Howard The Duck. Or at least read it in your local Forbidden Planet until you get politely asked to leave. To be fair, the series was running out of steam by this issue, but the first dozen or so issues are classics of Gerber insanity with great artwork by Brunner, Buscema and Colan. If nothing else, issue 2's Killraven / Don McGregor piss-take should make you chuckle :-)

Steve said...

Thanks for the tip-off, Cerebus; it's always nice to hear from you. Maybe next time I'm buying some Essentials online, I'll pop it into my cart with the others if it's available at a decent price.

It sort of worried me when I was writing the review that I might be coming across as somewhat dismissive of it. I did like it. There's very little by Steve Gerber that I don't enjoy (his Shanna story in Rampaging Hulk #9 being the most obvious exception). It was just that, thanks to this issue's flippant nature and somewhat tongue-in-cheek ending, I didn't feel like any of it actually mattered.

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