Howard The Duck (Trade Paperback)
by Steve Gerber
Published 2002 by Marvel Comics

When I first started “seriously” collecting comics I was collecting Spider-Man and anything by Todd McFarlane, including his Spider-Man stuff.  I then realized that the rock band KISS had some comics, so I sought out the 2 Marvel Kiss comics and then Marvel’s Kissnation.  I did some further research and found that the very first appearance of KISS in comics was in issue 13 of the original “Howard the Duck.” This issue also featured Spider-Man so it was a win-win.  I soon found out that it was a win-win-win, because the issue revealed the subtleties of Howard the Duck and his troubled life.  When I was younger I remember seeing my dad read a couple issues of the comic, I tried but being a kid, I just didn’t get it then.  Howard was a political-social commentary comic book, and at the time was a bit over my head.  But then reading those back issues in my adult life, I found some very creative writing and some funny stuff.

Fast forward to the late 90s and I’m struggling to keep up with all the comics I want to collect.  Spider-Man has about 7 different titles, Todd Mcfarlane has branched out and KISS launches another comic book under the Vertigo comics label.  I’m starting to get tired of collecting, keeping up seems to be work and the fun has gone out of the reading because of this.  In 2002 I learn that Marvel is relaunching the “Howard the Duck” series and this time they’ll do it some extra justice because they are releasing it under the Max list of titles.  The Max sub branch are a bit darker and definitely more adult themed.  For starters the characters can use the “F-word.”  But alas at this time the comics industry has burned me out and I just quit buying comics.

Now this series only lasted 6 issues and I never gave it a chance, so when I see the trade paperback compiling all 6 issues into one I had to pick it up and see what I missed.  I’m glad I did.  No, it didn’t get me back into collecting again but it did provide a great time reading a funny social satire in the form of a comic book.  I thought it very weird that the cover had a picture of a mouse in a Howard costume (including the inevitable cigar) but that was soon explained.

Before I talk about the storyline in this one I should maybe give a little background on Howard.  Years ago Howard was down in the dumps and about to commit suicide when he was sucked into some sort of space time vortex that transported him from his alternative planet where the dominant sentient life form was evolved from ducks, not apes.  He finds himself crash landed in Cleveland, Ohio, USA.  Here he is befriended by Beverly Switzer.  Through many adventures he and Beverly become pretty close but a human and a duck in love?  That’s just wrong.  During one of these adventures Beverly is tricked into marrying Dr. Bong ( a bell headed evil villain).

So life continues for Howard & Beverly in the year 2002 and they find themselves living in a shack in a junkyard, because they can’t find jobs.  Beverly is then offered a job paying $125,000 a year.  It all sounds too good to be true, well, that’s because it is.  The job is weird in that they are testing the appeal of boy bands on gay men.  Well if a member of a new boy band doesn’t test high enough, his body is thrown back into the DNA tank and an new band member is manufactured.  Oh yeah and the C.E.O. of this company, Howard’s arch-nemesis, Dr. Bong.  Dr. Bong basically only hired Beverly to try to win her back.

Things get even weirder when Howard confronts Dr. Bong at the testing labs/DNA labs and Howard is thrown into one of the DNA tanks.  Howard is turned into a Rat, er..uh, a mouse.  Howard’s DNA becomes unstable and soon Dr. Bong makes one final attempt at getting Beverly back by calling homeland security and telling them Osama el-Braka is hiding in the junkyard.  After the army and girl scouts destroy the shack they find that there is no Osama or a duck (remember, Howard’s a mouse now) so they apologize and leave.  But this leaves the pair homeless.

Beverly and Howard end up staying at a metaphysical halfway house full of strange beings and then making an appearance on the Iprah show with guest Dr. Phlip.  Iprah becomes posessed by Deuteronomy a heavenly experiment gone wrong, that was supposed to replace God because he’s on a bender on Earth.  Howard then learns the truth of existence and is told the secrets of God, Earth and Life.

Very entertaining stuff here, great social commentary and very unique looks at religion and government.  Another aspect to remember is that this is a comic book so there are some pictures to look at as well. And as is tradition with any Howard the Duck comic, look closely at all the frames in the comics and you’ll see many hidden pictures and further commentary.  Oh yeah KISS makes an appearance in this collection as well.

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